Bob People: TOM founder, Aimee Marks talks women's health and finding balance
“I believe in contributing to a safer, healthier world, where future generations can grow and play.”
When in conversation with Aimee Marks - founder of organic tampon and nappy labels TOM and Tooshies by TOM - it quickly becomes apparent that the mother and entrepreneur was deeply passionate about women’s health before it entered the mainstream.
While most teenagers’ design projects in school were centred around fashion and art, Marks was busy brewing the foundations for what would eventually be her highly influential and successful startup. Focusing her design project on solving the problem of tampons falling out of her handbag, Marks began to discover the ugly truth about what was in her tampons.
Fast forward to 2009, and TOM Organic was launched, giving Australian women access to pure and reliable organic tampons and pads. After becoming a mother herself, the tooshies baby range would join the TOM brand as Mark’s comeback-from-maternity-leave project.
Here, Marks talks women’s health, at-home rituals for wellbeing, and balancing motherhood with business, all the while shining a light on why we only stock her organic, mindfully created tampons at Bob.
When did you first become aware of the need for women to be mindful of the products we use on and inside our bodies?
My light bulb moment came during a high school design project focused on solving the problem of tampons falling out of my handbag. After looking closer, I realised that the tampons I’d been using for years were made out of everything but cotton. I was horrified to discover that the conventional tampons contained bleach, synthetics and dyes which are then being absorbed into our bodies. So many of us use these products out of habit and necessity without thinking about what they’re actually made of.
Talk to us a little bit about women's health and the messages you're passionate about communicating through TOM?
The tricky thing about women’s health, and menstrual health in particular, is that we don’t tend to think about it until something goes wrong, or when we’re actively trying to get pregnant. Unfortunately for us, once we do have a problem, it’s often not so easy to reverse.
Conventional cotton is the world’s most heavily sprayed crop, using an alarming 25% of the world’s pesticides. This is troublesome given it is the core ingredient in many sanitary products today. Conventional tampons are also often made with synthetics including polypropylene, viscose, and rayon and treated with bleaches, perfumes and other nasty ingredients.
Considering the average woman uses more than 12,000 tampons and pads in her lifetime, absorption of the chemicals within these products can build up in our bodies over time. Our vaginas are one of the most absorbent parts of our body, the skin on the vagina wall is even more absorbent than that in our mouths!
It’s really important that our personal care products don’t contain ingredients that we wouldn’t ingest as that’s what’s happening when we’re wearing them, our body is ingesting the soluble chemicals.
After TOM came Tooshies by TOM - talk to us a little bit about expanding your business into baby products?
Tooshies by TOM came about as my return-from-maternity-leave project. After having twins I was a bit shocked at the sheer volume of nappies and wipes that were being used on a daily basis. At that stage there were no eco-friendly options readily available in Australian grocers or pharmacies, so the idea for tooshies was born. In the first few years of life your baby will go through about 6,000 nappies and 12,000 wipes - and double that for twins! When developing the products, I strived to strike a balance between the perfect nappy that most importantly works, while also being kinder on the environment and my babies’ bottoms. Our wipes came second to the nappies range and have quickly grown to be a best-seller.
What's always in your handbag (beauty and wellbeing related)?
Tooshies wipes! I literally use these for everything, not just cleaning up after the kids. They’re free from all the nasty ingredients you can often find in wipes and are infused with beautiful organic rose geranium oil, I’ve even used them to remove my make-up on occasion. Aside from wipes, I’m rarely without a natural hand sanitizer spray (being a practical mum again!), or my reusable coffee cup.
Favourite quick, healthy meal at the moment?
Feeding 3 kids each night means the simplest and quickest meals tend to be prioritized. I always try to frame meals around fresh, organic produce, a simple pasta with crushed fresh tomatoes, basil and olive oil tends to be a winner in our household.
Favourite at-home rituals for wellbeing and sustainability?
I believe wellbeing is inextricably linked to the quality of relationships so spending uninterrupted time with my family every day is really important. We try to have technology free time between 5 and 7 most nights, allowing us to be together without distractions. In regards to sustainability, it can feel difficult with small kids to reduce waste, but small changes can make big impacts. Making the most out of hand-me-down clothes, visiting a toy library and making food in bulk (rather than purchasing pre-packaged foods) really does make a difference.
You are a mother - how do you balance owning your business and being a mum? What advice would you give to working mums trying to find balance?
After having twins I slowly introduced new layers of work into my life and gave them space to settle to ensure I could give equivalent value to both work and family. I find I work best in short bursts, often once I’ve exercised. Now that I’ve got Jack Bear, the latest addition to my tribe, I find that I can have really productive work sessions while the girls sleep and also have my designated office days where I pack in as much as I can.
Finding what works for you is really important. Balancing work and motherhood can mean different things to different people, so it’s key to be able to experiment and find the right fit. What works when your kids are babies vs. toddlers vs. teenagers is going to be different so it’s about constantly checking in and working out the balance that feels right for you.