Duxbury, Massachusetts-based TOP wants to make the menstrual product industry more sustainable.
Founded by entrepreneurs Thyme Sullivan and Denielle Finkelstein, a duo of cousins who are also mothers, the startup today announced it closed its seed round of $900,000, adding to an early investment of $700,000. It has raised a total of $1.6 million to date.
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While TOP describes itself as a “social impact” startup, its lead investor in today’s financing announcement is a for-profit fund spun out of UMass Amherst: Maroon Venture Partners. Per the press release, the firm led the round in support of Sullivan who is an alumnus of UMass Amherst. Angel investors also participated in the round, however TOP declined to disclose details.
In its announcement, TOP said it plans to use the seed capital to expand its presence in grocery stores and retail locations nationwide. It also plans to work with Amazon and its own e-commerce platform. It was refreshing to hear TOP mention product presence as a priority, especially with what feels like a flurry of direct-to-consumer (DTC) offerings everywhere.
When I asked TOP for more information, co-founder Sullivan nodded to growth in the company’s DTC channel, so that explains the focus on distributing into retail in 2020.
Let’s get into how TOP plans to differentiate the other store staple brands for tampons and pads.
TOP estimates that almost “20 billion pads and tampons end up in landfills each year and can take centuries to biodegrade.” Sullivan and her team want to change that by offering plant-based tampons.
The company sources its organic cotton from Turkey, India and Tanzania. Meanwhile, its factory in Barcelona sources power from running water, and TOP claims that everyone “from the farmer to the factory worker is paid a fair wage.” The applicator is plant-based, it claims. TOP also said all products have a seal made of cotton (not plastic) and organic certification from ICEA, the Ethical and Environmental Certification Institute.
TOP’s products are also solid in biodegradable boxes.
The company charges $7 to $8.50 per box for 16 tampons, or 20 pads. From a price-point perspective, traditional tampon brands like Tampax sell for around $7, and Lola, a venture-backed startup that has $35.2 million in funding, sells a box of tampons for around $10.
It’s noteworthy that Lola wants to destigmatize period products, but has other lines as well around sexual health and menstrual cramps. Like TOP, Lola started with tampons as a flagship offering and has since attracted investors like Lerer Hippeau and Spark Capital.
Unlike Lola, however, TOP points to its focus on a younger demographic as a key differentiator.
“A key part of our purpose is giving back, with a focus on middle and high school students,” Sullivan told Crunchbase News. “When we heard one in five girls in the U.S. have missed school because they didn’t have access to period products, we decided to do something about it.” She added that the company is partnering with schools and nonprofits to make access easier.
TOP declined to share specific metrics around growth or volume of products sold thus far, beyond “ high triple-digit growth in our business.”
Illustration: Li-Anne Dias