Tampon. Period. Two words not often featured in news articles, but to get uncomfortable about it is to miss the opportunity to learn about a social enterprise that’s helping women in need access feminine hygiene products, while also reducing the stigma around a perfectly natural process.
Aunt Flow is gearing up to launch its one-for-one model social enterprise that will deliver a monthly supply of tampons to a woman’s doorstep, and “For every box she receives she can choose the organization she wants her give-one box to go to,” says “Aunt Flow” Claire Coder. “Taking care of your flow takes care of her flow.”
Coder first pitched Aunt Flow at Startup Weekend Health Edition in November, nabbing second place for her idea. When she started researching the landscape even more, she found just how much of a gap there was when it came to easy, affordable access to feminine hygiene products.
Tampons aren’t covered by Foodstamps or WIC. Organizations like the YWCA can only give out two tampons to a woman per month, and anyone that’s ever had a period knows that’s not even enough to make it through a day.
“I wanted to do one-for-one because I wanted to make a sustainable solution,” Coder says.
With a monthly supply constituting 18 tampons, Coder calculated that 500 women subscribing to Aunt Flow for just one month could supply the YWCA and the approximately 90 women it serves monthly for half a year.
The more women that subscribe, the more women that get help. Aunt Flow looks to its partner organizations to activate their networks to further promote sustainability. As Coder points out, women are already buying these products every month, why not support an organization you know and care about while you’re at it.
Aunt Flow has already lined up three Central Ohio organizations to supply with tampons. OSU Star House, Columbus YWCA and Freedom a la Cart are primed to be the first benefactors once things start flowing late this summer. Each cause will get a three-month stint on the platform or time to hit their goal amount, then other organizations will rotate in.
Initial partner organizations will be locally-based, but Coder is already seeing interest from groups across the country, and she hopes to scale it that way quickly. Long-term plans also include exploring business to business relationships to supply those handy tampons often found in restaurant bathrooms.
Aunt Flow’s mission doesn’t stop at supplying tampons, but “I want to make sure we lessen the taboo-ness of talking about tampons,” Coder says.
The business is creating videos that tackle the uncomfortable factor head on, asking women their most embarrassing period stories and men (whom Coder calls Flow Bros) if they know how to use a tampon.
“The goal is to continue to work toward educating people on the menstrual cycle,” Coder says. “You don’t have to be self- conscious about be socially conscience.”
Aunt Flow is still finalizing its tampon supplier, but expects the product to be 100 percent organic cotton, and hopefully branded – but they need a little help to get there. On May 12, Aunt Flow will launch a Crowdrise campaign to help purchase the initial order of feminine hygiene products. Coder says they will also seek investors on Fundable, hoping to accumulate $150,000 to brand the tampons – an effort that requires a minimum order of three million tampons.
Sponsorship opportunities will provide another revenue outlet. Aimed at business with similar audiences – nail salons, hair salons, etc. – sponsors can put fliers in the first 500 boxes sold in a designated zip code.
As issues like luxury tax on tampons make national headlines, Coder says people are starting to understand many of the issues surrounding feminine hygiene and want to start a conversation about it. Aunt Flow’s attempt to start the conversation in Columbus has received much support already. Coder has found positive feedback for not only her idea, but a community of entrepreneurs that want to help her get there.
“The support system is so, so strong,” Coder says.
She’s made the rounds at pitch events, winning the APTE Summit which provided initial funding to move the project forward.
At just 19, Coder is receiving much recognition herself, this is her second business after all. From Toledo, she started and successfully handed over the reigns of e-commerce site There’s a Badge for That. A few of her accolades include landing on the Top 100 Entrepreneurial Minds in Columbus list from Entrepreneurs’ Organization and a nationally-recognized list of young entrepreneurs from NFIB.
For more information, visit auntflow.org.