A female-bodied person’s period is natural. It’s something that has happened since the dawn of time, and without it, none of us would exist. And yet its importance, and its destigmatization, isn’t always valued by society as a whole. Most states still tax women on a product they need to function; girls in third world countries often miss school and ultimately drop out because supplies are not provided to them while menstruating; and women are at risk of losing access to basic reproductive rights based on President-elect Trump’s promises to defund Planned Parenthood.
That is why companies like Aunt Flow — a gender-neutral, buy-one give-one period company‚ are so important. Founded by 19-year-old Claire Coder, the company allows users to subscribe to monthly tampon boxes filled with tampons and pads of their own choosing. When a box is purchased, another is donated, completely free of charge, to a non-profit. We spoke with Claire about her experiences as a young business owner and about the need for increased access to menstruation products across the globe.
HelloGiggles: What do you think your age enables you to do as a small business owner and what doubts did you overcome as a young entrepreneur?
Claire Coder: Launching a business as a female is hard. Launching a business as a teenage female is wicked-hard. Launching a business as a teenage female who only half the population understands is nearly impossible! The fact that I am a teenager is GREAT for PR and publicity, but when it comes to credibility and investment, no one takes me seriously.
News flash: I AM SERIOUS! I dropped out of college for this! To be an entrepreneur, you have to have some ignorance (99% of businesses fail…that is pretty telling of what will happen!). Since I am young, I still take outlandish risks and I believe that I can be that 1% who succeeds.
HG: Where did your interest in women’s reproductive health come from (aside from being a woman yourself, of course)?
CC: Growing up, I was not hidden from the truth. My mom (a therapist) would talk to me about how many women she would serve who would come to her groups wearing plastic bags or dirty socks when they were flowing. I didn’t understand why. At my house, we always had a stock.
It wasn’t until I was 18 and doing my own research when I learned that menstrual products aren’t covered by WIC or food stamps and many organizations only offer two tampons per woman per month. I knew I wanted to create a sustainable solution to this problem, and that is why I founded Aunt Flow.
If your period comes once a month, so should your menstrual products!
HG: What’s the story behind the name, Aunt Flow?
CC: Aunt Flow is a clever euphemism for “that time of the month.” It is great when I tell people that I own a company called “Aunt Flow” and they are taken aback…Clearly I couldn’t be talking about that…But I am. I truly enjoy talking about menstruation… Someone has to!
HG: What is the importance of selling 100% cotton tampons and pads? How does your product differ from other tampons and pads on the market?
CC: Aunt Flow is the only true buy-one, give-one company for tampons and pads (for every 18 pieces bought, 18 is given to an org in the US!). Our products are high-quality, 100% cotton, FDA regulated, hypoallergenic, and biodegradable. Can you believe that many name brand products are still bleached with chlorine… YIKES. Our products have never caused TSS while many name brand products have been proven to cause TSS, ovarian cysts, and other reproductive health issues.
Plus, we are the ONLY gender-neutral tampon and pad company…Yes, there are humans who identify as male, but still menstruate. Our branding is forward, loud, and excited. Many other companies are softer and secretive. We don’t want our menstruators shoving tampons up their sleeves to hide that they are on their period. Menstruation is a fact of life and it should not be shameful!
HG: Can you tell us a bit about the sustainability of your product and business model?
CC: When I was designing the company, I wanted to make sure that our giving and products were sustainable. For every box of tampons and pads you buy from Aunt Flow, a box is delivered to one of our beneficiaries. Beneficiaries change every 30-90 days and subscribers have an option to change where their give-one box will go as well. If you aren’t flowing, but still want to support, you can donate or buy some fun swag.
Our products are also environmentally sustainable. We are proud to offer 100% cotton, biodegradable tampons and pads. Although our applicators are plastic, we have partnered with Veeda USA, which runs an offsite project to minimize the environmental impact of the BPA-free applicators. The tampon by itself is 100% biodegradable, even in a landfill.
HG: What beneficiary organizations are you working with on this project?
CC: Current beneficiaries are Tiger Pantry, OSU Star House, Brown Bag Food Project, Never Go Without, Mid Ohio Foodbank, and Flow Fund. These orgs change every 30-90 days!
HG: You said that “Essentially, taking care of your flow takes care of her flow.” Why do you think it’s important for women to support other women’s reproductive health and needs?
CC: I painfully and honestly admit…As a woman, I have found myself picking apart other women. “She isn’t as pretty, nice, confident. She doesn’t have this, that, or him.” I used to find myself doing this a lot when I wasn’t secure. Now that I am confident with myself, I focus on my personal growth, not on minimizing others’.
I recognize that the judgement was because I was insecure. Making sure that every person has access to tampons and pads is just one layer of added security and if we can engage in ensuring that everyone has this base level, I think the world will be a better place. People helping people. Period.
HG: Why did you feel it was important to create a gender-neutral menstruation company?
CC: I wish I could take credit for this “rebrand,” but I owe it all to my master-mind team, Lindsey and Melory. We first ditched the word “hygiene” from the typical “feminine hygiene products.” Adding hygiene inherently creates this idea that we are cleaning something up that is dirty. Menstruation is a cleansing process and completely hygienic. In fact, one of my friends uses their menstrual blood to fertilize her garden! Melory, a blogger on our team, brought to my attention that she is not necessarily feminine and many of her friends menstruate, but do not identify as female. Why did we need to stick with the “status quo” and keep the unnecessary and inaccurate language?
You can check out Aunt Flow at www.auntflow.org.