Meet Amanda Calabrese: She’s an East Hampton native and former lifeguard at Ditch Plain and Indian Wells Beaches, who, with her friend Greta Meyer, has disrupted the female hygiene industry so prominently that they have been named to the Forbes 30 Under 30 list for 2023.
Ms. Calabrese and Ms. Meyer are the founders of the company Sequel, which has reinvented the tampon with active women in mind.
Ms. Calabrese is a nine-time United States Lifesaving Association champion, ranked sixth in the world in beach flags, and recently graduated from Stanford University with a bachelor’s degree in product design engineering. Ms. Meyer played Division I lacrosse at Stanford.
Ms. Calabrese and Ms. Meyer have both struggled to feel comfortable in their sports uniforms with the period products they were using, and knew they had to find a better way.
“Sequel started out as a Stanford class project called Tampro, where we had 10 weeks to build a hypothetical business and pitch it to investors that came in as guest judges at the end of the school term. We pitched something quite similar to the design today,” Ms. Calabrese said.
Their new take on the tampon has a spiral design with a “longer flow path than traditional tampons,” said Ms. Calabrese.
The idea came from what they call the “red line effect,” where only a small portion of the tampon gets used and the rest is bare, causing a line of leakage down the vertical grooves. However, Ms. Calabrese and Ms. Meyer hypothesized that “if you created a single helical channel down the outside of a tampon, you could elongate the flow path, thereby creating a product that was designed to be more evenly absorbing and not prone to leaking before it was full.”
Creating Sequel was no easy feat, and took several years. The two friends began with dorm-room experiments, moving to their first research and development lab in the United Kingdom focused on the material to engineer the tampons. Then, they worked with a team of former “legacy company” employees — people who worked for corporations such as Johnson & Johnson and Procter & Gamble — followed by another leave to Israel, where they grappled with manufacturing.
“It has taken many years of testing, experts, and time in the lab to get the product and our proprietary machinery to where it is today,” Ms. Calabrese said.
“We hope that Sequel can create a distraction-free product experience for women no matter what they need to accomplish,” she later continued. “The Sequel tampon has aspirations to finally be an elevated product and experience” to stand out in a category of product “that is often an afterthought to those that don’t have to experience menstruation.”
Ms. Calabrese’s upbringing has taught her a lot about being a successful athlete and businesswoman. She recalled always being inspired by her family’s “drive and determination to build a community-focused business with a best-in-class, personal experience.”
“That definitely sits in the back of my mind every day,” she said.
Much of Ms. Calabrese’s family is involved in the East Hampton lifeguarding community in some way. Her father, T.J. Calabrese, owns Southampton Optiks, is vice president of the Hampton Lifeguard Association, and is a member of East Hampton Volunteer Ocean Rescue. Her brother, Theodore Calabrese III, is a student at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology and also spent summers lifeguarding for the Amagansett Beach Association at Indian Wells.
Ms. Calabrese said she believes that her “summers spent running [her] own businesses and having the incredible responsibility of being a lifeguard gave me the scrappy, yet level head necessary to be an entrepreneur today.”
“To me, Sequel represents a level playing field” because it enables “equity in sports, the boardroom, and wherever else menstruators would normally be at a disadvantage because of unreliable menstrual products,” Ms. Calabrese said.
Although Sequel tampons will not officially be out until early 2024, those interested in trying the product can join the waiting list at trysequel.com.