How She Does It: Denielle Finkelstein, Co-Founder & Chief Brand Officer, TOP The Organic Project

Denielle Finkelstein
Denielle Finkelstein
Denielle Finkelstein is a seasoned retail executive-turned-entrepreneur, with a passion for brand building and social impact initiatives. Finkelstein graduated from Union College with a BA in Art History, and soon after moved to NYC to begin her career in fashion retail at Ann Taylor. From there she went on to Coach, Kate Spade and most recently, Talbots. Finkelstein loved finding white space and growing opportunities within household brands. She was challenged to take risks, think outside of the box and try new things, but she was yearning for a deeper purpose.

After spending 22 years in fashion retail and at the height of Finkelstein’s career, she took a major risk, both professionally and personally. She left the corporate world to join Thyme Sullivan, Co-Founder & CEO, to launch TOP The Organic Project. She is grateful for the opportunity to build a brand together—as family, moms, women and friends. The duo has set out to create a brand of premium feminine hygiene products that are better for you, better for the planet and better for others.

About TOP The Organic Project (TOP):

TOP The Organic Project (TOP) is an emerging, women-owned feminine care company based in
Thyme Sullivan
Thyme Sullivan
Duxbury, MA, that aims to empower women to make better choices, protecting their bodies and the environment. TOP offers 100% organic, biodegradable, hypoallergenic tampons and pads that are accessible to everyone.

Founded by Thyme Sullivan and Denielle Finkelstein—mothers, cousins and seasoned executives with decades of relevant corporate experience—TOP is on a mission to generate national awareness of period poverty, deliver high-performing organic products, and eliminate the taboo of feminine hygiene for good.

Deb Bailey: Welcome to the Women Entrepreneur Secrets blog, Denielle! So, tell me, how did you and Thyme get started together as entrepreneurs? 

Denielle Finkelstein: Great to be here, Deb. My business partner, Thyme Sullivan, is first and foremost my cousin, which many folks aren’t aware of. Thyme had spent 25+ years as an executive serving household brands like Nestle, PepsiCo and Coca-Cola with extensive CPG and distribution experience, and came to me with her value proposition for organic feminine hygiene products in perfect timing.

Thyme had already taken the market deep dive and identified the key gaps within the existing landscape: lack of transparency and education, major environmental concerns with certain materials used, and a focus on domestic social impact. I was looking for a major career change at that time as well, after dedicating decades of my life as an executive with deep experience in merchandising and brand building, and a desperate yearning for work/life integration.

We recognized our individual and collective strengths, and realized how well we could complement one another on the business front. I decided to take the leap of faith with Thyme after the new year, and haven’t looked back since!

TOP the organic project logo

Deb: What inspires you to do the work you do?

Denielle: Our mission is to empower all women, particularly the next generation of young girls, and save the planet with organic feminine hygiene products. The average American woman will use more than 12,000 tampons in her lifetime, yet significant challenges like affordability, environmental waste, and unsafe toxins have been largely ignored. With biodegradable, 100% organic, hypoallergenic tampons and pads, our goals include delivering easy-to-digest education to young female consumers, generating public awareness, and offering a viable, eco-friendly alternative that is as strong as the women we’re supporting nationwide!

Social impact is at the forefront of our agenda. Recent research shows that 1 in 5 girls in the U.S. have missed school due to lack of access to feminine hygiene products, which hit home for Thyme and me, who were inspired to start this company because we wanted to make a difference for our own daughters and for others. With every purchase, we’re donating tampons and pads to schools and organizations with the goal to diminish “period poverty”, given food stamps, health insurance, and flexible health spending accounts do not cover the essentials.

TOP the organic product

Deb: What’s your vision for your business?

Denielle: Our vision is that TOP will be accessible to women everywhere throughout the U.S. To start, we are penetrating the market via key distribution partnerships, including household retailers soon to be announced, who will be adding our products to shelves in designated grocery stores across the U.S. by early 2020.

We’re also collaborating with wellness events and like-minded organizations, such as Beautycounter, Girlology, EmpowerHER, The Penny Pack, and, who are working diligently to provide education and eliminate the period taboo for young girls which aligns with our core brand values.
What are some of your successes and challenges?

TOP the organic product

Having this opportunity has been a major success to date, both personally and professionally.  We both had great careers, but TOP has allowed us to take what we know, learn new things and to do things our way.  Being able to build a brand from concept to execution with tangible traction has been so been so rewarding.  We appreciate the opportunity to show our children the risks taken to build TOP, and their role as an instrumental driver for us forward. My life has more meaning now, and I can see how I am impacting theirs.

Our biggest challenge has been fundraising.  We have been self-funded up to this point, and are now looking for investors who are eager and aligned to help us grow the brand to the next level.  The stat that only 2.2% of all Venture Capital dollars go to women was our reality this summer as we began fundraising.  We know we will find the right person in the coming months. When TOP becomes an incredible success, my commitment is to back and support female entrepreneurs down the road as an investor.

TOP the organic product company photo

Deb: Funding can be a challenge, particularly for women-owned businesses. What advice would you give to women entrepreneurs who are just starting out?

Denielle: Being an entrepreneur is one of the most rewarding and challenging endeavors I have ever taken on.  For anybody looking to get started on your journey, I would say to follow your dream.  The path is there for all of us.  You need to be patient, fluid, prioritize, learn from your mistakes quickly and most importantly, find an incredible support system.  In the low moments, it can be extremely lonely and you need that network and relationships to give you advice, cheer you on, provide feedback and push you forward.

Thyme and I are so lucky to have one another as co-founders.  We are able to push each other along our path and recognize when we need to shift directions.  We take the time to celebrate together and in the low moments, have some tears but quickly dust each other off and move on. 

Deb: That's wonderful advice, Denielle. Thanks for stopping by. Please share website and social media URLs.

Denielle: Enjoyed it Deb! Here you go:
Facebook: TOPOrganicProject
Instagram: @toporganicproject
Twitter: @TOP_Organic

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