Elaine Hong had been working in fast-fashion for three years when she discovered how many chemicals are used in the production of certain textiles like cotton. She then decided to quit her job in search of a more sustainable solution.
After working for a social enterprise for almost two years, she realised that there was a need for innovation in the area of sanitary products.
Driven by her own need for organic cotton sanitary pads as well as her love for fabric composition, she decided to kickstart ENYA with the goal of innovating on the fabrics used in sanitary pads.
She had a conversation with a business partner and began working on ENYA two days after that conversation.
“I never thought about it too much and decided to just start,” she said, adding that part of her motivation was her passion for sustainable textiles and its performance on skin.
For example, breathable fabrics reduce sweating, while fabrics like linen have natural air-trapping properties that can help keep one warm.
Inspired by her own need
At the same time, Elaine herself has very sensitive skin and couldn’t use pads that had fragrance or anion strips (the coloured area on some anti-bacterial sanitary pads).
Many of the sanitary pads available on supermarket shelves contain fragrances and/or have textured surfaces.
While not a big deal for the average consumer, those with more sensitive skin can feel its effects in the form of rashes or other discomforts.
During the product development process, Elaine did a mass survey to understand more about what women want in a pad, as well as what issues they face when wearing one.
She learned that she wasn’t the only one that got rashes when wearing commercial pads.
“Vaginal skin is highly permeable… whatever comes into contact with that part of the skin rushes into our bloodstream almost immediately,” she said.
“I tried imported pads that are made from organic cotton but they were too expensive for the average consumer,” she said.
Organic cotton pads can go for about RM30 for 10 pieces. ENYA, also made with organic cotton, costs RM18 for 12 pieces.
Although it may not seem like much, as a monthly-use product, that difference can really add up over time.
Drawing on her past experiences in fashion design
Elaine was able to tap into her experience within the fashion industry to develop a lower-priced product.
According to her, the fashion industry is “close-knitted” and she had the opportunity to establish good relationships with suppliers.
“We choose our suppliers very carefully in terms of production hygiene facility, certification, portfolio, end-product performance, and packaging,” she said.
Besides creating comfortable and absorbent pads “without burning a hole in our pockets”, Elaine also wanted the ENYA packaging to look good.
“Period is natural. Ultimately our goal was to allow women to embrace their periods boldly, either at home, picking it up at the supermarket, giving it to friends or showing it off through social media,” she said.
Even their name, which means “fire” in Irish, was intentional.
“We are not just a period care company. We want to spark conversations to normalise talking about our menses,” said Elaine.
After about 10 rounds of redesigning, she and her partner settled on a holographic box because it represents a celebration of “different stages of womanhood” as ENYA was designed to be a “personal period companion” that women can turn to every month.
Since their launch on International Women’s Day in 2018, ENYA has sold more than 1,000 boxes.
Elaine said that many of the customers have repeated purchases and that ENYA has grown organically through the support of other women.
As a young entrepreneur, she says that one of the biggest challenges for her now is keeping track of things all at once.
“I used to work for one person for a designated task. Now I’m working for a bigger boss—each of my customers,” she said.
- You can find out more about ENYA here.
Featured Image Credit: ENYA