How Athena's founders built a women-centric brand in a male-dominated industry

by Katie Fustich
August 13, 2018
Athena Club
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Monthly periods are a fact of life for nearly 3 billion individuals around the world. When Maria Markina and Allie Griswold had the idea for Athena Club, a monthly tampon subscription service, they knew their audience was roughly half of the planet.

“Every month when we had our periods, we would ask ourselves, ‘Why is this so complicated?’” Markina said. “It felt like there was always a trade-off: either schlep over to the store to buy tampons or pay an arm and a leg for a subscription tampon service.”

Thus, Markina and Griswold left their positions at McKinsey & Company and established Athena Club in the spring of 2017. “We spent over a year researching materials so we could bring women tampons at a reasonable price without sacrificing quality. We made sure everything was exactly right — from the materials to the packaging to the customer experience — before launching.”

One of the challenges we had was trying to explain to investors how periods actually work.”

While the co-founders brought a wealth of both life and business experience to the table, getting Athena Club off of the ground did not come without its hurdles: “One of the challenges we had was trying to explain to investors how periods actually work,” Markina said. “We can say, without a doubt, that we've never had to explain periods in that much detail before. We had to be really thoughtful about how to talk about the products and the opportunity in the market to people who never had a period.” Still, when you are looking at a market sector as large as 50 percent of the globe, it’s hard to miss the opportunity. Accordingly, Athena Club closed a seed round worth $3.8 million in late July. “It's been really exciting to build a female-focused brand in the tech space,” Markina said.

Now, Athena Club offers both “premium” and “organic” tampons in a variety of sizes, delivered directly to the consumers home in a quantity and at a frequency of their choosing. As Markina explained, “Women have much better things to be spending their time on than figuring out how to get their tampons every month.” Additionally, Athena Club’s blog “The Owl” offers honest health advice, fun, shareable stories and more. “In itself, being able to openly talk about periods, bleeding, and everything else related to feminine health without any shame has been very exciting and rewarding,” Markina said.

Women have much better things to be spending their time on.”

A little over a year into the business, Athena Club is establishing its foothold in the industry and adding a critical perspective to the New York City tech scene. “We loved all the resources that NYC had to offer,” Markina said of the company’s choice to build its HQ in the city. “We knew that as we grew our team, we wanted to be in a place that's overflowing with talented, passionate people. “We also can't complain about all of the restaurants choices,” Markina added. “Any place where you can get five different types of cronuts is a good place to be.”

Cronuts aside, Athena Club continues to help women “have it all,” Markina said, by offering “quality, value and convenience in one package — and preferably a modern one.”

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