As a part of our Beauty Duets series, we are catching up with some of the coolest organic businesses run by women in partnership. Mariah Mansvelt Beck, founder of Yoni — a Netherlands-based organic sanitary care brand that wants everyone to have the right to know what their period products are made from – walks us through how she and cofounder Wendelien Hebly met, how their friendship grew into starting a company together and navigating close working relationships.
Wendelien and I have been friends for over 16 years. We met each other at university doing our bachelors. After our bachelor program, both of us studied and worked abroad but whenever we were both back in the Netherlands, we made sure we saw each other. About 4 years ago, both of us were working in the Netherlands again, and that’s when we ended up talking about tampons, pads and panty liners on a Sunday morning.
A few years before, I had found out I developed cervical cancer. Luckily it was still in a developmental stage, and I could easily be treated. I started to look for ways to support my health, and in this search, a doctor advised me to start using organic cotton tampons and pads to avoid further irritation. For me, this was the first time I was triggered to think about these intimate products and to hear there was an organic cotton option. I was obviously motivated to use these products but I couldn’t find them in my normal supermarket or drugstore. I could only find them in certain smaller organic stores.
Two years later on a rainy Sunday I ended up at Wendelien’s kitchen table after an extra long bike ride to get to one of these stores to buy my “special” tampons. While explaining this to Wendelien, we came to the conclusion that it was strange that we as fairly conscious women had never heard about the organic cotton option before. We noticed that on most tampon and pad boxes no ingredients are mentioned like we can expect on other care products – like our shampoo or moisturisers. We thought that if we had never heard about this, that probably most women never had either. On that Sunday, we decided all women should be able to know what their most intimate products are made from and that the organic cotton option should be made available on every shelf next to the synthetic options. After a few months of research into this market, we decided to take a leap of faith. We both quit our jobs and started working full time to realise our mission and start our company Yoni.
What has been one of the best things about working in partnership with a close friend?
That you get to spend so much time with one of your best friends! And that you get to share an unique experience with someone already close to you.
Top tip for those interested in starting a business as a duo?
It’s important to make sure both people share the same goal and work ethic. I definitely would not start a company with most of my friends. And as the company evolves, and your roles change it’s important to keep checking in whether you both are happy – we always say it’s important that things are going well for you personally, for us as a business duo as well as for our company. All three are interlinked.