Today it seems boxed subscription services can fill any of your needs: Want different beauty products every month? Done! Want to try out different clothes? Done! Want gourmet meals with teensy bottles of condiments? Done.
But, while you’ve been busy considering what goes on your body and in your mouth, what about what goes in your most sensitive body part? Jonna Piira considered this…and saw a huge problem.
So she joined the small handful of companies taking a stand against impurities in our feminine products. That’s when the Florida-bred Finland native launched Kali Boxes.
Offering organic, all-natural tampons, panty liners and pampering products, Kali’s CEO and founder Piira is also hoping to empower, educate, and support women each month, both practically and emotionally. Read on to hear how this powerhouse found her new venture.
SBS: How did you get involved in Kali Boxes?
Jonna Piira: In high school I had a severe eating disorder and eventually sought treatment. When I got better at 19, I focused a lot on clean eating and working out. So as I evolved, I learned about yoga, what ‘organic’ and ‘The Dirty Dozen’ mean, as well as how to implement balanced and healthy choices in my life.
I worked as a financial director and CFO for a long time, so I was used to running the financial side of a company. But when my friend Sarah came to me we started discussing this idea; services like the Dollar Shave Club were taking off.
We decided we wanted to offer women something truly helpful. And since we were both so health-concerned, we knew it had to be organic! It was definitely an ‘aha’ moment when we looked at how many horrible additives, pesticides, and GMOs were in our feminine products…even when we were avoiding those things in our food. How could we put that in the most sensitive part of our body? That’s how Kali evolved.
SBS: What are the options Kali Boxes offers?
JP: We have a cost-effective box, which includes 32 tampons every other month for 15 dollars. Or you can get the luxury box of 14 tampons or 16 pads, 10 individually wrapped, moisturized towelettes, 10 organic cotton panty liners and a different pampering product every month. That ranges from essential oil to rosewater mist. That option is available every other month or each month. Something for every customer.
SBS: What was the process along the way to Kali Boxes?
JP: I used to have a job working for a frozen pizza company, and I have a background in sourcing. I knew how to research the supply chain, and I also have a good friend who is a consultant. We decided to both look into it separately, and we found the same manufacturer in Europe as the best choice! That’s what we moved forward with.
Then, through Florida connections, I knew someone with a bottling company. I sourced the product, and then I did everything from finding the bottles and caps.
When it came to the standards we require, the tampons are 99.98 percent organic and all-natural. You do the best you can, and we made the decision to use .02 percent fragrance to ensure the right smell. Fragrance has come under close inspection, so we use such a small amount that our fragrance doesn’t contain levels of toxicity. We are still trying to figure out how to just use essential oils, but it evaporates quickly.
Regardless, we are transparent. Everyone has their choices, and we want women to be able to make their own choices with us. We started in 2015, which was the year of the tampon. We were starting to talk about it more, and it’s great the awareness is heightening.
Now, we’re thinking of a campaign of men talking about tampons. That’s how we’re working toward reducing the stigma. At end of the day, we’re trying to have that message of positivity and empowerment all around.
SBS: Periods, vaginas, blood…these seem to be words and topics that are so taboo in our society. What would you say to women who live in an environment that often makes them feel ashamed of natural things?
JP: Don’t be embarrassed. It’s natural. I want to help empower and educate women. Know what you’re putting in your body. When you’re really young, you just grab what your mother used. Instead, have the conversation. Learn about the different choices. In a recent focus group, only one of 17 women had even tried organic tampons. That’s largely because they don’t know they have that option or they don’t know the terrible items in regular tampons.
SBS: What are the most harmful items to beware of in tampons?
JP: Chlorine bleach, which companies use to make the cotton super white and disinfected, is clearly toxic. Also, look out for dioxin. Pesticides are also used on cotton crops, and once the pesticide is on the cotton, it’s there.
It’s a lot more challenging to do pesticide-free cotton. But it’s essential. Ours is ethically sourced in Europe. We also decided to have a biodegradable, cardboard applicator.
Finally, a lot of other products have tons of fragrance infused in the cotton. All of these things together can sometimes cause adverse affects and gynecological issues.
SBS: Since starting Kali, what other wellness habits popped up in your life?
JP: Daily meditation is very important, and I love doing hot yoga, whether bikram or vinyasa. I love to cook, and I also do a lot of research on best practices and healthy eating. For example, from all my research, it seems pretty clear to me farm raised salmon is the worst thing you can put into your body! I also like to raise awareness of those around me.
SBS: What are the worst and best parts of being an entrepreneur?
JP: My background is as a CFO. I worked as a director of finance for a medical diagnostics company, then I was a CFO for a handtools company, and then I was an acting CFO for frozen pizza company. So paying duties, fulfillment, sourcing, and financials are all easy for me.
The surprise was understanding e-commerce, websites, SEOs, and how to get traffic to our site! I thought people would just visit the site and the floodgates would be open. I didn’t understand how hard it would be. But I was able to work through that simply by asking for help. A lot of people don’t know how to ask for help, but I love asking questions. It’s so important to not feel like you need to know everything. You can learn so much from people who have made mistakes before you.
SBS: How do you handle the nuances of being an entrepreneur?
JP: Fortunately, sometimes it’s just simple things I count on. For instance, I had a mentor, Arnold Cohen, who taught me to always double check my numbers and make sure the margins are high enough. He also taught me to find balance: If you reduce your pricing all the time, you won’t stay in business. Find that point where you give your customer value and your business is sustainable.
But, being an entrepreneur can be lonely. So getting together with other entrepreneurs to chat about struggles has been the most helpful. For example, my dermatologist in Florida had a friend in NY who has a start-up, and he introduced me to a supper club of entrepreneurs. That’s rare in Florida, and that’s why I moved to NYC.
SBS: How is Kali helping heal and engage with what you went through with your eating disorder?
JP: The part that resonates with me and came through from my teenage problems that’s so different and important: Now, I can empower women. I want to help us all band together with a positive voice. And also, don’t take life so seriously! That’s what it’s really about.
Jonna’s NYC Faves:
Healthy Restaurant: abcV
Splurge Restaurant: Le Coucou
Nightlife Spot: Boom Boom Room at The Standard
Calming Activity: Walking on the Hudson or a Bikram yoga class
Fun Activity: Getting lost at The Metropolitan Museum of Art
Fitness Studios: Bikram Yoga NYC
Athletic Shoes: Nike
Jonna’s SBS Mantra: Be Kind speaks most to me. If we come from a place of love and kindness in all areas of our life, magic really happens. We can change the world with kindness.
What's the best, zaniest part of being Jonna? I am very OCD. I cannot leave my house without my bed made and everything in its place. It's actually comical. And I cannot have any unread e-mails in any of my inboxes…another OCD trait!