THIS IS MOXIE: Mia Klitsas, Founder of Moxie.

July 18, 2022

Interview by Genevieve Phelan.

 

Our 'This is Moxie' series has cast a diversely talented, intelligent and innovative humans. They also happen to bleed once a month, experiencing a vast spectrum of hormonal shifts and abdominal unrest. But the common thread uniting our special lineup of interviewees is their standing-for-something. It’s what Moxie truly means to us, and the idea that first ignited our Founder Mia’s drive for change in the big and problematic world of menstrual care. 

In this instalment, and in celebration of the brand's 17th Birthday this month (17! That's a lot of periods. 204, to be exact, assuming you bleed around once a month) we’re shining a light on Mia Klitsas — the fierce, patient, and passionate mind at the helm of the community, the products, and the people you know that were summoned to build Moxie.

It takes many things to start a business. There’s patience, failure, grit, creativity, more failure, eventual success, and power naps. And of course, when it comes to a brand dedicated to periods, there is also alot of blood (like, hectolitres of it), sweat and tears. 

Today, we’re putting Mia in the hot seat to retrace the trajectory Moxie took from then to now. Naturally, it all starts with an idea, then demands a support network, some balls-y brains and heaps of learning. But what about the ‘why’, and finding that propelling, unstoppable force of purpose? Plus, what role do upbringing and personal values play in the way someone forges a brand?

For anyone studying business, feeling zealous about menstrual equality, or just wanting some sage advice from a girl radiating Big Sis Energy, get ready to voraciously consume Mia’s story (so far). From working the local bakery as a teen to making biodegradable tampons, the journey isn’t so linear. And you know what? It never is.

 

GENEVIEVE: Cast your mind back to the origins of Moxie — how did it all begin, and when, and why? 

Mia Klitsas photo

MIA: Moxie originally started as an off-the-cuff idea between two friends, that sparked over Nandos peri-peri chicken, of all things. True story! I was lamenting the fact that tampon boxes always broke open in my bag, ultimately rendering the products unusable, and how offers on the market at the time weren’t reflective of my experience or needs when it came to managing my period. Nor were the conversations around periods (this was the era of period product TV ads featuring women running on the beach in white pants) The more people I told, the more I realised that others shared similar experiences and pain points.

I wanted to change the whole experience and stigma surrounding period care and what it meant to menstruate. As a teen, I would hide my tampon up my sleeve to go to the bathroom, I'd cringe when a tampon ad came on TV and others were in the room, I'd never talk about my period with anyone - but really, why? Why had society made us feel ashamed, like we had to hide it? This all needed to change.

The idea was make a product that was not only functionally better than what was out there (i.e. a pack that didn't always break open, and something that wasn't wrapped in plastic - we've never used plastic cello on our boxes), but something that looked and felt beautiful, that you weren't embarrassed about, that you didn't have to hide. Enter period pride. And so, Moxie was born!

Initially we launched with a range of tampons in refillable and recyclable, super cute little tins, and soon expanded into pads, liners, and now of course more sustainable optons like biodegradable organic tampons, reusable cups and other period pals like mini hotties and PMS tea.

 

Can you tell us how the name 'Moxie' came about?

The name 'Moxie' was inspired by the retro vibes of our original packaging (40s-era style candy-stripes) and actually means, in our interpretation, to have guts, determination and courage, even in the face of adversity. It’s a word of American origins (as far as we know?!) that was often used in films of that era to describe strong, sassy women. We believe that everyone has moxie in their own unique way, and we exist to encourage people to embrace and flex it, however that looks/feels to them.

 

Why are you passionate about periods and menstrual equality? 

It was initially my experience as a young woman experiencing a period and everything that came with that (like inadequate access to period-related education, unrealistic and arguably sexist advertising, etc) that sparked that desire to really want to drive change and create a different experience for people who menstruate.

