David v. Goliath

David v. Goliath

By Molly Hayward, Founder of Cora

Photos courtesy of @corawomen on Instagram

Photos courtesy of @corawomen on Instagram

coralife_shapeshiftreport_2.png

The word “victory”, for me, evokes a sense of a prideful defeat over a worthy adversary. It’s something I’ve seen in the movies, and heard about in History class. It’s us v. them. Me v. you. It’s made of glory.

 

Many investors, partners, and customers have referred to my company Cora as the David to big brands’ Goliath (think Tampax). We were, and still are, a small and scrappy startup up against a multi-billion dollar, decades old brand.

 

Cora wasn’t birthed from mere competitive hunger. It started with an ever-painful twinge from seeing shitty pink packaging and flowery sentiments dominating the shelves of the tampon aisle. I was incensed by the total lack of regard for women’s health when we discovered how conventional tampons and pads are actually made--with dangerous synthetic materials. I also felt great empathy for the tens of millions of girls and women around the world whose education and social freedoms are repressed by her inability to access or afford simple menstrual products.

 

Defining Victory

When we launched Cora in early 2016--a brand of organic period products that also provides a month’s supply of pads to girls in need for every month’s supply sold--we knew immediately that we had hit on something big. Customers loved us, brand partners were lining up at our door, and investors saw the big potential, too.

 

In my mind, there was a massive opportunity to create a brand that thinks differently about women’s bodies and the way we manage our periods. Victory for Cora has always been to change the way women feel about their bodies and their periods--both here in the U.S. and in developing countries. It would be victory over a societal taboo, not to mention the ushering in of a new era for women’s health.

 

It was never about just sticking it to the man, but if we achieved our true goals successfully, we would naturally build a meaningful business in the process. And without a doubt, it was an opportunity to sling some rocks, too.

 

Victory in business, however, is traditionally defined as beating out the competition, stealing market share--a winner-take-all scenario measured in dollars and cents and headline-making IPOs. And, indeed, I get caught up in that way of thinking all the time.

 

But when anyone talks about the triumph of my business in such myopic terms, I cringe. Probably because I’ve learned that when we think about victory or success as an end-point, the goal post moves as soon as we get close to it. It’s a treadmill you can’t get off of. Cora aims to change the way women think about and experience their bodies and periods--after decades of having truly painful experiences and messages hurled at us--not to bask in the glory of our competitions’ defeat.

 

And then I realized: no one who loves our brand and our products--the people whose opinions of us actually matter--are actually keeping score. We’ve made their lives better, and that is the point.


 

Full Effort is Full Victory

Though I’m extremely proud of what Cora has become and where it is going, the word “victory” isn’t one that crosses my mind or enters my vocabulary often. In the day-to-day I’m living in the moment--not in the future day when we are the last company standing.

 

When I think of victory I imagine a magnificent, light-filled stadium packed with roaring crowds of people cheering me around the track as I pull into the lead. Ahead of the others, I break through the ribbon with my arms raised above my head, triumphantly, and collapse into the arms of my elated teammates.

 

Overall, that hasn’t been my life as an entrepreneur. Sure, there’s plenty of adrenaline pumping on a daily basis with this requisite sprinter’s pace, and in some sense a tangible finish line certainly lies ahead of me. But, until that final moment when you sell or ring the bell at the NYSE or read about your competitor going bust, the title of the “victor” isn’t being pinned on anyone. And besides, nearly everything leading up to that big moment is completely devoid of glamour, ceremony, or thanks. It is a grueling labor of love. It’s dedication to what you believe, not what you want.

 

Victory for me, more often than not, is a personal experience; not one shared with a stadium of people.

 

Moments of victory arrive for me when I remember to remove the lead vest of “being busy” and, instead, focus on just feeling alive; when I know I’m being useful and of service in some way to the future of womanhood.

 

Mahatma Gandhi once said, “Satisfaction lies in the effort, not in the attainment, full effort is full victory”, and I now know that to be true.

 

In spite of all of my social conditioning, I am starting to understand that a life well lived--in days working alongside people you consider some of your truest friends, in the pursuit of meaningful goals, and with gratitude for all the love and abundance you have--are the things that belong to the truly victorious among us.