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Newcastle-based start-up Hey Zomi accelerates and breaks the menstrual mould

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The menstruation industry is continuing to have its moment, as it ought, with innovative products and methods for people to experience periods.

However, standing out from the crowd is Newcastle based start-up, Hey Zomi.

Although manufactured in Melbourne, they are the first and only Australian owned and made menstrual disc in the market.

Mika Koelma

Sisters and co-founders Mika Koelma and Zoe Fehlberg say that their journey to starting the brand was based off trying to find comfortable and sustainable period supplies that suited their jobs and lifestyles.

“I found tampons were below par period care,” Mika explains.

“As an educator, it’s always on my mind to try and find solutions.

“So, we thought, why don’t we design something ourselves and figure it out?”

With help thanks to the University of Newcastle (UoN) I2N Accelerator program, an initiative which helps create budding entrepreneurs among the Hunter region, Mika says they were able to kick-start Hey Zomi. 

Although with both girls working remotely, Mika in Newcastle and Zoe in the Northern Rivers, she admits they found themselves very isolated trying to create a business.

“We had finished 18 months of designing, prototyping and R&D (Research and Development) and we already had our tool for manufacturing in Australia,” Mika says.

“When you’re on your own, you’re missing your networks.

“I was missing a lot of information on value proposition and business modelling.

“The program came at such a lucky time for us.”

Hey Zomi co-founder Mika Koelma

Delivered by the university’s Integrated Innovation Network and supported by Investment NSW through the Boosting Business Innovation Program, the I2N Accelerator is a three-phase program incorporating a pre-accelerator, accelerator and incubator, providing founders the opportunity to refine and then scale their big idea.

“In September 2022, we started the 12-week program,” Mika says.

“We had weekly in-person meetings at I2N with our mentors.

“It very personalised to where we sat as a business and what we needed to address to move forward.

“All 10 start-ups met as a group and we would have professionals from all industries, helping us with all the tools you need to launch successfully.

“There was a lot of gaps that were filled for me in those weekly group sessions.”

Mika admits the cohort of fellow founders made it a positive and uplifting experience.

“It was such a safe, supportive environment with everyone there, taking on board what they needed for their own companies,” she says.

“I started to believe in myself more.

“Community is incredible… and the I2N really bought that for me.

As for the future of Hey Zomi, their plans are looking optimistic.

With international sales already well and truly underway, the pair soon hopes to introduce more menstrual health products, including a supplement, reusable period underwear and water-based lubricants. 

“It’s exciting and wonderfully scary,” Mika says.

“It motivates me and keeps us pushing forward.

“The accelerator program supported us to get to market quicker, but also helped us become and show us the value of our customers.”

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