Meet the maker behind the world’s first-ever PMS gummy vitamin

March 7, 2021, 12:00 PM UTC

This is an installment of Startup Year One, a special series of interviews with founders about the major lessons they have learned in the immediate aftermath of their businesses’ first year of operation.

Born and raised in Los Angeles, Brianna Bitton is a former Disney Imagineer who left the Mouse House to pursue building her own brand that would help women who were suffering from PMS.

With more than 1,000 five-star reviews since launching in December 2018, FLO Vitamins produces gummies that are non-GMO, gluten-free, cruelty-free, allergen-free, vegan, and made in the U.S. Touted by its maker to be the world’s first-ever PMS gummy vitamin, FLO is meant for people who menstruate of all ages, from late adolescence to pre-menopause.

When Bitton is not translating feedback from the thousands of women who take FLO, she balances running an interior design firm, Bitton Interiors. (Yes, she designed Halsey’s house.)

Fortune recently spoke with Bitton to learn more about the business, the lessons learned, the hurdles overcome, as well as plans for the coming year.

Courtesy of FLO Vitamins

The following interview has been condensed and lightly edited for clarity.

Fortune: Could you share a bit about your background and what you were doing professionally prior to launching FLO? 

Bitton: Prior to FLO’s launch, I was working full-time as an interior designer. I knew it was my dream job from an early age through watching my dad, an architect. I designed restaurants with my father nationwide before working at Disney as an Imagineer, designing their theme parks around the world. I then decided my heart lay in the personal connections I made with clients, and I pivoted our firm to a residential and hospitality business. 

Gummies have long been a popular form for selling vitamins, but FLO is very niche in its target demographic and function for premenstrual syndrome (PMS) relief. What inspired you to launch FLO? 

FLO was founded on the simple premise that PMS sucks. I was always super busy, running around from client to client, but without fail every time that “time of the month” would rear its ugly head, I was out of commission. My brother, Bobby Bitton, was director of marketing at a startup and was super interested in the supplement space. One day out of pure desperation, I posed the question, “Is there a solution out there for PMS?” and FLO was born. With Bobby’s background in business entrepreneurship he took the question and ran with it, coming back to me with a full presentation on how we could do this thing.

Approximately 90% of women experience premenstrual symptoms, lasting on average six days.
Courtesy of FLO Vitamins

There are gummies for delivering everything from vitamins to CBD. What went into the research and development process for FLO to ensure the gummies offer the kind of care promised on the bottle? 

Bobby and I dove deep into the feminine care market, and researched traditional natural remedies along with new emerging research on the symptoms of PMS and period pain. We realized that there were ingredients out there, but who wanted to take a handful of capsules every morning to solve one issue? After we had our go-to list of hero botanicals and vitamins, we met with countless nutraceutical scientists, doctors, and manufacturers that helped us formulate the perfect blend of ingredients in a delicious gummy package.

The last few years have seen a number of new businesses emerge to better serve people who menstruate, from menstrual cups to period underwear. How do you see the public conversation around period care and women’s health evolving?

My favorite thing about cofounding FLO is that we’ve helped take a previously taboo topic, which menstruators would only whisper about in the safety of their friend groups, to flashing Instagram ads. It’s so exciting to see people share their stories and realize they’re not alone in these experiences. I personally think that this is just the beginning of the conversation. I have already noticed the conversation around menstruation and feminine health become more casual and comfortable for women, and I can’t wait for it to continue to progress. Maybe one of these days we’ll even carry our tampons to the bathroom without tucking them into our sleeves!

It’s no secret that women have trouble securing funding, with female founders raising only between 2% and 3% in venture capital funding over the past few years, on average. What has fundraising been like, before and since the start of the pandemic? 

We are very lucky to have secured our seed round of investment prior to COVID. We feel so fortunate to have received funding, knowing that it is such a rarity for female-founded companies. We also feel so proud to partner with a progressive CPG VC that has invested in other female-founded companies and is an advocate for female-focused and led brands. 

FLO includes vitamin B6, which has been shown to reduce a broad range of PMS symptoms, including premenstrual depression.
Courtesy of FLO Vitamins

Along with running FLO, you also run your own interior design business. What is it like managing and balancing two businesses at once? What does a typical day look like for you? 

To be quite honest, I couldn’t imagine anything better. Bobby and I are the perfect pair in business because our areas of expertise are so different. Bobby is an entrepreneurship genius and I am so proud of the CEO he has become. Being an interior designer, my strengths and passions lie in the creative aspects of FLO. I manage and direct all brand aspects of FLO alongside our art director, Tiffany Win. My day-to-days are a mixed bag, but in a week, we tackle everything from creative, copy, and art direction, all the way down to brand voice. Little-known secret: I still run our Instagram. It’s been such an incredible experience to connect with our customers and establish the look and voice of FLO on a daily basis. 

On a typical day, Bobby and I kick off the morning with a meeting. We happen to live in the same building, and we’re still working from home with COVID. Our morning touch bases are where we discuss new launches, how we’ll brand those, and the creative needs for FLO’s moving parts. I spend most of the morning working on FLO, scheduling calls on specific days of the week so I’m able to focus on projects entirely on the other days. In the afternoon, I swap over to my interior design work. I have a handful of clients I’m working with right now, and our team is fully stretched! Oftentimes, I have to do in-person location walk-throughs and connect in-person with contractors. I find that taking time for myself to breathe and writing out lists, sticking to them (including adding break times), is crucial for my mental health and overall productivity. My day wraps on the later side, but with the flexibility of running two businesses from home, I can keep plugging away while watching TV and enjoying some wine on the side.

FLO is touted to be the first-ever PMS gummy vitamin. It is formulated from time-tested ingredients traditionally used to help alleviate cramps, bloating, mood swings, and hormonal acne.
Courtesy of FLO Vitamins

Looking forward, where do you want to see FLO in five years?

I would love for FLO to be the authority of the feminine wellness space. As menstruators, we go through a lot throughout our cycles, our lives, and our relationships. There are so many issues to be addressed concerning our wellness, and so many that have yet to be talked about openly. I see FLO and O Positiv (our parent company) becoming a place where our customers can come for information, community, and products that empower them and improve their daily life in a fun, healthy, and positive way.

On the horizon, we have a brand new gummy to add to the family, called GTFO. It’s an immunity gummy that we’re really excited about, that includes elderberry and has taken us over a year to formulate. We have a handful of other game changing (and delicious) gummy vitamins in the queue over the next 12 months, so stay tuned!

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