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Kristine Zeller Dr. Kati Ernst ooia, © Jannik Hanne
Kristine Zeller and Dr. Kati Ernst, founders of ooia, © Jannik Hanne

Founders Dr Kati Ernst and Kristine Zeller have translated their idea of developing sustainable period and lactation underwear for women into a convincing brand world with ooia. Female empowerment is the mission statement of the company, which confidently positions itself and its brand and reaches its target group with strong communication work.
A conversation with the managing directors, whose company was awarded “Best Start-up of the Year” at the German Brand Award.

What are the most important ingredients of your brand?

Firstly, it’s the mix of communication and an absolutely high-quality product in every dimension! For all this, we have defined 4 core values according to which we design our brand with a certain obsession: Trust, Emotion, Aspiration, Quality.

Which brand contact points and channels have proven to be particularly effective for you? Are you also analogue?

First and foremost, Instagram with all its facets, on the one hand in the feed, but we also take the community with us almost daily in the Stories in our everyday life as founders, we go live again and again on Insta and also live a very close dialogue in the direct messages! We also want to spread our mission via live events (such as at the University of Münster, at OMR etc.). PR is of course very important for us.

„We believe that every company should address social issues.“

Kristine Zeller and Dr. Kati Ernst

In your case, the mission is written above the product. Is this a shift of young companies to no longer define the company’s objective profit maximisation?

We believe that every company should address social issues, because we have enough problems in the world that cannot be ignored. Our self-image and also the way we make decisions consists of a triple bottom line: We are an economic company, we strive for female empowerment and more equality and live various new-work approaches (flexible working hours, reconciliation of family and work, orientation towards all people in the value chain, which must be taken into account in all their facets).

How important is community building for the success of your products?

Very central! Especially at the beginning, when we were able to use crowdfunding to pre-finance the first delivery. Since we are still bootstrapped today, the community and the outreach is essential for us to get ideas, to be inspired and to further our mission. The dialogue with our customers and followers is irreplaceable for us.

With the topic of menstrual underwear, you are openly with a former taboo zone. I’m sure many people want to have their say. Don’t you also have to deal with a lot of shitstorms?

Not much in our own channels, but when we appear in certain classic media, especially on TV, they have to deal with it. For us it’s rather the the opposite: we receive a lot of encouragement and gratitude.

How important is the brand for ooia to achieve your business goals?

Absolutely essential. We don’t go by price, but communicate the value of our products through our brand and thus reach people on a completely different level.

ooia period underwear © Jannik Hanne
ooia Styles, © Jannik Hanne

What were the challenges in the rebranding of the company due to a trademark conflict that made it necessary to rebrand from ooshi to ooia?

On the one hand, purely communicative, many people knew us as ooshi on DHDL, among other things; On the other hand, there were purely technical aspects, search volume had to be managed correctly, etc.. In addition, there was of course a lot of organisational work – but in retrospect we are very grateful and feel that the name ooia is a much stronger brand that will bring us more success in the long run.

What advice would you give to other start-ups?

Definitely look for a co-founder! The highs are higher, but the lows are less deep. You don’t necessarily have to build on complementary skills, you can buy them in. It is much more important to have common values and ideas about how you want to run the company.

The German Brand Award, initiated by the German Design Council, honours successful brand management in Germany. It discovers, presents and awards unique brands and brand makers. This year, the jury awarded four honorary prizes, whose winners we present. The company ooia GmbH was awarded “Start-up of the Year”.

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