BITE Focus

Bleed red, think green: A marketing masterclass from DAME’s Celia Pool

At this year's BITE LIVE 2020, Celia Pool, Co-Founder of DAME delivered a marketing masterclass in brand bravery, creating aspirational environmental products and giving back where you can.


Culturally, we are far more comfortable discussing plastic straws than tampon applicators; yet 1.3 billion disposable applicators are thrown away every year in the UK. It’s an environmental issue that doesn’t often receive the attention it deserves, a challenge that Celia Pool was determined to address.

Pool co-founded DAME in 2018 and since then, the brand has saved over three million plastic applicators going to landfill through sales of their reusable tampon applicator.

DAME creates period products that it markets as, “better for your body and the planet.” As marketers grapple with the challenge of reimagining their products and positioning as the climate emergency rises up the consumer agenda, DAME is a compelling example of a new breed of brand with a sustainable and inclusive supply chain which is successfully shaking up the status quo.

In terms of the environment and the world there’s so much re-birth that can happen.

Celia Pool

Compelling female role models

This year, perhaps more than any other, inspiring the next generation of businesswomen by celebrating role models is more important than ever. Earlier this year Pool was awarded the Bold Future Award by Veuve Clicquot for her outstanding contributions to the sustainable development of female products. It’s an award which celebrates women who have led with innovation to become pioneers in their industries.

2020 marks a critical point for women’s careers as every day during the ongoing coronavirus crisis a myriad data points point to a plethora of women exiting the workforce. As Pool explains: “seeing women exiting the workplace is really scary and sad because I know how hard it is for a lot of women to come into the workplace.” This doesn’t just refer to those starting out in their careers she clarifies but also those coming back after career breaks.

“We need to look at the difficulties that all types of women are facing,” she explains. This means, she adds, “educating yourself on what other women or non-binary people are experiencing right now.” She believes that there is still a lot of progress that needs to be made in these areas and to do so, she wants to see people, “starting conversations and starting talking.”

The proliferation of online conversations around women’s experience in the workplace is vital, Pool feels, in the push for change. Pool’s advice for people wanting to start something new? “Go after your values and really follow something you believe in.”

Environmental isn’t enough to sell a product

When it comes to running her own business, Pool feels that the timing, while difficult for so many, couldn’t be more exciting for marketers and entrepreneurs. The COVID-stricken world we are living in, she believes, has so many “new problems to solve”. “In terms of the environment and the world there’s so much re-birth that can happen,” she adds.

When it launched, the company decided to focus on a reusable tampon applicator both for the obvious environmental reasons but also the chemical aspect, as Pool explains. Traditional tampon applicators are filled with plastics and synthetics, touch the body for barely a second and are thrown straight into landfill because they’ve touched blood.

But, explains Pool, the greatest issue the company faced is that it “realised we had to go up against the consumer with really ingrained habits…[we] had to think like a consumer.”

“When push comes to shove, environmental [benefits alone] isn’t enough to sell a product,” says Pool, highlighting the many brilliant eco products languishing in the depths of eco websites because their branding doesn’t quite stack up against the established market. “We needed to make this product look aspirational…[like] something they wanted to see on their Instagram feed and bathroom shelf,” she adds.

She doesn’t believe that we have reached a tipping point when it comes to marketing products that are less harmful to the environment, pointing out that we, “see the big incumbents now doing a lot of green washing.”

“As a small brand, we not only have to cut through the noise but have to cut through the noise in a digestible way,” Pool explains, highlighting the importance of education within this market. This doesn’t just mean relaying information that is wordy or impossible for the consumer to unpack but rather in a digestible, convenient manner. At DAME, Pool says, they realised they needed to “show our impact but show our impact in an easy way.”

Even though we’re a small company, we wanted to give back where we could.

Celia Pool

Shifting habits

While it often falls on the shoulders of consumers to make the ‘greener’ shopping choice and for brands and businesses to make fundamental changes internally, Pool thinks it needs a threefold approach for meaningful change to happen. She explains: “it’s up to consumers, brands and government.”

She points out that so much can be done at speed from a legislative point of view, as the ongoing crisis has demonstrated. But at the same time, she says, “consumers have to vote with their wallets,” to “buy better, buy less.” At the same time, she adds, “we as brands have to produce less.” She points out that brands can’t expect environmental behaviour from consumers if they insist on producing more and more products.

“We have to design products for longer,” Pool says. “You can convince a consumer to part with more money up front if you can convince them they’re going to get more from it,” she adds. She laughs as she points out DAME is the “worst company for an investor because we sell one product.” She believes wholeheartedly that DAME can run as a successful business without selling more than one product.

The coronavirus crisis has had a fundamental impact on many parts of everyday life but perhaps no more significantly than on consumer buying habits. Pool points out that the panic buying that proliferated as the UK went into lockdown showed that we “need to be more concentrated and concerned in the way that we buy.”

Online sales have seen a huge increase and, as Pool says, there’s “never been a better time for reusables if you can’t get to the shops.” She believes there “has been a gear shift. The buying public can see a different way to shop.” And as the habits shift, it creates opportunities for retailers looking for different ways to sell their products and market to consumers. But, says Pool, “they have to be brave enough to do it.”

Find the problem first

Pool explains how when she first heard about the B Corp movement, she recognised that it reflected the values she wanted to instil in the business. B Corp is a system of accreditation that is based on using business as a force for good; about making sure a company balances purpose with profit. It is, explains Pool, a rigorous process that took DAME a year and a half to complete; “there was “no room for greenwashing,” she adds.

She believes that B Corp, “allows you a framework for how to build and grow your business. [It also] connects you with a network of like-minded businesses who are all using business as a force for good.”

DAME operates with an incredibly diverse supply chain and business, working with women at every stage of the development, engaging female lawyers, designers, and medical engineers. It also forged a partnership with an organisation that supports domestic abuse survivors, providing them with crucial income. “We wanted to make sure the product was going to be created by the people who were going to use it. Historically that hasn’t been the case,” explains Pool. “Even though we’re a small company, we wanted to give back where we could,” she adds.

She highlights that DAME is working directly with the brand’s community to develop the business’s second product: a reusable pad. “It’s important for us to give back and connect with other people and make sure it’s a collaborative process,” Pool explains. “In the end it makes for a better product which is a win all round,” she adds.

Pool believes that for businesses to stay relevant and afloat in the current climate, it’s essential to keep moving forwards. To keep listening to what the consumer community wants and expects and offer that to them. Her advice to those wanting to do something different or launch something new is to “always attack it problem first.” “There’s got to be an actual pain point and a user base who want your product.” It’s that pain point that Pool advises people to keep in their sights.

“Whenever there’s big seismic change in the world that’s the most exciting time,” says Pool. “That’s when you can make the biggest difference.” A marketing masterclass from a business founder looking to not only galvanise and support those around her but to also shift the environmental narrative.


Celia Pool was speaking at BITE LIVE 2020. To watch the full conversation, visit the dedicated event page, Bleed red, think green: A marketing masterclass from DAME