Welcome to the next instalment in Plan W – a series that puts the spotlight on the women who boldly quit their corporate career to become wellness entrepreneurs.
Today, we meet Kru Patel, who a couple of years ago, pre-period girl power, found herself working in a male-dominated workplace, silently battling crippling period cramps. She didn’t want to use over-the-counter pain medication but was called out for using a hot water bottle. Struggling to find any more discrete alternatives, Kru did what any strong, intelligent and go-getting woman would do – she set about making her own.
Meet BeYou, natural period pain relief patches.
Around 80% of women will experience period pain at some point in their life. And, for 5-10% of those women, that pain will be so severe it will interfere with their daily life.
That’s not even mentioning the other symptoms associated with a monthly bleed such as tender breasts, bloating, fatigue and mood swings.
Yet, despite recent campaigns shining a spotlight on periods – think Unite’s Period Dignity campaign last year – many of you still feel embarrassed talking openly about how they affect you.
Kru is on a mission to change all that.
Read on for her Plan W story and find out what it takes to design and bring a product to market - while juggling a demanding 9-5.
Coming up with the idea
When I was publicly period shamed – that’s when my Plan W journey began. I was using a hot water bottle at work to relieve painful cramps when a male colleague loudly said how unprofessional I looked. I felt shocked and furious – and embarrassed. No one came to my defence, which made it worse – even though periods are a natural part of being a woman.
I realised that in not talking about periods, women were creating a barrier around them, a stigma. How can anyone be expected to understand the debilitating pain some women go through each month, if they don’t know about it?
Surprisingly, my brother was my sounding board – and is co-founder of the business. We’ve always been quite open in our family and he’s definitely grown up with me moaning about my period pain! Hemang agreed that what had happened to me at work was outrageous and that periods needed to be discussed more openly. As we discussed the situation, I came to realise that, when it came to period pain relief, there wasn’t really anything out there that was natural and discrete.
I quickly left that company and moved into a marketing role in the pharmacy industry. That was a real turning point for me. I was in the right arena for finding out about women’s health products and researching natural ingredients. I read reports and used Google; and discovered that eucalyptus and menthol are a dream combo, helping to numb the body’s pain receptors and promote the delivery of oxygen to inflamed areas around the womb. I wanted my product to be as simple as possible so decided to stick with those two ingredients – from there it was a case of getting the balance between them just right.
My product is a trans-dermal patch. I wanted something that would be discrete and fast-acting; this way the ingredients can quickly penetrate the skin. Hemang had a friend working in Northern India for the largest Ayurveda manufacturer, so it made sense to source the ingredients and have the product made there. They knew what they were doing in terms of licensing processes and regulations and were able to guarantee the provenance and safety of the ingredients. We put so many chemicals on our bodies already, I was adamant these patches would be as natural as possible.
It took us around a year to nail the product. We tested batches on everyone – our friends and family in the UK, plus doctors and pharmacists in India, via the manufacturer. Each batch had a different ratio of menthol, to eucalyptus, that we tweaked and fine-tuned until we were certain it would work.
Finding the time
My brother and I created BeYou alongside full-time jobs. But, even after a long day in the office, coming home to focus on BeYou never felt like I was coming home to do more work. Because it was for me. And I knew that what I was creating could make a real difference to so many other women. That said, I’d be lying if I didn’t say there were times when it was a lot to juggle – especially when we launched six months ago. But that’s where having Hemang on board made a huge difference because I wasn’t alone. We could share the workload and take it in turns to answer any queries that came through.
I’ll never forget our first sale. It’s the most buzzing feeling. Suddenly you can see that all your hard work has been worth it. I happened to be with my brother at the time when he got the notification through on his phone. We hadn’t done any marketing – just a couple of posts on social media. We sold a further five packs in that first week; now we sell that every couple of minutes. I always knew BeYou had the potential to be successful, but I didn’t realise just how many women out there needed help.
Our patches have helped women with Endometriosis, PCOS and plain awful cramps. When we hear and get feedback from women, it’s overwhelming. We can’t claim BeYou will work for everyone – all women have different sensitivities, and you have to respect that – but to hear that our product has been “life saving”, “amazing” and “taken the edge off”, is wonderful.
Even though we’ve launched, Hemang and I still run BeYou around other jobs. We invested our own money to start up the business and you have to accept that for the first couple of years, you probably won’t make a profit. As well as it’s going, it is still a start-up and everything we make goes straight back into growing it. But our focus is so much more than profit – it’s offering excellent customer service, building brand loyalty and, above all, helping women and making a difference.
Kru’s top tips for launching a wellness business
Never underestimate the power of Instagram. It’s been amazing for brand awareness and creating a community. It’s also helped us be picked up by the media – we noticed a marked sales increase following media coverage and were listed on Amazon as a bestseller.
Have a message. In whatever you’re trying to create, have a belief and a message that you’re passionate about and let that come through in everything you do. For us, it’s not about how many patches we sell, but how many women we can help and what we can do to encourage an open conversation around periods.
Don’t compete – collaborate. There are so many wonderful women in business out there who want to help people like you. It’s about standing together and helping each other through the start-up journey. Don’t be shy of asking for advice.