Entrepreneur

A Bloody Good Idea: This S'pore Subscription Startup Offers Menstrual Tonics For Period Pain

[This article was updated with the product review on 13 August, 9:30am]

“I used to experience and tolerate really bad cramps and PMS (pre-menstrual syndrome) for years,” said Laurel Lua, founder of The Scarlet Company.

She’s not alone however. Apparently, four in every five women experience menstrual discomfort during their periods.

However, it seems that this discomfort has gotten worse during the COVID-19 outbreak as there have been increasing reports of “period stress”.

According to Laurel, she tried taking traditional Chinese herbs such as “Ba Zhen Tang” (Eight Treasure Decoction) and “Dang Gui” that her mum boiled for her whenever the time of the month comes.

The 35-year-old also tried other natural remedies such as evening primrose and the Bak Foong Pill that traditionally alleviates menstrual cramps. But when the cramps got unbearable, she once resorted to “taking more than four Panadol pills”.

Most of the time, the remedies didn’t work or only provided a temporary relief. This inspired her then-partner (now husband) to get Laurel to find a remedy that can help solve this literal pain point.

A Search For An All-Natural Remedy That Works

“After a lot of research and discussions, we realised there wasn’t any one-size-fits-all remedy. Different women dealt with their menstrual pains differently and what worked for some may not work for others,” said Laurel.

The couple started reaching out to professional herbalists and naturopaths to help them understand their research and develop the best formula.

I remember making cold calls to naturopaths and herbalists in Singapore to just have a chat for a potential groundbreaking idea to help women and to help us validate research and test it out.

It was tough as people were either too busy with their work or they just didn’t believe in us.

– Laurel Lua, founder of The Scarlet Company
the scarlet company founder laurel lua
Laurel Lua / Image Credit: The Scarlet Company

A licensed professional finally agreed to help as he believed in their good cause. 

Through the research they gathered, they discovered that chasteberry and wild yam are two of the hormone-balancing super herbs that support the pituitary gland which regulates and balances the release of estrogen and progesterone in our bodies.

Hormonal imbalance can cause PMS, menstrual discomfort, fatigue and period irregularities.

While those two herbs have been used individually for more than 1,000 years, they have not been placed together in one concoction.

So they started experimenting the efficacy of these two “herbs for the women” and complemented them with calcium, magnesium and Vitamin B complex to enhance overall menstrual health.

They ended up formulating their flagship menstrual tonic called “Scarlet”.

the scarlet company menstrual tonic singapore
Image Credit: Vulcan Post

A quick online search showed that while there are a lot of chasteberry and wild yam supplements, a chasteberry and wild yam blend is practically unheard of.

For four years, they focus the R&D and consumer trials in FDA (Food and Drug Administration) approved facilities outside of Singapore. When the trials were completed and they were ready to launch Scarlet, they brought all their manufacturing — from the tonic to the packaging — back home.

When asked why she decided to base their entire manufacturing process locally, Laurel reasoned that she is a picky consumer herself so she understands that providing trust and quality are both very important.

“Even though Scarlet’s ingredients are already used and known worldwide, having the blend manufactured here in Singapore with our regulations and standards helps provide this personal trust. Additionally, we are also supporting local businesses to partner with,” she added.

This explains why their costs are much higher. Each monthly subscription of “Scarlet” is priced at S$69.90 for eight bottles.

But how willing are customers to pay that amount every month?

No Pills, No Bitter TCM

The liquid blend “Scarlet” contends as the next best alternative to pills and vitamins, or even bitter Chinese herbs.

Before placing an order, you first need to know your next estimated period date. A box of eight bottles will be delivered to your doorstep every month, 10 days before your period is due.

According to Laurel, subscribers are advised to drink one bottle a day during their luteal phase (the phase before your period starts).

Apparently, it is best to consume “Scarlet” in the mornings when the pituitary gland is the most responsive.

the scarlet company menstrual tonic singapore
Image Credit: The Scarlet Company

With a subscription, it would save you the hassle of placing an order every month or risk forgetting to place an order.