Women’s voices and experiences around intimate care in particular have been stifled for a long-time. Periods have previously been something to be hidden, ashamed about, not discussed and just 'dealt with'. This is problematic in so many ways: people not getting the care and support they deserve, people having less that desirable or undignified experiences with menstrual care – the list goes on (and on). I wanted to create a brand, a platform and ultimately a community that championed accessible period care and period talkfor all – not just for women who period, but foranyone who periods. Periods are not just a ‘women’s issue’ – we recognise that not all women period, and not all people who period are women. It’s an important conversation to be having because a person’s gender identity shouldn’t be a barrier to accessing the menstrual care and support they deserve.

I’m so proud that Moxie was one of the first brands to adopt a ‘real’ and more inclusive approach to period care and to be steering the convo away from language like 'feminine hygiene'.

 

What was before Moxie, and how do you think your upbringing shaped the work ethic/creativity you have today?

I’ve worked in some capacity from the minute I could – from the local bakery as a teen, to various retail jobs, to odd holiday jobs for some extra pocket money. My Dad has always been super entrepreneurial – a real ‘doer’ who never sits still. He was originally a knitwear manufacturer with his own factory in Abbotsford, Melbourne (a huge hub for local manufacturing back in the 90s), which he started when he was 19. I was exposed to what life as a business owner was like from a very young age; I often went to the factory with Dad on weekends and on school holidays and saw first-hand how hard he worked, so I understood pretty early on that hard work often comes with sacrifices. It’s essentially how I was raised and so the concept of having my own business wasn’t really daunting to me when my turn came around. And much like Dad, I can’t sit still. I guess it’s in the blood (excuse the pun), so to speak?!

Just prior to Moxie, I was studying a Bachelor of Business (Marketing) at Melbourne’s RMIT University and was interning in the Marketing department of a big multi-national when the idea for Moxie sparked. And here we are, 17 years later.

 

Who are some of the humans that have profoundly impacted your Moxie journey for the better?

Oh this list is LONG! I am so fortunate to have met some amazing people along the way. There's a lovely little crew of small to medium sized (some giant sized) business owners, many of whom are based in Melbourne and Sydney, are women (yeah the gals!), who just seem to have found each other serendipitously (a bit like you and I, Gen?!), are value-aligned, and who support each other through thick and thin. As I said, this list is long and I can't possibly name them all, but you all know who you are and to you, I say an enormous THANK YOU!

I'm very grateful, too, that my family have had my back from day 1, because many people didn't - I was frequently told I was too young, too this and too that, to go into business ("no-one's going to buy tampons in tins, it's a gimmick!"). My immediate family have been legends every step of the way and I couldn't have gone this long without their support.

But ultimately, we wouldn't be here without our tribe, our Moxettes! It's our extended Moxie community who continue to support our li'l baby and keep the dream alive. Even 17 years on, I’m still floored by the thoughtful emails and DMs we get from people saying how much they love Moxie and what we’re doing to champion period progress. It’s a nice little ego boost and a reminder to keep going, even on the days when you feel like the odds are stacked against you.

 

What's your proudest Moxie moment?

Hands down, it's the impact we were able to make with our 'Pads for Pads' initiative, where we used a huge portion the profits made from the sale of our Moxie pad products in Australia to fund the manufacture and distribution of reusable pads and accompanying education for schoolgirls throughout Uganda.

It came about after I read an article about young girls in developing countries missing up to 20% of their school year, dropping out entirely, selling their bodies in exchange for period products - just so that they could stay in school - and felt (being in the period care space), a real sense of responsibility and drive to try and do something about it. 

I went to Uganda in 2013 and drove from the top of the country to the bottom, and physically handed out 500 reusable period care kits (that if cared for, would last indefinitely - a conscious, sustainable option, especially as people usually have to bury their rubbish), to those who needed them most. We also facilitated menstrual hygiene education alongside a trained professional. 

Whilst in Uganda, I met young girls - tweens - without parents, caring for their younger siblings, doing everything they could just to stay in school so that they could get an education and forge a good career path to provide for their families. I met teachers who had never been afforded adequate period care or education themselves. I met the strong, proud women making the period kits we were donating, who through their work were able to earn an income, contribute to their communities, provide for their families, and enhance their skills. The entire experience was beyond anything I could've ever imagined, and it was all because of our little Aussie brand, Moxie.

