Kora Mikino is a company that aims to bring sustainable period products, the period panties, to women. The founder Julia Rittereiser pursued a sustainable philosophy right from the start and with models of different body sizes and shapes, also sets an example for body positivity.
We are really happy that we can provide you with this interview and hope you enjoy reading it!
If you want to learn more about sustainable menstrual articles and our experiences with Kora Mikino’s period underwear, then we have the perfect article for you!
How and when did you come up with the idea of starting your own company?
First of all, the idea came to me, quite traditionally, out of my own needs. I simply lacked a monthly hygiene product on the German market that was sustainable and also fairly produced and vegan. I worked for Google for many years, where I learned a lot, but at some point I was bothered by the fact that my job was to sell advertisements while the polar ice caps were melting, the mountains of garbage were growing and most menstruating people on this earth were having inadequate access to have hygiene products. So I quit my job because I am convinced that everyone can contribute and for me – in a very privileged situation – KORA MIKINO is an attempt to do so.
Was was the motivation back then?
Seen objectively, the period is the origin of human life, and yet young people smuggle hygiene products in their sleeves onto the school toilet because they are ashamed of themselves. There is clearly something fundamentally wrong. To change this was my starting point. That has not changed – I think there is still a long way to go before the subject of the period is really no longer subject to shame and taboos. Our product is our practical and convenient option to reduce waste. In addition, I would like to use the Period Pleda to give disadvantaged people access to hygiene products.
Where there initial challenges?
Not just at the beginning – in fact there is at least one challenge every day. I am 95% able to see challenges as opportunities. So if something goes wrong, there is no reason to despair, but a second chance means to do better.
What does a typical day look like in your life today?
Probably much less spectacular than everyday life in a start-up looks like in many ideas: I ride my bike to work, have a coffee, exchange ideas with colleagues, define my three priorities for the day and get started.
I worked in large companies for many years and half of my time went to meetings. I found that incredibly inefficient. We work closely together in a team, coordination is agile and so we can implement a lot of things quickly – I really like this way of working. A change of content is very important to me. But I also make sure that I have appointments outside the office on a maximum of three days a week, otherwise my productivity suffers. Such appointments are, for example, coaching, exchanges with other founders or trade fairs.
Sport is honestly far too short for me and the typical start-up networking events usually fall behind me. I am more introverted and my evenings with friends or with a book on the couch are sacred to me. So that you can find me at a business event is rather the exception.
What are the most important skills and qualities to be successful in your industry?
The fact of not knowing what will happen tomorrow should definitely be seen as an opportunity and not as an uncertainty! Being able to quickly go into the micro level for topics and then zoom out again. Submit and delegate topics and let people do it.
Do you have a secret to success?
I am very aware of my privilege; I was born in the global north, had access to free education and I live in a country with an existing social network. Without these circumstances, it would certainly be much more difficult, if not impossible, to get a company going.
How do you/ does your company make money?
We sell our menstrual panties through our online shop koramikino.de. We currently have three styles – our panties Sivvy, hipster Hannah and the high waist model Ines. The panties are currently available in sizes 34 to 48, and the panties and hipsters are also available in teen sizes 152/158 and 164/172. More sizes and styles are in the works and we are really looking forward to expanding our product range in the coming year! Our panties can now also be found in some shops – these include Brafinette in Berlin-Pankow and Le Pop Lingerie in Cologne-Ehrenfeld. We are also happy about every opportunity to offer our panties at pop-ups or other events where we can talk to potential customers!
Is there anything that you think needs improvement in your industry?
Yes! Calm down! The market for period products is growing very strongly and new suppliers are added every day. This makes some in the industry very nervous and, conversely, sometimes leads to unsightly behavior. The cake is big enough and variety of products is not a bad thing!
Apart from that, I don’t think much about competitors, but more about our customers and how we can further develop and improve our products. I believe that this pragmatic approach would do some good too 🙂 If I go up a level and look at the textile industry as a whole, I waver between horror and hope. Terrified because there are still 5-euro t-shirts available for production based on human and soil exploitation. Hope because there are many, especially small, labels that use sustainable materials and act fairly. We produce exclusively in the EU and also have extremely high standards of sustainability and ethical behavior. Animal-free products are just as much a part of this as fair wages for sewers and our beech wood-based fabric.
If you could start again, would you do something different?
I think KORA MIKINO is still too young for this assessment – we have only been one year online now.
What advice do you give others for their lives and careers?
At first I had concerns about starting my own business and this step also took a long time and overcoming for me.
In the end, the decisive thought for me was that I would certainly regret not having taken the risk later. I am a type of planner, which means that I needed a business and financial plan to take the step of quitting. And that’s exactly how I did it. So it felt less like a risk, but more like an insanely great opportunity. I can absolutely recommend a good business coach! My business coach Sonia Flöckemeier supports me in a very practical way and was also part of the bank appointment, for example. Which brings me to the next tip: Accept support and ask for support!
If you have a good idea, you will find supporters and together the way is much easier! Without the support and input from the community, KORA MIKINO would certainly not be the same!