Jayesh Vekariya holds a Master's in Pharmacology. He has nine years experience in the pharmaceutical industry, and has launched more than 20 medicine brands and medical devices for companies ranging from startups to Fortune 500 leaders. He also has an MBA in Entrepreneurship and a passion for social entrepreneurship and strategy.
Linda Biggs is a mother of two daughters, former tech leader, and vows to one day own a cabin in the woods. She holds a BComm from Royal Roads University, as well as a Computer Science Diploma from Capilano College, and has worked with the likes of KPMG, WestJet, and plenty of startups too!
Together they're the team behind joni, a social enterprise period care brand that's different on purpose. We asked them to share some thoughts with us on why they started the business, what they hope to achieve, and how we can all help contribute to period equity. Check it out!
Where and how did joni begin?
[Jayesh] I was completing my MBA in Entrepreneurship at the University of Victoria and stumbled upon the statistic that one in three Canadians under the age of 25 cannot afford period care, and that stunned me. So I dug into the industry more and learned of the deep margins big brands were taking and how little innovation the industry has seen in over 30 years. I knew that small changes could make big impacts and decided to start a period care company that addresses these social issues.
It's shocking that period care hasn’t changed much in the last 30 years. Why do you think that is?
[Jayesh] Periods are associated with shame and stigma, coupled with an industry that lacks investment in femtech, means that the status quo never gets challenged. At the same time, big brands don’t have much incentive or need to innovate when they continue to bring in billions of dollars in revenue.
Why would a big brand innovate products that could potentially cannibalize their own old product that's been selling for so long without much effort? It doesn’t make financial and economic sense for the companies that already have economies of scale to reinvent the wheel. That’s why, unless new startups in this space get funded, there won’t be significant innovation growth.
What more can be done to remove the stigma around periods?
[Linda] Removing the stigma around periods is a part of period equity. Period equity starts with awareness. Knowing that there are people in our communities that struggle each month and the systemic issues that have led to that is an important piece to driving change. If you are looking for resources, our blog has some excellent articles on the topic.
The next step is action. Action comes in many forms but at the most basic level, talking about periods openly and inclusively and creating a safe space to do so is a good start. And this applies to everyone, not just those who menstruate.
joni has two co-CEOs. How does that work and why did you decide to go that route?
[Linda] With our #differentonpurpose value, we decided on a different model since we knew that together, we brought important and complementary skill sets to the success of joni. I focus on marketing, branding, customer success, technology & retail channel sales while Jayesh focuses on product innovation, NGO and institutional partnerships, digital marketing, and supplier relationships. We work really well together and feel that this has led to our success thus far.
Who inspires you when it comes to entrepreneurship, and why?
[Jayesh] I wish I could name someone specific but I really just like to study stuff and get things done and so have multiple role models for different areas of business rather than one solid person for everything.
What’s a fun fact about you?
[Linda] My first language is Spanish although I don’t speak it much anymore.
[Jayesh] I can speak three languages: 1. Gujarati, my mother tongue, 2. Hindi, and 3. English (obviously!). I love to study behavioral finance and economics. I am the first person in my family to go to college and I have three Master’s Degrees from three different continents.
joni’s raise is now live on FrontFundr, head on over to their campaign page for more information!