Posted: 16 November, 2020

Alumnae Perspectives: Developing a Business

Alumnae, Careers

Alumna Lucy and her mum, Claire, are changing the conversation around period care - working hard to promote women's health, raise awareness and smash stigma through their company &SISTERS. Find out how ...

Lucy Lettice

Class of 2011; Co-Founder of &SISTERS

What have you done since leaving Putney?

Wow, where to start! I left Putney knowing I was really practical and loved getting stuck into things. Food had always been a passion of mine (walking past the original ‘Ottolenghi’ in Notting Hill and seeing the humungous meringues with freeze dried raspberries did it for me!) so I embarked on the one-years Diploma at Leiths school of Food & Wine. It was amazing – I learnt everything from knife skills to lobster bisque, but what really stuck with me were the wine sessions taught through an elected tutor from the Wine & Spirit Education trust (WSET). On leaving Leiths I knew I wanted to follow this love of wine and ended up at Plumpton College studying the BSc in Viticulture & Oenology.

Leiths and Plumpton taught me a real love of authentic products and respect for natural raw ingredients and also, all the ways in which we manufacture things we eat/drink (or put inside us!) totally unnecessarily. After several years working as a food and drinks buyer (which I LOVED!), I knew I had to do something where I could use the skills I had developed but also make a difference.

Tell us a bit about your business and what inspired you to set it up?

My mother had always mentioned her travels around South East Asia when she was younger and how there were so many areas in the world that suffered from period poverty (including the UK). She was totally sold on ‘period cups’ so set about designing our own cup after intensive market research and 18 months of development. To really solidify the brand (now called ‘&SISTERS’), pay homage to the ‘sisterhood’ of those menstruating around the world and to provide a complete femcare offering, we launched a range of Soil Association certified organic cotton tampons, pads and liners. It was around this time I quit my job and started working on &SISTERS full time to start selling our product to retail. I basically switched sides from buying to selling – that was almost 2 years ago and I haven’t looked back since!


What have been some of the highlights as you set up &SISTERS?

To try and sum it up …

  • We have designed a range of Soil Association certified (DK14305) organic cotton tampons, liners and pads, as well as the nüdie period (menstrual) cup
  • Production of our organic cotton uses 91% less water, 62% less energy and saves 46% greenhouse gas emissions versus conventional cotton
  • Our nüdie period cup features unique design elements such as Tri-flow™ air release holes, the Pebble™ pull for hassle-free removal and is made from silky smooth hypoallergenic medical-grade silicone for extra comfort. Each nüdie period cup sold saves 2000 period products going to landfill
  • We are stocked in over 80 small chains and independents, including Oliver Bonas, Next Beauty, Abel & Cole, Feel Unique, Farmdrop, Ecovibe and Planet Organic.
  • We are serving over 1000 customers through our e-commerce platform
  • Our products are sold in retail channels throughout the UK, Europe, Asia and Australasia
  • We have sold over 300,000 tampons, pads and liners and more than 1600 nüdie period (menstrual) cups this year alone!
  • We completed a £200k funding round in 2019 on crowdfunding platform Crowdcube.


What challenges would you say you have encountered along the way and how did you overcome them?

In setting up and growing any business there are more challenges than I could write here. However, attitude and perseverance is everything. Breaking problems down into small pieces and approaching each piece logically tends to do the trick. Think before you do but don’t think for too long. I mean, an unstable US election, end of the Brexit transition period and a global pandemic are probably a million-to-one chance but if we can persevere through it and come out stronger, then anyone can!

What has it been like for you as a business owner in lockdown?

We came out of the lockdown stronger than when we went in, &SISTERS really has gone from strength to strength. In particular, a couple of really exciting things happened:

  1. We have recently launched our crowdfunding campaign on Seedrs (click here). Building on the success of our organic cotton and reusable period product, we’re seeking investment to expand our physical product offering and move into the world of femtech – launching a holistic ecosystem for menstrual health.
  2. We are soon to re-launch our website with our updated direct-to-customer ‘subscription’ offering. Online offers are an amazing opportunity for businesses like ours to be able to target our core customers. Femcare is a necessity, not a luxury and 80% of women believe, wrongly, that their existing period products are made from cotton. They’re not – some mainstream brands sell products containing up to 90% plastics! Education is key to our success, and we will continue to follow closely our core values; better for the body, better for our planet and better for our sisters (we donate 10% of our profits to support women experiencing period poverty across the world).


What would be your recommendations for students / alumnae who want to set up their own business?

There is never a good time. Take a risk. Fail Fast. Try to let data guide you, you need to apply some subjectivity too, but data can direct you along the way, and if in doubt, go with your gut.

Hiring is key, surround yourself with people that can do the things you can’t. Our colleagues are the ones that will get us through the tough times and will be there to celebrate with us when the successes arrive.

Putney was a fantastic learning environment. I learnt the art of perseverance and to remain humble. The best things in life can come from the unexpected, and Putney taught me to never say “No” and to always dedicate myself 100% to the task in hand.

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