Name: Annemarie Harant & Bettina Steinbrugger
Current Position: Co-founders of erdbeerwoche
Pioneers in: Demystifying menstruation
Recipe for Success: Never give up!
“When we founded our company, many were very surprised – you will be focusing on
M-E-N-S-T-R-U-A-T-I-O-N??? Are you crazy? Now, 9 years later we’ve managed to educate millions of women, tens of thousands of adolescents, and replaced over 7 Million conventional tampons and pads with organic alternatives.”
Annemarie Harant and Bettina Steinbrugger are two pioneers in Women’s Health: Together they built the social business erdbeerwoche, which focuses on education around menstruation and organic menstruation products. From starting their company 9 years ago to becoming successful entrepreneurs and educating millions of women on the topic of menstruation, how did their journey start, what was their experience like and what is their recipe for success?
Identifying a Niche (That Affects 50% of the Population)
Before starting erdbeerwoche, Annemarie and Bettina both worked in the sustainability sector for many years, where they worked closely with companies to make them more sustainable. During that time, they randomly came across an announcement from a company that produced organic tampons, and quickly realized that there’s a massive gap and therefore a huge opportunity available in this space: “We wouldn’t have expected at this point that this announcement will change our lives, and will turn us into entrepreneurs.” They went on to do more research on this topic, and “we quickly realized that somebody has to fill this niche – and that’s how erdbeerwoche was born. As a side mission, we also wanted to break one of the last taboo topics of our society – the menstrual cycle.”
erdbeerwoche quickly grew to be the first social business in Austria that specializes in menstruation. Their business now includes three key pillars: erdbeerwoche.com, a platform for menstrual education, including READY FOR RED, a digital education platform which teaches adolescents important knowledge about menstruation. For this education effort they partner with public authorities and companies. For example, with the organic pad brand Organyc, where each package comes with a free access pass to READY FOR RED.The second pillar is the erdbeerwoche-Onlineshop, where people can find all organic products that they need during their periods, including organic tampons, menstrual cups, and their self-produced fair trade period panties. In addition, as a third pillar, they are involved in political work where they have been active to lower the tampon tax for many years (which has already successfully happened in Germany) or for more transparency about the ingredients of monthly hygiene products.
It Doesn’t Always Matter What Everyone Else Thinks
Annemarie and Bettina can show impressive traction with what they’ve built with erdbeerwoche: “Now, 9 years later, we’ve managed to educate millions of women, tens of thousands of adolescents, and replaced over 7 Million conventional tampons and pads with organic alternatives.” The critical voices that they were initially surrounded with quickly understood the value that Annemarie and Bettina were delivering: “Nowadays, we’re no longer being frowned upon, on the contrary – the topic of menstruation has reached a positive turning point in our society, and that’s great!”
What made Annemarie and Bettina so successful when building erdbeerwoche? They mention that it is important to believe in yourself and your skills: “Even if people in your surroundings may not always be encouraging, it is very important as an entrepreneur to believe in your mission and to stick to it. But also, to recognize if a path you’re taking is not the right one, and choose another.” When asked about the 3 most important skills as an entrepreneur, Annemarie and Bettina mention “the entrepreneurial thinking, the courage to leave known paths and try something new, as well as grit: Never give up!”
The Rollercoaster of Entrepreneurship
“The most amazing part about being a social entrepreneur is to wake up every morning and to know that today you have the possibility to make the world a better place,” Annemarie and Bettina mention when asked about the parts of entrepreneurship they really like. However, they also describe the more difficult aspects of entrepreneurship, such as staying positive in challenging times, and finding the self-motivation to push through. In these times, it’s extremely helpful to have a co-founder and work on this as a team, as “it’s easier to get over a crisis when it’s two of you – you can lift each other up if needed”.
Overall they describe the entrepreneurial journey as a huge adventure, including a rollercoaster ride: Once the ride is over, you’d want to start again!
Next week, we will ask for your suggestions on who should be portrayed next in our Entrepreneurs of Austria series – let us know about which entrepreneur’s journey you would like to learn more about!
In our weekly interview series, we will be featuring various inspirational entrepreneurs of the Austrian startup scene. Each Monday, you can expect useful insights into their lives and practical tips that you can follow in order to walk your entrepreneurial path. Like, share, comment – and feel free to reach out to us. Suggestions, ideas, remarks are all welcome – let’s shape the ecosystem together