Arion Long says she’s not just a chief executive officer; she’s also a chief estrogen officer. The founder of Femly, a company that makes plant-based and organic feminine hygiene products, Long visited Maryland Smith to speak with future entrepreneurs, as part of the annual Ladies First Speaker Event.
Long started Femly when she was living at home with her parents and siblings, and working full-time in the healthcare industry. She was experiencing extremely heavy and painful periods, she recalls, and her doctor discovered a growth that would need to be surgically removed. The doctor told her that the pads and tampons she’d been using were packed with insidious chemicals. Just like that, Femly was born.
Getting investors for her company was not easy, but Long worked hard, networked, persisted and got it done.
“What irritated me was finding out about pattern matching,” Long said. “[I saw] so many examples of a pattern of this Mark Zuckerberg-type of person doing well in his jeans, as opposed to a woman who had to show up with a Gucci purse [in order to be taken seriously].”
As a woman of color, Long says she faced even more difficulties in getting investor backing for Femly. “Only .0006% of black women get VC,” Long said. “I made friends with investors I knew I could call when I needed help.” Successful friends in business taught her what money is “good money,” and which investors would likely end up being more of a hindrance than a source of help.
Feminine products will never go out of style, but Femly expanded its brand and boosted its revenue by selling face masks during the height of the COVID-19 pandemic.
Long now is launching initiatives to place period product dispensers in schools, stadiums and other public areas for free. And she is looking to add QR codes to the dispensers so that users can donate a product to someone in need.
The Ladies First Speaker Event is sponsored by Maryland Smith’s Dingman Center for Entrepreneurship.
–By Erica Spaeth. Spaeth is a 2023 MBA Candidate and a Forté and Smith Fellow. Originally from Potomac, Md., Spaeth worked in digital marketing, publishing, and most recently operations management, leading her to come to Maryland Smith.
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