THREE friends have taken a gamble and left reliable jobs to set up a Cork based eco-friendly period product subscription service.
The trio felt so passionate about changing the conversations around periods, improving menstrual health and basically making women’s lives easier, they didn’t see any other option.
Aine Kilkenny, Fiona Parfrey, and Lauren Duggan are the women behind Riley, which was born out of a late night chat during lockdown.
“We had never intended going into business together,” Lauren explains.
“However, late last year in Dublin we were up one night discussing all things periods and the frustrations we all shared around them. This then led us down a rabbit hole of research, especially when we became aware of the amount of plastic that were in the products that we had all been using since we were teenagers, and before we knew it Riley was born and we never turned back.”
The girls have based their business in Schull, a West Cork village they’ve ties to. Aine, 32, is from Dublin and most recently worked as a manager in Salesforce. She has been living in Schull since the pandemic started, and it’s where she and Lauren holidayed as kids and became pals.
Dublin-based Fiona, 30, is from Cork city and most recently built a sustainable outdoor e-commerce brand called Sundrift, which she is in the process of selling to focus full-time on Riley.
Lauren, 30, also from Cork city, has been friends with Fiona since school. She has been living in and working for a tech start-up in London for the past six years and is currently selling her house in Clapham to make the move back to West Cork to focus full time on the business.
Lauren admits they are all taking a gamble by leaving their current jobs to focus on Riley: “But we feel extremely passionate and excited about it so we think it is a risk worth taking!
“Especially the prospects of being able to make a difference — to reduce the amount of unnecessary plastic waste in the world, fight period poverty and generally change the conversations around periods. I mean, it is 2021, periods should not be stigmatised!
“If people can make the switch to reusable coffee cups, cotton pads, and even electric cars, why can’t we switch to eco-friendly period products? Periods are a given in life but our experience of them is not uniform.
“We wanted to create a product that changed the conversation around periods, that was a clarion call for higher standards around the products billions of people use every month, demonstrating that we can do periods better.”
The average pad today has an approximate plastic content of 90%. That means these products can live on for 500 years as waste after their brief usefulness has passed.
The average woman will use 11,000 non-recyclable tampons in the course of her lifetime, equivalent to 5,500 plastic bags.
Fiona added: “It’s high time people didn’t feel guilty about the environmental impact their period is having. We want people to be proud of their period and to do it their way.
“Our menstrual cycle is the most natural thing in the world and the products we use to facilitate it should reflect that.”
All of Riley’s products are made from 100% GOTS certified organic cotton, which means there are no added chemicals or toxins. The majority of their packaging is compostable, the applicators on their tampons are bio-based and made from sustainable sugar cane, and they only work with ethical partners, and their manufacturer is based in the EU.
Their products, starting at €6.90, will be delivered through your letterbox on a monthly or quarterly basis, meaning as well as being kind to the environment, it’s also highly convenient.
The girls are also driven to continue the fight against period poverty, both home and abroad.
Riley contributes €1 for every box sold to Irish-registered charity Development Pamoja based in Kenya. This results in them sponsoring a menstruation education programme in 10 schools and supplying sanitary products, offering 1,000 young girls access to basic sanitary products, as well as stocking Development Pamoja’s medical clinics.
Claire Hunt, of Homeless Period Ireland, commented: “It’s fantastic to see the launch of Riley, an Irish- based and female-founded company who are fighting against period plastic and period poverty. I hope this will continue to open up the conversation on a normal bodily function so it is no longer seen as shameful or that it should be hidden away. Organisations working together is a major piece of the puzzle towards ending period poverty — Riley are playing their part.” Lauren said: “We can’t believe the success of our launch and are blown away by the support. It’s great to see women are ready to switch to eco-friendly period products.”
We have to ask the inspiration behind the name Riley?
“We really wanted a unisex name for our brand to be inclusive and not only aimed at the stereotypical female,” said Lauren.
“After going back and forth on lots of different names, Riley came up. Of course what first came to mind was the phrase ‘the life of Riley’ and the word Riley means ‘a luxurious or carefree existence’, the definition of which is written on our packaging.
Given our mission to make women’s periods stress-free so they never run out again, this seemed perfect!”