Career 180: The ‘Flo’ of a new business

Naama Bloom wants to make periods less dreadful for women.

Naama Bloom wants to make periods less dreadful for women.

She is the founder and CEO of HelloFlo, a health and wellness website that offers information, products and support for women in all stages of life, from puberty to menopause. 

Bloom, 42, has more than 15 years of marketing experience, including at American Express and Harvest, a retail marketing firm she left in January 2013 to launch her business. She lives in Carroll Gardens with her husband and two children.

Why did you leave marketing?

In a sense I didn’t leave marketing because my job as a founder and CEO of my company is still to be a marketer at the end of the day. What I really changed was working for someone in a Fortune 500 company to being on my own and going after ideas that I felt passionate about. I had an idea that I was excited about and I was thinking about constantly and I wanted to pursue it. It just seemed so much more exciting and it seemed like it would give me the opportunity to own something rather than be a part of something.

How did you get the idea for HelloFlo?

Originally I was just noticing all of these subscription commerce businesses and thought they were really interesting. And it was like an intellectual exercise to see if there was anything I’d be willing to pay for on a monthly basis and you know, tampons popped into my head pretty quickly. It’s something I’m already paying for so why not make it easier?

Is it more affordable for women?

Certainly the easiest way on HelloFlo to reduce the cost if you’re going to subscribe is to pay for the fixed cost up front. We are not the lowest cost place to buy your tampons. We try to be competitive but … since we know we’re not the lowest cost what we’re trying to do is solve convenience in your life and also that feeling of yuck you get before your period. So the box is nice and it comes with two different boxes of product so you can mix up what you’re using. And it always comes with a treat whether it’s chocolate or tea, just something that can be a pick-me-up.

Do you have a medical background?

It is safe to say that I know significantly more now about women’s health than I did prior to starting. As soon as I realized that education and content was going to be such a critical part of my business I enlisted the help of medical advisors. And so we have a section called “Ask Dr. Flo” and we get plenty of questions from readers about their bodies, not just [about] their period. And I have medical professionals to answer questions that are out of my depth or that make more sense to be answered by a medical professional.

How does this kind of company empower women?

I believe fundamentally, and what drives me to continue doing this, is that the more knowledge we have about our bodies and our health the more empowered we are to make decisions for our lives. So if I can enable people to have conversations openly and honestly with their doctors or with their parents or with their friends, I think I’m enabling a more powerful woman.

How did your marketing background help you create HelloFlo?

I think the most important thing I’m building since I have content and I have commerce as well is a connection with my audience. And for me that comes in the form of building a really strong brand with HelloFlo. So everything I do I think about whether or not it’s appropriate for my company and my brand.

What was an unexpected challenge in launching your business?

The short answer is everything. When you start a business you hang up a shingle, whether it’s online or in person, and you just assume people are going to know about it and it’s just going to happen. But the truth is you have excitement for every sale you get and every visitor who comes to your website. So when I was at AmEx I was dealing with millions of people and millions of sets of data. With HelloFlo I had to celebrate one at a time. The other thing is because I’ve been successful with some of my marketing … people have the impression that I’m so much bigger than I am. And so I’m constantly being approached for sponsorships for national concert tours and I keep having to explain to them that like ? people see a success and they believe that it’s automatically equated with riches. But it’s still a grind and it’s still working to climb up and make it a bigger and more stable business every day.

What have your profits been like?

Q1 of 2015 is going to end with more revenue than all of 2014.

Any advice for readers considering a career 180?

I would say there are two things you need to think about. One is, before you do anything you need to get your personal financial house in order and know that this isn’t the six-month endeavor before you’re starting to pay yourself a salary. This can take years. And when you look at people who have what you consider successful businesses, chances are they’re still worrying and stressing how they’re going make payroll. But if you have an idea that won’t leave you alone there’s never a good time to decide to start a business, you have to just do it. You’ll never feel like you have everything in order. Get as much in order as you can but know that you have to just go for it.

Heather Senison