DOOH Startup S.O.S. Makes Personal Care Products Accessible to Women Wherever They May Be
Wellness On-the-Go S.O.S.—OOH Owner Today
OOH Owner Today —S.O.S.
by Benny Taubman, OOH TODAY Reporter
For whenever there is an emergency, just think ‘SOS.’ While the three-letter term is more widely known as a Morse code distress signal, it is also the namesake of SOS – a disruptive new DOOH startup that has already been featured in Forbes and named as one of the top 20 emerging brands in retail by the International Council of Shopping Centers (ICSC). Nonetheless, both the DOOH startup and the Morse code signal abet people in their times of need.
SOS, the company, does this by “redefining wellness on the go” and giving patrons the ability to purchase high-quality essential women’s health and wellness products from its patented vending machines. These necessities include period products, undergarments, toiletries, make-up, and much more. Wherever those urgently in need of personal care products might be, whether that is at work, on the town, or in transit, SOS’s vending machines have them covered.
Regarding the DOOH advertising capabilities of the vending machines, SOS utilizes the high-fidelity digital display on each unit to connect brands to its clientele. About 90% of the front of each SOS vending machine is comprised of the 32-inch, 1080p HD display which offers brilliant and eye-catching full-color, full-motion video capabilities.
SOS was started by co-Founders and co-CEOs Robina Verbeek and Susanna Twarog. Before founding the business, the two worked on Wall Street and had no direct professional work experience in the OOH industry. However, like many entrepreneurs, Verbeek and Twarog observed a problem and created their own creative solution to solve it.
“[Verbeek and I] spent the first decade of our careers in finance in capital markets, sales, and trading,” said Twarog. “We spent a lot of time on the road traveling and whether we were at work or entertaining clients, it was next to impossible to find necessary personal care products like tampons or dry shampoo when we were away from home.”
“We saw a need to disrupt a space that has been overlooked for far too long – both by commercial real estate in terms of the way they serve people’s wellness needs in their spaces as well as by brands who have become stagnant in the way that they reach and connect with potential customers.”
With passion in their hearts and success on the horizon, the two left their swanky Wall Street careers and were set on the path of OOH entrepreneurship. From the get-go, the two had invaluable and vital support from, and access to the professional network of, OOH industry veteran and Founding Chairman of the DPAA, Mike DiFranza.
However, although Verbeek and Twarog had plenty of tailwinds propelling them forwards, there was one world-shaking hurdle that stood in their path: a global pandemic. Unfortunately, the business was in the right place at the wrong time as SOS’s genesis occurred in January 2020, a few months before the Covid lockdowns went into effect.
“We knew we’d have many obstacles to overcome as first-time female founders of a hardware company but nothing prepared us for having to quickly adapt our fledgling company to a new, very uncertain reality when the pandemic struck,” said Twarog. “Flexibility was key at the onset, but we were able to accomplish some really wonderful things.”
As mentioned above, one way Verbeek and Twarog were judiciously able to adapt to their newfound situation was with their “Give SOS” campaign which enabled people all across the US to buy healthcare workers a bundle of SOS products like tampons, pads, hair ties, and deodorant wipes. Additionally, while each machine was already able to vend products without human interaction, within a short period of time, SOS added contactless payment methods which fully removed the need for physical touch.
All in all, business has been going especially well for SOS since its tough start in the midst of a global pandemic. Having proven its business model effective, SOS has taken on key investors such as Techstars, The Khan Family (the owners of the Jacksonville Jaguars), and Ju Rhyu (the Founder of Hero Cosmetics). In total, SOS has raised a healthy $3.4+ million in funding. Moving into a new year, although a predicated recession poses another obstacle to the growth of their business, Verbeek and Twarog remain optimistic about the future of SOS and their mission.
“2023 is all about radical growth for SOS,” said Twarog. “We’re going to bring our machines to millions more people, level up our reach, and amplify our impact so that more people can have more access to the products they need, when they need them, whenever they need them.”
Cool business! And I love how they shifted during Covid! 👏👏