Tampon dispensers now work like your phone’s touchscreen

Individuals who menstruate know the sensation all too properly. They’re toiling away on the workplace or passing by a practice station when Aunt Flo comes unannounced. However the merchandising machine within the restroom—if there even is one—is empty, or out of order, or downright unusable as a result of it’s 2021, and who on earth carries cash?

For nearly two years now, a brand new breed of merchandising machine has been making its approach by workplace buildings and public areas in Boston. The SOS machine was designed by two girls, colleagues who had spent a decade within the finance world going from company workplaces to motels to high-quality eating eating places with out ever discovering a tampon. In order that they constructed their very own machine and introduced it into the twenty first century, with at least 5 design patents, and a curated number of well being and wellness merchandise that run the gamut from female care to cosmetics to skincare.

[Image: courtesy SOS]

The primary machine launched within the Boston Seaport in January 2020. With greater than 14 areas and 40 extra to come back in New York, San Francisco, Miami, and past, SOS marks a serious milestone for inclusive public area in cities which have traditionally been built for men. It additionally hints at one thing else, which is encapsulated by the corporate’s motto: “Whether it is good for girls, it’s good for everybody.”

[Image: courtesy SOS]

The SOS machine is a far cry from the hard-edged metal field that at the moment hangs on many public restroom partitions. Its corners are rounded; its supply bay is a brilliant, glowing pink; it takes card and contactless funds (however no money); and comes with a snazzy video touchscreen.


[Image: courtesy SOS]

Inevitably, the touchscreen opens up a world of alternatives. First, it permits customers to decide on the product they need, or discover out extra in regards to the manufacturers inside (many are female-owned, like Kosas, Cora, and Teleties). Second, it may be custom-made primarily based on the placement, so customers can keep up to date on work bulletins, or the practice schedule, for instance. Third, it makes for a first-rate promoting platform.

“To be able to make this enterprise mannequin work and repair the issue, we would have liked to search out one other strategy to commercialize these machines,” says Robina Verbeek, who cofounded SOS with Susanna Twarog. As you trot into the restroom in search of a tampon, you may as well learn up on the constructing’s new parking guidelines, discover out extra in regards to the firm’s upcoming vacation celebration, or study all a few model’s new skincare assortment.

Contained in the machine is a cornucopia of emergency merchandise, from tampons and dry shampoos to antiperspirant wipes, pimple patches, hand sanitizers, and chafing cream. All had been picked and vetted by the founders themselves, and essentially the most delicate ones, like tampons, come prepackaged in a discreet, SOS-branded packing containers. Verbeek acknowledges that many corporations, like Drybar and Recess, have efficiently constructed a direct-to-consumer mannequin and improved ingredient high quality throughout the board. “However what had not but been solved is the distribution level,” says Verbeek. “If you depart the home, for those who forgot one thing, what do you do?”

Every machine can maintain as much as 100 merchandise, and a cloud-based stock system makes restocking a breeze; corporations pay a $250 per thirty days servicing price. Its low profile (2.5 ft tall and 10 inches deep) means it’s sufficiently small to suit anyplace and, as Twarog places it, “hold on the wall like artwork.” Going cashless helps many shoppers, nevertheless it does create accessibility points for these with out a bank card. So areas or corporations have the choice to “sponsor” the female merchandise contained in the machine, making them obtainable at no cost as an alternative of the conventional worth of $1. How usually do sponsorships happen? “Much less usually than I might like,” Verbeek says.

The primary machine was born in a coworking area at Boston’s District Corridor—an occasion venue that doubles as a workspace and programming hub. (The constructing homes the one public restroom within the neighborhood, so SOS was put in between two gender-inclusive restrooms to make it extra accessible.) As we speak, SOS machines could be present in areas together with Boston’s South Station, Fenway Park, the Prudential Heart shopping center, and Boston Kids’s Hospital. “Our imaginative and prescient has all the time been to create a community of machines that might exist in all places you go once you depart the home, just like how you might discover a Starbucks on each different block,” Verbeek says.

Placement of the machines has been dictated largely by the pandemic and the place persons are spending most of their time proper now. Quickly there will likely be 35 SOS machines on the Florida Panthers’ FLA Stay Area in Dawn, and 5 machines within the Florida Panthers IceDen in Coral Springs. And in just some weeks, an undisclosed, high-traffic space in New York Metropolis will get its personal SOS. The founders are additionally engaged on an app that can assist customers find the closest machine from their telephone.

For now, areas skew towards massive leisure venues and sports activities arenas. A pink-studded merchandising machine boasting an array of feminine-care merchandise will not be a obviously apparent selection at an NFL stadium, and that’s virtually the purpose. As of 2020, girls made up 47% of all NFL fans, but many stadiums don’t present any choices for girls in want of provides. “I’ve spent my entire life going to video games,” Twarog says. “I can now purchase a tampon at Fenway Park.”


SOS was constructed by girls, for girls, nevertheless it caters to males’s wants, too. (Enjoyable reality: The very first consumer was a younger man named Phil, who bought an Ursa Main face balm; Twarog and Verbeek know this as a result of they occurred to be standing close by). “There’s a lot in our bodily world that has been constructed and designed for males,” Twarog says. “When we construct merchandise, we’re fascinated about all people.”