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Centre for Building Sustainable Value · Rebecca Zuker, HBA '23 Candidate

Nadia Ladak: Innovating for good - A Q&A with the Co-Founder and CEO of Marlow

Jun 8, 2023


Nadia Ladak is the co-founder and CEO of Marlow, a menstrual health brand that has created the first-ever lubricated tampon. She leads the team’s fundraising strategy and has been recognized as one of Canada's Top 30 under 30 Leaders by Bay Street Bull. 

What were the factors/experiences behind your passion for social impact & starting your own business? 

Marlow started in our last year of university through the Ivey New Venture Project course. I remember our professors told us to find a problem that we were passionate about solving. Our team was all passionate about social impact and so we wanted to ensure the problem we found was also one that if solved, would create impact in the world. As we began to discuss our ideas as a team, one of my co-founders opened up and shared that she’s always experienced pain when inserting a tampon. Growing up she was a swimmer and would always get frustrated when she had to “pause on life” when on her period because she didn’t have products that worked for her. One day, she had gone to the doctor, desperate to find a solution, only to be told to “spit” on the tampon to make it easier to use. Our team was shocked when we heard that story and knew there must be a better way. That’s what inspired us to create Marlow, and our flagship product, the first lubricated tampon for smoother and more comfortable insertion. As we continued to dig into the menstrual health space, we realized there were so many opportunities to create impact. We discovered that tampon applicators were one of the most commonly found items in beach clean-ups, so we ensured that we took steps to prioritize environmental sustainability in our product design. We also learned about the amount of stigma and lack of education in this space, which prevented people from having basic knowledge about their health and bodies. That’s why we’ve prioritized sparking a movement and community around our brand, to get people off autopilot and allow them to take charge of their health. This is a space that impacts 50% of the population for one week, every month, for 39 years. I’m so passionate about disrupting this industry and building a brand rooted in the values of community, inclusion, and sustainability. 

How did the HBA program support your interest in social impact? 

My interest in sustainability was deepened through the Ivey Community Consulting Project. In this project, we worked with Accenture to do a consulting project for a non-profit organization. My client was Swimming with a Mission, a non-profit that provides swimming lessons and water safety teachings for children with disabilities. Our project was focused on improving member engagement. Our client loved our project, and I was brought onto the Board of Directors to implement our project. This initiative showcased to me the power of business and how it can be used as a tool to create impact and solve sustainability challenges.  

You have a vast amount of volunteer experience in all different sectors. Why is volunteering important to you?  

Growing up, my dad instilled in me that “a rising tide lifts all boats”. It’s the idea that if you are achieving success, you need to remember to open doors and continue to create opportunities for others behind you to do the same. At a young age, he signed me up for Girl Guides where volunteering and community impact is emphasized as important values. This sparked my initial love of volunteering and the importance of giving back to the community. This led to volunteering at a children’s hospital, a music camp, on non-profit boards, and more. Now, I give back to the community as a mentor for Junior Achievement where I coach high school students as they operate their own small businesses. This allows me to combine my love of volunteering and entrepreneurship. To me, volunteering is important so that you can create an impact in causes that are important to you, so that you can mentor others, and share your skill sets and knowledge to solve pressing challenges in the world.  

How does Marlow prioritize sustainability?  

At Marlow, we address three of the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals including 1) good health and wellbeing, 2) gender equality, and 3) responsible consumption and production. Our impact strategy is centered around menstrual equity which focuses on access to menstrual products and menstrual health education. Our lubricated tampon empowers menstruators to live life on their own terms and not be held back while on their period. Our products are also environmentally sustainable, made of 100% organic cotton with a plant-based applicator, and compostable wrapper. We are a fully woman-founded team and 50% of the business is owned by women of colour. We deeply care about creating products that are good for the planet and about bringing innovation to a space that has been overlooked for decades. 

What advice do you have for students wanting to enter a career with sustainability as the focal point? 

My advice would be to find a problem that you’re passionate about solving. There are many areas of sustainability including the environment, diversity and inclusion, and more. Determine which area you’re passionate about and work to build experiences in that focus area. If you’re passionate about environmental sustainability, find a local non-profit organization that is active in this space. If you’re passionate about diversity and inclusion, when you do your internship, see if there are diversity groups that you can join and help lead. Impact always starts somewhere even if it is at a smaller scale so find opportunities for you to learn and give back in areas that you’re passionate about. 


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