It is something completely natural and yet unfortunately still a taboo topic: menstruation.
But don’t worry, there is no need to turn away in embarrassment because of this topic as Sabine Fallmann-Hauser (founder of Wollke) takes women’s health seriously and shows how easy it is to talk about the issue of menstruation.
She is well known from her appearances in the television show “2 Minutes 2 Million” and has received a lot of attention for her newly developed bio-reusable panty liners named “Wollken”(similar to clouds in English). She is a true power woman who realises her vision, true to the motto “life is a hit”.
Why this topic is so important to her, how Sabine makes a difference with her “Wollken”, what difficulties she had to face and how she manages to lead a successful business, in addition to a family life with 3 children, you can read here, in our Green Business Interview !
How and when did you come to the idea to start your own business?
It never really was my dream to start a business. The whole thing really arose from the problem and the idea of environmental protection as well as my work as a sex educator which had a great impact.
Through my work, I was confronted with the dissatisfaction of young girls and adult women again and again. Among them were topics such as yeast infections, urinary tract infections or discomfort, which of course also reflected in the sexual partnership.
When it comes to menstruation, I have been recommending menstruation cups for a long time, but most women prefer throw-in panty liners or tampons on the long run. So, I went to the “Vivaness”, the largest organic retail convention, and searched for good alternatives. However, what I saw there was really scary, because there was a lot of terry cloth, metal closures and plastic wrappers. On the way back on the train, I thought to myself: “OK, that’s not it yet. Now I want to create panty liners by myself “.
Already on the next day I followed this goal and got me a management consultant and help from the “riz up” in Waidhofen, Austria. Then it went pretty fast and now the “Wollken” are already in the specialised trade, e.g. at Bipa, in reusable shelves, available. After all, sustainability in sales was particularly important to Wollke right from the start.
What was your motivation and vision at that time?
The motivation was to find a language for female health and sexuality but also for environmental protection and how to contribute to it. This motivation is still the same today, but the vision went even further. Wollke is the first bio-reusable panty liner in the trade which fulfills all the necessary regulations, has received seals, is fairly produced, and is also packed plastic-free.
Of course, the start-up show “2 Minutes 2 Million” was a great opportunity! Through this show, we got a boost and were able to reach many women and girls for this topic. The idea of going to this show wasn’t actually mine because I had my practice, the Wollken and was very happy and satisfied.
But it was a great thing that we were there!
From the beginning, it was particularly important to me that the value chain goes from women to women, all around Austria. I do not think women want children’s hands or oppressed women making their period products. Therefore, I also reject offers on cheaper productions abroad! From women, to women – fair and organic – that’s really important for me.
Were there initial challenges?
Again and again! Challenges were very simple things – like to go to a bank to clarify ways to finance a panty liner for example.
I feel like for women it is still harder to be taken as a serious business partner than it is for men. We are still far from being equal to men. One needs double and triple the power of persuasion and you have to be twice as well prepared. You need preparation, self-confidence and be totally authentic with your mission and vision.
To emphasise that the production of organic panty liners is a tough business and not just a simple hobby, you are often taken more seriously as a couple instead of being alone.
Again and again I am suggested to sell on Amazon, but I won’t agree to doing that. Many small traders can no longer survive in our economy, which is why I decided that my company philosophy will not support this. Only this way, can we create jobs in rural areas for our children or, for example, secure mothers’ jobs who want to work part-time.
What does a typical day in your life look like today?
Get up in the morning, wake up the children, make breakfast, jump in the shower quickly, then quickly (yes, everything quickly) doing the household chores and as soon as possible heading off to the office for my first appointment. Today it was a woman who had some sexual issues and desperately needed Wollken. Then accounting, payments, shipping … because my two Wollken fairies were not there today. Make phone calls, drive home, cook, take a walk in the woods, and now this interview. In the evening I also have an appointment with my management consultant.
Today was actually a relaxing day, because on some days there is much more to do. But being home for dinner is very important to me!
What are the key skills and qualities to succeed in your industry?
There is a phrase from Mother Theresa: “We can do little things everyday (just like wearing a “Wollke”) but with the utmost love and dedication.”
I think doing something with passion, authenticity, joy, and dedication is a recipe for success. Besides, as a woman you do not have to believe that you have to be able to do everything. I have no business education, but there are great people who can help. In addition, it is important to have the courage to seek help, e.g. like me with my two employees, the “Wollken faires”. Giving up tasks is not always easy, but it is an important step.
It sounds so banal: “Just give up some tasks and get some help.”
Something that helped me to take that step was to always remind me that they not only love the vision, but also get a salary and take over responsibility for their working hours.
Do you have a secret of success?
Life is a hit! I would not miss a single stage for Wollke to announce my mission and vision. The secret is to hope that one can make the world a little better and sustainable for the next generations.
It is also important to recognise people who do not follow their words with deeds and vice versa. Sometimes you can recognise those within a minute. I am not a person that can work together with people that say something but do nothing.
In addition, I am always open to valuable feedback and guidance, but I don’t like when people give advice when it feels like being beaten, even if they are well meant.
How do you / your business earn money?
In many different ways. Of course, via the Wollke online shop and the retail, where we now supply BIPA and are listed at REWE Germany South and at Dennree. In addition, there are also talks with Denns Austria.
But even through my sex education, training or lectures and workshops. So, I have not just one source of income, but several. So, if something didn’t work out, I would not need to fear and panic.
I think as an entrepreneur, having various sources of income are very important. This way, if something unexpected happens, you have another foothold.
Is there anything in your industry, that could be improved in your opinion?
There is a lot to improve in my industry. Although the Wollke is “only” a panty liner, it takes a lot of education for the people. We didn’t know why for a long time, because it’s just a panty liner. After a great deal of research and reflection, we knew why: it is just important to talk about the topic. It is still very important today to tell girls and women again and again: we are beautiful, we are clean, we have vaginal secretions, cervical secretions, we have menstrual bleeding or spotting – this is natural. The challenge is to do just that.
In addition, the most common question is whether it is really enough to wash the Wollke panty liners at 40-60 degrees and if that really is hygienic.
Young women no longer know this ‘grandmother method’. They only know of the disposable products that often end up in the toilet. So, the idea of a reusable insert is actually an “old one”, and it is definitely new to many people today and therefore requires explanation.
In fact, some women are considering whether to buy a second washing machine for their reusables or are worried that their husbands will notice it.
So even if it is only a panty liner, there is still a huge need for information!
Providing education and knowledge is also always an issue in my visits to schools and in sex education workshops. It’s all about love, relationships, sex, education, the youth protection law, grooming, sexual abuse, the best methods of contraception, and if there is a best method of pregnancy prevention at all. The question of whether you are still a virgin, if you use tampons or a menstrual cups or how to properly put on a condom, and the different ways to deal with your own period are always the topic.
If you could start again, would you do something differently?
If I could have looked into the future, I might have sought in advance, a course or study in which, for example, I would have learned how to create business plans. I would have done my work much easier and not always had to ask someone.
I would have invested in business education, because I was always dependent on others.
What do you advise others for their lives and careers?
I believe that everyone would do well by having the confidence that everything will be fine. It does not matter how it works out, because in the end you have gained a lot of valuable experience.
Life is a hit! Rock the stage!
But failure is ok too!