Tsuno is a Melbourne based company created by industrial designer and social entrepreneur, Roz Campbell, that makes sustainable sanitary pads and liners with a social focus. I think I immediately fell head over heels for Tsuno. Everything about this company spoke to me so I dived in and ordered a years worth of pads!
I was so excited about these that I waited impatiently for them to turn up at my doorstep. And Tsuno’s pads are indeed stunning! They are environmentally friendly and sustainable, made from natural bamboo fibres with biodegradable wrappers and the boxes are beautifully designed by a local Melbourne artist. For the first time, I was anxiously awaiting my period because I couldn’t wait to use them!
But one major thing that truly struck a chord with me about Tsuno is that it has a much bigger vision to bring about positive change in the world. With every transaction, 50% of Tsuno’s profits go to charities focused on international women’s development.
These international projects create opportunities for women in the developing world so that they can have access to pads, tampons, clean water, social rights and equality and education.
Everything we spend our money on is a vote for what we value, what we stand for and what change we want to make. What we spend our money on should be a conscious decision. This is why Tsuno is important; for not only raising the awareness of this issue, but for making it accessible to those that want to contribute and do their part in making a difference.
When I met up with Roz Campbell for a chat and a sneaky drink one afternoon, I left our interview so inspired and motivated. This is what this lady does to you! She is intelligent, with a bold creative flare and a witty style for story telling. Read on for the interview and be inspired too!
How did it all start?
A few years ago, I listened to a talk from Chantelle Baxter from One Girl (One Girl is a not for profit organisation with a mission to give girls in developing countries an education). Chantelle gave a speech that really resonated with me. She told us about what she was doing before she started One Girl; going to uni, working, partying, hanging out with friends and that she felt unsatisfied with life. Chantelle then found herself in Sierra Leone on a volunteering mission and started the charity shortly after. She made it seem so accessible. I was thinking, "Why couldn’t I do something like that?”. Her talk made me believe that I could do whatever it was that I wanted to do. There was also something around the way she talked about women’s equality that really interested me.
At the end of 2012, I bought a round-the-world ticket overseas and when I got back home a few months later, I had no money, no job and a bit of debt. I was overwhelmed and I knew that I needed to make a change in my life. So I worked and paid off my debt and started a business course.
We talked about Roz's fundraising campaign that lead her to start Tsuno...
I applied to be a One Girl ambassador and decided to do a charity fundraiser. For the fundraiser, I wanted to draw attention to the issue around girls not having access to sanitary products (One Girl has a project called Launchpad which provides girls sanitary pads in Sierra Leone).
So I decided that the next time I had my period, I would manage it the same way that these girls would. I used sponges, newspaper, toilet paper, leaves, rags and bark.
By the third day of my period, my vagina was on fire. I was crying walking from work back home and it was hard to do anything. The materials just don’t breathe properly. And yet, I wasn’t even putting myself in the same scenarios compared what these girls had to go through.
Some girls in developing countries would be wearing these items whilst working in very hot and humid conditions and would experience chaffing and bruising. They would still have to go to school and work despite the pain.
The response I got from the fundraiser challenge was incredible and it motivated me to really start my business. I had been sitting on the idea for Tsuno for a few months by then so I finished my short business course and I created a business plan over 12 months. There were so many social enterprises starting up every day. It was just so logical. You can start a business and not be all about profit. It kind of shook up my idea of what business is and why I could start one. The obvious choice for me was to crowd fund to start this project.
Roz created a campaign on Pozible and successfully raised over $40,000 in 60 days, which was enough for her to start her business. Tsuno was launched officially in September 2014, delivering the first shipment of pads and liners around Australia.
Where does the name Tsuno come from?
My friend, who was also starting a business at the time and on the look out for a name, wrote to me and said that he thought the name Tsuno would suit my business. Yoko Tsuno is a Japanese cartoon character. She is the embodiment of a confidant woman. Its really cute; she is a scuba diver, a pilot, an engineer, she can do everything. She is like McGuyver but she is a Japanese cartoon girl.
What are the three biggest lessons that you have learnt in this whole process.
I have learnt that you can figure out anything even if you are not an expert. When I started, I was’t an expert in business, female equality or health. I just had an idea and I tried to figure it out. It is a testament that you don’t have to be an expert in anything and you are always learning.
I have learnt that I have the ability to inspire people to do something positive themselves. Even though I only own a small part of the sanitary product market, I have learnt that I can still make a difference. And it is really exciting that there are so many new social enterprises.
I learnt that I am actually a pretty good sales person if I can persuade men to purchase sanitary pads for their partners.
We also talked about the lack of discussion around papsmears...
The other day, I got a pap smear and it came back abnormal. I found out that I have these cells in my cervix which are abnormal and it was a big shock to me. It was a wake up call. I am not invincible as I thought I was. I did a post (instagram + facebook) the other day to remind people to get their papsmear and talked about the results I got.
I had so many people commenting on the post to say that they had a similar thing or that they needed to schedule in one for themselves. A conversation like that could really prevent someone from getting cancer. It made me realise that I had a voice; to get people speaking more about these topics.
I hope that I can help women here break down some taboos; to openly talk about these topics, support and learn from each other.
What inspires you?
My community and my customers. Knowing that there are lots of people behind me, knowing that I have support is good. And the fact that Tsuno has been well received. I have gotten so much positivity and support from this.
Sometimes I can get a bit lost in the figures, and the business side of things. What does the trick is watching a documentary or reading an article about something uplifting in the developing world. I watch a series called Half the Sky. If I ever feel the need to be inspired, I watch an episode of that and I’m like I can do it. It’s a reality check. It just reminds me about why I am doing this, rather than just running a business.
What do you to relax?
Most people would probably say yoga or meditation, but I watch Seinfeld. I have been going from the beginning of the series. I am about half way through. A lot of my friends are big fans and I realised that I was missing out on a lot of references over the years.
I love Seinfeld too! It is so refreshing to hear that she relaxes by watching Seinfeld. It reminds me to rewatch some of the episodes too!
What is your perfect way to spend your day?
Being self employed, I need to be on top of my routine. I realised that I don’t work well in the mornings. I have the flexibility to choose when I work so my ideal day would be to allow myself to wake up when I want to (around 8.30) and then see a friend for brunch. We would talk about new ideas and brainstorm. And then at around midday, I would start working. I would work until 7 or so. The afternoon is the best time for me to work. And then I would probably go catchup with someone in the evening.
And lastly, here are some rapid fire Qs
Tea or coffee?
I prefer tea. But I love the Vietnamese iced coffees.
Vietnamese pork rolls. Vietnamese food is probably my favourite. But I am lately going down the vegetarian path. My boyfriend is a vegan and its rubbing off on me so I am gradually cutting it out slowly over time. Most nights I would order something vegetarian without really thinking about it now. I love south american food as well.
Favourite place to travel?
In my experience, Japan is my favourite. Even going from one suburb to the next in Tokyo is so different. Its funky and quirky and the people are polite.
Autumn. I would have always said Autumn as a child because I had my birthday in autumn,