Friends since age 14, Jenn Kim and Britt Martin probably never imagined that the two of them—a competitive badminton duo—would join forces to create a start-up company: Food Period.
In fact, the very skills they learned and developed during badminton—having each other’s backs, anticipating each other’s next move—would allow the two of them to really make Food Period edible.
The beginning of their friendship can be attributed to Kim’s alarm clock. When the alarm went off one morning, Martin and her roommate thought it was a fire alarm; they rushed into Kim’s room to see what was going on.
“We were instant best friends,” said Martin.
However, after high school, the duo parted ways—Martin studied at Scotland’s University of St. Andrews and later worked in London and Vancouver, and finally moved to New York for her Masters; Kim headed to Boston University and later pursued her Masters at the California Institute of Arts before working in South Korea as a lead graphic designer.
Despite distance, Kim and Martin continued to bounce ideas off one another. Although they did apply to a few accelerator programs, nothing felt quite right.
Then something changed in 2016, when Martin was diagnosed with Hodgkin’s Lymphoma. After six months of chemotherapy, she stopped having her period. Reluctant to use a birth control pill regimen as a way to reinstate her menstrual cycle—she felt that she already had so many other chemicals in her body—Martin began a journey to find an alternative.
“A nutritionist introduced me to seed syncing,” said Martin. “I knew it wasn’t going to be an overnight fix, yet within three months, my period came back and I did not experience any of the PCOS-related symptoms I had experienced previously.” Martin also added, “The nutrition counseling near me may vary compared to what other people experience, but as if this is helping me, it could help others too.” Such seed syncing required eating certain combinations of seeds during different phases in her menstrual cycle.
“My nutritionists told me to throw the seeds into a smoothie,” Martin remarked, “but I didn’t want to drink a smoothie every day so decided to turn them into energy bites.”
These energy bites sparked the idea for Food Period. When Martin called Kim (who was currently living in South Korea) to tell her about her idea, Kim immediately expressed interest in joining the team.
Nearly 60 percent of American women taking birth control use it for a non-contraceptive purpose.
“The statistics floored us,” said Martin, “because they are so many other alternatives.”
Yet a lot of these alternatives are hard to access, more expensive, or require women to see natural health practitioners, like naturopaths, nutritionists, or integrative medical doctors.
“Our whole mission is to make natural remedies and solutions for women’s periods as easily accessible as pharmaceuticals,” said Martin.
With these guiding principles, Kim and Martin sought to make a product that not only worked, but tasted good.
“When I first tried [one],” said Kim, “I told her that we needed to make them more delicious and that it had way too much cinnamon!”
In fact, Moon Bites (Food Period’s flagship product) supplement two typical purchases made by women: organic snacks, and health supplements to manage symptoms that come with a menstrual cycle. Moon Bites take the place of both, and cost only $2.44/day. In comparison, organic snacks can cost $2 to $4 (e.g. RxBar), and health supplements can cost upward of $3 daily (e.g. Alisa Vitti’s FloLiving Supplement Kit).
Food Period’s idea has truly caught on. They recently won the pitch competition at the NYU Entrepreneurs Festival, and are semi-finalists in the $300K Entrepreneurs Challenge. They also have already sold a couple dozen Moon Bites Subscription Boxes to customers in and outside of the United States.
“One of my favorite things, especially now,” said Martin, “is that our group of customers is small enough that we can talk to them once every two weeks.” They have used this customer feedback to make alterations to their product—from changing the size of the packaging to adding a calendar to remind users when to take the bites.
It hasn’t been all sunshine and daisies, of course.
“Neither of us have backgrounds in food manufacturing or with founding a start-up,” said Martin, “so we’ve been figuring out all of that as it goes along.” Similarly, neither have a nutrition background, Kim remarked.
Help from the NYU Entrepreneurial Institute’s J-Term Startup Sprint and the advice and resources they have received from friends and family have truly been essential. Martin’s father, who works in residential and commercial development, thought of the name Food Period.
“Even though it has been a lot of work for the two of us,” said Kim, “thinking about our larger goal helps.” It also helps to hear positive feedback from their customers that their symptoms are improving, added Martin.
“We want to focus on making Food Period part of a women’s daily routine,” she said, “and something that improves how they experience their period.”
From the start, Kim and Martin have always focused on the customer—something they plan on continuing in the future.
“We want to build a brand that not only offers a product,” said Martin, “but also offers resources and a community for all women to connect, share stories, and ultimately celebrate their periods.” Period.