The Columbus Foundation Fellows attended a learning session about Aunt Flow, a sustainable social enterprise whose mission is to ensure “all people have access to menstrual products.” The cool thing about Aunt Flow products is they are all 100% cotton without chemicals and additives that other companies use. They also utilize the buy one, give one model. If anyone isn’t familiar with the buy one give one model, you can think about Tom’s shoes. Every pair of Tom’s that is purchased, another pair is given to a child who is in need of shoes. For Aunt Flow, through subscriptions for every box that is purchased, another box is given to a beneficiary organization; for the business to business side, for every 100 count of essential products that are purchased, a package of 50 products is given to a beneficiary organization.
During the learning sessions, Claire Coder, the Founder, and Chief Estrogen Officer spoke to us about her business model and her journey over the past 18 months to arrive where they are today. It all started on a Friday night during a Startup Weekend in Columbus. She got her period and what is more inconvenient than being surrounded by men who don’t have tampons knowing you won’t have another opportunity until night time to run to the store? This was her predicament. Fortunately for Claire, that predicament has an easy solution, but as noted on auntflow.org, “this isn’t the case for 26.4 million menstruators in the United States who can’t afford essential menstrual products.” Claire really inspired me and am more encouraged to learn more about the various ways to run a business. I have plenty of business ideas, particularly a vegan bakery and a college prep and life skills program for high school students.
From our discussion with Claire, I learned I have to find the key problem that my business would solve. She was inspired to learn about her problem after a personal experience. Claire learned tampons and pads are not covered by WIC or food stamps because they have an added luxury items tax in most of the United States. This poses a problem for many because means making a choice between buying food or menstruation products. For me, I was inspired to bake vegan and vegetarian goodies after my parents went vegan during college. They basically stopped eating sweets because they couldn’t find vegan alternatives and that did not settle well with me. I am a firm believer in everyone being able to eat a delicious treat without feeling guilty or worrying about dietary restrictions. Unfortunately, this is a common issue as more and more Americans are becoming vegan and vegetarian!
I started thinking about a college prep and life skills program at the beginning of this summer after planning a summer accounting program for high school students. I also just graduated from college last summer and as I reflected on the past four years and my first year of grad school while “adulting”, I realized how much high school did not prepare me for college and adulthood. There have been so many reports from the media about students lacking basic financial literacy skills, surviving college, mental health in college, etc. I opened my first debit and credit card accounts independently from my parents this year and was at a loss for answers to some of the questions because I didn’t have basic financial literacy skills. Since then I have been learning and attending workshops on budgeting, credit cards, debt, etc. More importantly, no high school graduate should lack money skills until they are 23 years old and independent for the first time in their life. Experiences and burdens like these are what drive me to create programs for students where they can better be prepared for adulthood and survival in college.
I hope to one day be as great of a business woman as Claire. She has done excellent work with Aunt Flow and continues to impact menstruators all over the country. She has gone through some tough times and learned some tough lessons, but she is doing really well. I encourage everyone to educate themselves on this pressing issue and support organizations who are working to improve whichever issues are close to your heart!
Flow Forward and have a great day!