“The understanding of the monthly flow and providing an auto monthly subscription conveniently ensure “Scarlet” is on time for your consumption,” added Laurel.

Bottled in compact 70ml glass containers, you can conveniently consume them on-the-go.

It is also certified food-safe (ISO 22000), halal, vegan and gluten-free, using chasteberry from the Mediterranean and Southern Europe regions, and wild yam from North America.

Depending on the person, the effects of “Scarlet” might take around three to six months for the results to start to show, depending on each woman’s unique hormonal conditions.

Laurel is so confident in her product that she offers a money-back guarantee to consumers: if they don’t feel better after three months, the company will refund their money.

This writer tried out a first cycle of “Scarlet” 8 days before her period was due, based on the recommendation of either 8, 16 or 24 days prior to menstruation. Here’s her review:


My period was late for 2 days after taking “Scarlet”. I wasn’t sure if that was due to the regulation of hormones, which “Scarlet” promises to do. I used to have bad PMS cramps but after taking “Scarlet”, cramps were less painful. Overall, I did feel that my period was more manageable. However, I feel that I would need to continue using “Scarlet” for a few more months to fully see the effects and decide if I would pay the price of S$69.90 per month.


No E-Commerce Experience, No Problem

On business challenges, Laurel said that they spent 18 months working with a few global manufacturers to select the right partner.

We are not experts in manufacturing so we really had a steep learning curve during this process.

We made mistakes along the way, but we got back on our feet and are really happy and confident in our decision to bring all manufacturing into Singapore instead of low-cost overseas locations.

– Laurel Lua, founder of The Scarlet Company

Laurel had decided early on that she wanted to establish The Scarlet Company as an e-commerce business, so having a website was essential.

“With a tight budget, I was very reluctant to spend on engaging a web designer. I watched YouTube videos, used whatever free trials I could get, decided on a decent looking software and was exhausted with not being able to get it right. It was frustrating,” she lamented.

the scarlet company menstrual tonic singapore
Image Credit: The Scarlet Company

Moreover, being a first-time mum, she has her hands full juggling mom duties without a helper in the house.

Without much knowledge or experience on starting an online business, she “tried [her] best to go on digital marketing courses, learn about entrepreneurship and spent hours trying to learn how to build a website”.

After struggling for a while, she pulled in experts — professionals for web design and marketing — and focused her time on understanding customers and their needs.

“Customer service is important,” stressed Laurel.

Just like many other first-time entrepreneurs, challenges are constant. “Having the passion to make a difference” is what drives her, she added.

There will always be people whom you don’t see eye-to-eye to and people who do not see a reason why we do what we want to do whether you’re starting a business or trying a new thing.

People who aren’t supportive or are out to put you down will always find the smallest thing to get to you.

– Laurel Lua, founder of The Scarlet Company

Championing Menstrual Health

Laurel has created a Facebook group called The Period Support Group Singapore, which aims to be “a safe space” for girls and women to share about their experiences, ask questions, impart natural methods and lifestyle practices.

Breaking the silence is the first step, as this will help girls and women feel more comfortable and confident about sharing on their struggles.

Menstrual health has often been overlooked but the impact that good menstrual health has on our physical and mental well-being is incredible, and it also impacts the people who are around us. 

“I truly want to help improve women’s health and I’m really passionate about having a positive impact on people’s lives as it did for myself,” she emphasised.

“I feel such a strong sense of personal fulfilment with this business. It is beyond where I thought I would ever get into, but I am witnessing a positive impact on the ladies in Scarlet’s journey.”

On their expansion plans, Laurel said they want to push “Scarlet” to other parts of Asia, China, US and also Middle East since it is halal-certified.

They also have plans to collaborate with other like-minded companies within the menstrual health segment, which aim to help women holistically.

Featured Image Credit: The Scarlet Company

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