The 'pride' part comes from not only supporting 15,000 young women throughout the initiative (and knowing the incredible impact/domino effect of them being educated will have on the world!), but the realisation that I was able to use my business as a platform for change, for GOOD, for other women.

 

 

 

And your 'pinch me!' moment?

There have been lots of these over the years, three immediately spring to mind:

  1. Being named 'Telstra Young Business Woman of the Year' in 2014 for VIC;
  2. Meeting Moxie muse (and absolutely delightful QUEEN), Dita Von Teese - literally the original inspo for Moxie's OG look and feel;
  3. Any time I meet someone and they pull their Moxie tin out of their bag. Blows my mind. Every time. 

 

 

What does moxie actually mean to you, personally, in your own day-to-day life? 

To me, Moxie means being your best self in a way that inspires (either yourself or others) but without doing any harm. You do you, however you want! As long as your actions don’t negatively affect other people. I champion my inner Moxie by standing up and speaking up for what I believe in – words are important, but actions sometimes even more so. Gotta practice what you preach.

 

Why is it important to you that women with 'moxie' are pedestalled and celebrated (like in 'This is Moxie')?

Whilst Moxie is for anyone who periods (a safe space for all, regardless of their gender identity), I’m huge on championing women and giving us platform to share our stories and experiences because in many ways, broader society still doesn’t afford us this to the extent it should (we still fight for equality and equity in many ways).

I’m fortunate that we have a platform with broad reach that we can use to call attention to the things we care about and that matter to women today; whether that be celebrating each other’s achievements or amplifying discussions around health issues that we should be talking more about, in turn encouraging people to get the care and support they deserve.

Beyond being a provider of period care products, Moxie exists to ultimately give people who period, including women, the opportunity to have their voices heard – which I believe, in turn encourages other people to use their voices for good, too. It’s all about the domino effect. Everyone has Moxie in their own unique way and we encourage each other to proudly flex it, however that looks for them.

 

In a competitive world and a saturated market, how does Moxie stay true to itself as a brand, and a community?

Standing out and being true to who we are means going against the grain sometimes, and that can be tricky – whilst not intentional, you’re going to upset some people and your actions/words will be polarising by default; but we remind ourselves continuously that this is sometimes the only way that change happens.

Being progressive means having conversations that perhaps haven’t been had within the space yet, and doing things that haven’t been done before, encouraging people to look at things from a different perspective. I mentioned it earlier and it's a prime example: our category has long been labelled ‘feminine hygiene’ – something that hadn’t sat well with us for a long time – and so we started referring to it as ‘period care’ instead. Were we the first? I can’t say for certain, but we’re seeing more and more people refer to it this way, which makes our hearts sing! We’re big believers in leading by example. We won’t ever compromise our values or what we believe in for the sake of a sale. People first, profit second.

 

You've recently crafted organic tampons (which is huge) and have also launched reusable cups, but there's still a place for your OG tamps. How important is it to give people the option to choose what period products they use? And to champion whatever works for them? 

Whilst progressive, planet-friendly(er) period care is definitely our main aim-of-the-game, it’s really important to recognise that oftentimes, more conscious choices can come at a cost or a compromise as they may not be accessible to everyone. It’s all about balance and doing what’s right for you, without feeling judged or being berated for making a different choice. Non-organic tampons and pads are not problematic as such, they’re just different – they won’t biodegrade as quickly as organic cotton options, but they’re still incredibly effective at managing period flow and are also generally cheaper than some eco alternatives.

Period cups are a great reusable option, too, but not everyone can afford to shell out $30+ for a cup. Accessibility is important and it brings us back to menstrual equity. We’ll continue to provide accessible choices and make them as progressive as we can – less packaging, recyclable materials, reusable options, etc. It’s not all perfect, but it’s all part of the period progress process.

