5 lessons from friends who co founded a business as teenagers

Five lessons from two friends with a shared mission to eradicate period poverty

power of friendship

The power of friendship has never been lost on Eloise Hall and Isobel Marshall, co-founders of the mission-based business, TABOO

While still teenagers, the high school best friends combined their strengths to kickstart a mission to help eradicate global period poverty for the nearly 1 in 10 girls worldwide who can’t afford period products. Inspired by the social enterprise model of business that they learned about in attendance at a leadership conference, they started TABOO to create positive systemic and social change — selling period products and donating 100 per cent of the net profits towards initiatives that help to end period poverty.

Outside of the business, they have their own interests and careers. Marshall is a fourth-year medical student and, last year, was named the 2021 Young Australian of the Year for her social entrepreneurship. Hall has worked in hospitality for five years and is studying business and international relations.

We recently profiled Hall and Marshall from our podcast series, Moments That Make Us, thanks to the support of Stella Insurance, and hosted by Shivani Gopal.

We wanted to share more of the valuable insights we heard during their conversation, and have pulled out five key tips below.

Know your mission

Marshall and Hall have maintained nearly ten years of friendship, the latter few while creating a successful business together.

Initially, they were told it’d be difficult to be co founders with a friend.

“We were absolutely certain that our friendship was so much more than just a business,” says Marshall. 

However, they both agree that if they didn’t have a mission-based business, their relationship and the business could have fallen apart.

“You can’t give up when it’s too hard because ultimately, you both care about the mission and the reasons you’re doing business more than the difficulties in front of you,” says Hall.

Combine your strengths and weaknesses

One major benefit of having a co-founder is that while one person may struggle with something, the other person might be really good at that exact thing.

Hall and Marshall found this to be the case in their work with TABOO.  

“When I think about my strengths and my weaknesses, I can see that a lot of my weaknesses are some of Eloise’s strengths and that actually makes for a really really good team,” says Marshall. “We have differences and that’s the whole point.”

Bringing each of their individual skillsets to the table has allowed them to more effectively grow their business. 

Ask questions and get keen to learn

The two entrepreneurs feel proud of themselves for being vulnerable and open to learning new things when they were first starting out. 

“Often, we just absorbed all of the information that was given to us. We would go and boil it down and simmer out what we really actually wanted to take on board, so we were quite intentional about what advice we would trust, but we were chaotic in the advice that we would seek because it would be from anyone and everything,” says Hall.

They believe that the capacity to learn, and to admit what they don’t know, allows for more authentic leadership, which then attracts the same kind of people. A big testament to the current TABOO team, Hall says, is that everyone is excited to learn as they move forward. 

Trust that gut feeling

Starting a business from such a young age allowed Hall and Marshall to see that even adults don’t always know what they’re doing. After receiving so much advice from many different people, they had to learn to decipher what would and wouldn’t work for them.

“We were majorly dependent on our gut, which is such a subjective thing. When you’ve got a mission-based business, it’s probably the best indicator you have because you know what you want to achieve,” says Marshall.

The two of them learned to trust their own instincts and when it came to finding the right solutions to improve menstrual well-being for others, the advice they acted on needed to feel that it would serve that purpose.

Stay true to your community

TABOO has been a community-driven project from the beginning.

It was community support that enabled Hall and Marshall to raise $56,000 at the start of 2018, to get the business started.

“You just realize, ‘Wow, all of these people are actually trusting us to lead this,’ which is a beautiful compliment and a very powerful statement that we didn’t take lightly, and we never have,” says Hall. 

The two believe in the power of the collective and will never forget the mutual investment and passion that TABOO was founded on. 

“We can create social structural policy change to make period poverty a part of our history in Australia […] and then, of course, on a global scale,” says Marshall. 

Listen to all of this and more on the Moments That Make Us, a special series podcast from Women’s Agenda, made possible thanks to the support of Stella Insurance. Listen on Spotify or Apple Podcasts.

Stella is a purpose driven insurance brand that is mission-led, authentically different and passionately pro-women. We’ve created a more intuitive experience and offer car insurance that’s been designed with women in mind. This means premium benefits, optional extras, and rewards for being a safer driver. Get a quote and switch to Stella.

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