Inspirational Woman: Celia Pool | Co-Founder, DAME

Celia Pool

Celia Pool is the winner of the prestigious Veuve Clicquot Bold Future Award.

The Bold Woman Award by Veuve Clicquot is a modern evolution of the Business Woman Award which has been running since 1972; the first and longest-running international accolade for female business figureheads

Celia was recognised by the judging panel as a true innovator who successfully broke into a market dominated by global brands. Having taken the brave step to pivot her pre-existing period subscription service into what it is today, Celia has proven herself to embody the same enterprising spirit as Madame Clicquot, as well as a commitment to sustainability values.

The awards continue to take inspiration from Madame Clicquot, a woman whose tenacity and creativity led to entrepreneurial success. Despite a lack of female role models and numerous other social obstacles, she took the brand to the successful champagne house we know today. A massive achievement in a time when women couldn’t open their own bank account, let alone independently run or own a business.

Tell us a bit about yourself, background and your current role

I am Celia Pool, co-founder of DAME, a sustainable period care brand and co-creator of the world’s first reusable tampon applicator. I am also a mother so living in slight chaos the whole time.

I co-founded a subscription business 6 years ago selling popular brands of disposable and reusable menstrual products in the post to offer more convenience and choice.  However the closer we got to these products, the more we couldn’t stomach what was in them.  We discovered that the majority of the disposable tampons and pads on the market were single-use, filled with plastics and synthetics, and hideous messaging.  The reusable options available were great but no one was really buying them. After discovering through our research that habit change was the biggest barrier to people switching to reusables, we knew we had to make the switch really simple. When we found out that 100 billion period products are thrown away every year, we knew we had to move fast.

So we created the world’s first reusable tampon applicator to reduce the 1.3 billion plastic applicators which are thrown away in the UK alone every year. We paired them with our organic cotton tampons which are toxin free, plastic free and biodegradable.

We have just launched our reusable pad. It has patent pending technology that makes it super dry, super soft, odour neutralising and easy to wash. Plus it actually saves you money. You no longer need to walk around sounding like you have a plastic bag crunching between your legs.

Did you ever sit down and plan your career?

No. I think I wanted to but probably if I ever did I would’ve just sat at a blank page. I have definitely been winging it, but then that’s part of the fun. Plus more importantly it also takes the pressure off as there are no defined milestones that I needed to have achieved at certain points in my life. Plus, if I had planned my career when I was younger I would never thought it would be a tampon saleswoman.

Have you faced any challenges along the way?

Um, pretty much every day, on a varying spectrum. Just when you think you’ve got a bit of good news, another problem seems to come out of leftfield and smacks you in the face. My mum always told me that these challenges were the things that built you up strong, so when the real hurricane comes, which it always does, you don’t crumble.

An especially challenging time was deciding to pivot the business away from our original  subscription model. Pivot sounds like a quick thing but it was an incredibly long and difficult decision as we had investors at that point and we had to convince them of our belief. But without that scrutiny and reflection we wouldn’t be where we are today.

What has been your biggest achievement to date?

Pushing myself out of my comfort zone. It sounds like a small thing but I have witnessed the massive consequences as a result of it.  I spent most of my 20’s never truly challenging myself, fearing failure. It was paralysing. Taking those first steps were incredibly difficult, what did I know about starting a company? (Answer: very little)  But once I’d started I found things a lot easier. More importantly, realising that making mistakes is vital, because the learning you get is what pushes you higher.

How did it feel to win the Veuve Clicquot Bold Future Award?

 I found out during lockdown, literally whilst trying to stop my crawling baby from destroying my keyboard, as I defended myself against my other kids who were shooting me with rubber bands. When I was told I was totally gobsmacked.  I was that emoji cartwheel girl. But weirdly it also made me feel instantly uncomfortable and embarrassed. This continued when people congratulated me, the imposter syndrome kicking straight in. It made me wonder if it relates to certain gender conditioning. When men win awards, are they much more likely to revel unashamedly in their glory, then boast about it? From speaking to other women, I know I’m not alone on this, and I know I need to work on it.

What one thing do you believe has been a major factor in you achieving success?

Support. I am incredibly lucky to have an awesome co-founder in Alec, a brilliant husband, and amazing friends and family.  When the tough times come, which they are prone to do, there are other people to prop you up when I feel like throwing in the towel.

How do you feel about mentoring? Have you mentored anyone or are you someone’s mentee?

I love chatting to other people about their businesses, whether it be an idea or a fully fledged operation. It’s something I’ve enjoyed doing for the last few years off and on, likewise had certain people who I look to for advice and guidance.  I’m a big believer in sharing your business ideas, find as many knowledgeable people and just talk talk talk. Then discount the majority of the advice and go with your gut.

If you could change one thing to accelerate the pace of change for Gender Equality, what would it be?

Start with the  young. Babies are these beautiful little blank canvases that don’t have prejudice or social conditioning built in. Pouring more time and resources into schools and education is essential. And quadruple teachers salaries, they are the people we need to be investing in.

If you could give one piece of advice to your younger self what would it be?

Don’t laugh if someone tells you will grow up to be a tampon saleswoman.

What is your next challenge and what are you hoping to achieve in the future?

I am really excited about launching our reusable pads as it puts us one step closer to achieving our goal of making periods acceptable, accessible and sustainable. It is incredible to see people’s reaction when they realise just how much better they feel wearing them.

WeAreTheCity has a back catalogue of thousands of Inspirational Woman interviews, including Cherie Blair, Paula Radcliffe MBE, Caprice Bourret, Anna Williamson and many more. You can read about all our amazing women here.

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