Kristy Chong is disrupting the feminine hygiene industry with Modibodi, a line of women’s underwear that uses innovative patented technology to replace the need for panty liners.
Working in the PR world for close to 15 years, representing multi-national organisations such as Edelman, Sanofi-Aventis and McDonald’s, Kristy had first-hand experience in what made a brand work, she just needed her own.
“My aha moment came about while I was out running,” Kristy tells Dynamic Business.
“I realised my underwear was failing to protect me from those annoying but common unmentionables women face – sweat, periods and light bladder weakness. I thought to myself, surely women deserved underwear that not only looked good and was comfortable, but could also protect us when we needed it most. I mentioned the idea to my husband, he agreed and then suggested we take a scientific approach first to developing the solution.”
Kristy spent around a year and a half fine-tuning the technology and setting up the business. Close to 100 textile engineers were used in the consulting phase, along with back-and-forths with fibre companies in Australia and the USA. It was a relentless process, a period of time that also included approximately 1,000 scientific tests overseen by Kristy’s husband, James Chong, a world-class researcher in cardiac therapy. Lingerie designers and manufacturers also came into the picture, working with Kristy to develop the range of garments on offer today.
Modibodi officially entered the market two years ago, and their growth rate certainly bodes well for the brand’s forecasts.
“By the end of this financial year, we will have amazingly experienced 400 per cent growth in revenue since the previous financial year. This revenue has mainly been driven via word of mouth, and my own PR and social media efforts. Now that we are investing in more PR and social media we are predicting revenue will increase by a further 500 per cent by the end of 2016.”
Kristy believes Modibodi is a sign of change in the world of retail, a sector she says still holds menstruation as an almost taboo subject.
“Menstruation and words like ‘bladder weakness’, ‘discharge’, and ‘odour’ are definitely still unmentionables in the retail sector,” Kristy says.
“Feminine hygiene has always been the domain of supermarkets and pharmacy. Yet, with the burgeoning growth expected in the feminine hygiene market and a greater demand by consumers for more premium offerings, retail has much to gain from stocking a brand like Modibodi. And surely having well-loved department stores selling Modibodi would be a fantastic way to break down taboos around these subjects in the retail sector and society in general.”
It’s the desire to improve the life of women that has ultimately driven Kristy and her business, so a partnership with a grassroots non-profit soon became a no-brainer. Coming across a blog entry discussing the work performed by Days for Girls, Kristy knew she had to help.
“Days for Girls provide reusable feminine hygiene kits, which include reusable pads and a pair of underpants, to disadvantaged women,” Kristy explains.
“It sounds absurd to women in the developed world, but a single kit will last a girl’s menstrual life-time, and directly improves her quality of life by allowing her to attend school and work and to have some dignity during that time of the month.
“After reading about the charity, I felt that we had to help out, especially as our garments can be used as everyday underwear and for protection during your periods. I gave them a call and we set up a 12-month partnership.”
Kristy says the partnership with Days for Days is not heavily promoted to customers so it’s not viewed as a marketing tool, but says the knowledge that a purchase will benefit both the buyer and a woman elsewhere makes for a nice shopping experience.
As Modibodi continues to makes leaps in growth and the retail sector slowly becomes more accepting of women’s hygiene as an important selling area, it’s clear the sky is the limit. The plan? Bigger leaps, of course.
“We are currently in the growth phase, and investing in both PR and social media this year to increase our brand awareness,” Kristy says.
“We are committed to selling to our customers online for now, as can keep our RRP lower, but should the right opportunity arise we are definitely open to retail options. We will also continue to expand our styles, colours and sizes over the next 6 months to offer more options to our customers.”