 

 

Must ask, what's your period like? Ever had any significant troubles/fights/breakups and makeups with her?

My period was really problematic in my teens, most likely due to the hormone fluctuations. It came with debilitating migraines, really bad period cramps and an insanely thought-I-was-going-to-die level of pain, ruptured ovarian cyst. I was promptly put on the pill at 19 as a result of all that (with little discussion about it – it’s what the Doc recommended and so I just went with it) and things were pretty chill for many many years after. Until I decided I didn’t want to take the pill anymore, which then took my body a good 18 months to recover from the effects of coming off the pill: skin breakouts, irregular periods, weight gain, breakthrough bleeds and spotting, more period pain, more (but different) migraines... It was the absolute pits and I definitely wanted to break up with her (though she didn’t let me).

It’s been a few years since I’ve been off the pill now and my period has regulated itself again. My cycle is on the longer side – around every 35 days or so – but it’s not super heavy. I’m an organic tamp or period cup gal at the moment, but I go through phases. Our Organics pads are so thin and soft so if I’m home and in PJs, I like to wear those.

I can definitely feel when I’m ovulating and my body gives me little warning signs when I’m a few days out from the bleeding phase; super sore breasts, PMS (mood and cramps). All in all, my period has been pretty good to me lately – we’re on speaking terms for now, haha!

 

What are your go to period pals? 

I'm generally a period cup or organic tampon gal - I just love the convenience of both, but if I'm at home I'll wear one of our organic pads - they're so soft and thin that you barely feel you're wearing them. A Moxie mini hottie is a must, too. I always carry one with me because it's so easy to fill (it only requires about a cup of water) and just tucks so neatly into the waistband of your pants. No-one even knows it's there, working its magic!

 

What are some of the biggest lessons you've learned in the last 17 years in business? 

Being a business owner sure is a ride and one thing’s for certain: you never, ever stop learning! Though that’s really a huge element of what keeps me motivated. Some standout learnings are:

  • You’re going to makes mistakes. Lots of them. So don’t dwell on decisions, or second guess yourself too much. Aim high, take risks, push the envelope – sometimes things will work out, sometimes they won't. Both outcomes have their benefits, every experience has learnings.
  • Things always end up costing more than what you anticipated, so give yourself some wiggle room when it comes to costings and budgeting.
  • Outsource what you’re not good at. Find experts in the areas where you’re not strong, or that you don’t have time to do (or that you just don’t enjoy doing). In the beginning, I had to wear many hats because I couldn’t afford to hire people, but the minute I could, I hired an in-house accountant (numbers are not my forte).

 

Where to from here? For Moxie, and for Mia?

Mia probably needs some sunshine and a little holiday sometime in the near future, so that's high on the personal to-do list! Admittedly I've neglected self-care lately as work has taken over, so I need to get my balance back. I'm heavy into reformer Pilates, which I love and need to maintain otherwise I'm a grump, and so I always make time for this no matter what; but I'm committing to more self-care from next week! Things that I know serve me well: massage, meditation, reading, just general alone time. And planning some bucket-list travel for next year. 

I've been doing some more mentoring, consulting and public speaking this past year, which I absolutely love. I love brands and building them (not just my own, believe it or not!) so being able to sink my teeth into helping others come to life is a really rewarding process that I feel I can contribute to, but also learn so much from.

Moxie wise, we've been working on a heap of new products at HQ (you heard it here first) that are finally starting to come to fruition (watch this space!). We recently re-launched the brand in Greece after a Covid-induced hiatus and it's taken off during the Euro Summer, which we're thrilled about; I'm excited to expand into more international markets in 2023.

 

Lastly, what would be your advice to Moxettes who want to live their most authentic self?

Don’t measure yourself, your success, achievements, experiences, or your actions against those of others. Everyone’s running their own race, and yours is unique to you – you answer to yourself only! Live life by your own set of values and be led by what fuels you and encourages to be the best version of you, however that looks. 'Success' is subjective anyway, and only you can really define what it means for you.

 



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