The latest viral ad sensation is also among the funniest feminine products ads ever. The commercial, set at summer camp, features a preteen girl who gets her first period and declares herself the "camp gyno" ("This is your life now," she hisses at another young woman, curled up in pain from menstrual cramps).
The ad, for a company called HelloFlo, is novel not only for its brash attitude about periods but also for the service it advertises: regular delivery of tampons and pads. In recent months, a crop of start-ups offering the service have sprouted.
SentHerWay, Juniper, Le Parcel and The Period Store are all examples of competitors in this young market. The premise is simple: send women feminine products periodically, eliminating the need for drug store runs. Some sites even offer women the opportunity to sync deliveries with their cycles.
"When you think about it, a subscription service for your period just kind of makes sense," says Ashley Seil Smith, co-founder of The Period Store, launched on March 1.
In that sense, the business model makes far more sense than other popular monthly delivery – no one needs new razors or chocolates or beauty products every month in quite the same way they need feminine products. Still, women have dealt with periods for forever, and monthly subscription services are also nothing new. So what's behind the proliferation of menstruation-themed businesses?
While all the businesses interviewed by U.S. News say their ideas were original, there is no denying that there is a recent influx of competitor sites. Monthly subscription services of all types have become increasingly popular in recent years, and Le Parcel co-founder Amanda Castleberry says other types of subscriptions helped inspire her service.
Combine that trendiness with a potentially huge customer base with a regular need for more products, says one entrepreneur, and it makes great business sense.
"Business[es] are looking for large audiences, and what better than women between 13-50?" emails Bryn Jurkens, founder of SentHerWay.com, which launched in January 2012.
In addition, some of these entrepreneurs say they are discovering populations that don't have the luxury of walking down to CVS and choosing between row after row of products. Jurkens says she's seen surprising interest from customers in rural areas, who may not live close enough to a store for convenient emergency purchases.
Meanwhile, The Period Store says it has found a client base among the military community.
"Women who are either serving in the military or in military families ... they have access to it but not the full range of products that they're used to," says Nate Smith, a co-founder of The Period Store.
Within what might at first seem to be a niche market, the businesses have also found ways to differentiate themselves. The Period Store sends packages that contain artwork and candies in addition to tampons and pads, and also offers an array of eco-friendly products. Juniper offers customizable packages with optional add-ons like painkillers and tissues. SentHerWay, meanwhile, takes the no-frills approach, with no extra gifts or candies. And HelloFlo is aiming its marketing at women who want to educate their daughters.
"The video, website, [and] my period starter kit, are very geared towards moms of tweens and teens," says Naama Bloom, founder of HelloFlo, launched in March, though she adds she has many 20-something customers as well.
Though she has seen increased interest since HelloFlo's ad went viral, Bloom says establishing her business wasn't entirely easy.
"I tried to raise money, but no one really wanted to talk to me about selling tampons," she says.
Still, many of the sites report strong customer growth, and they hope that they can change women's attitudes about their periods with the convenience they offer.