Women Entrepreneurs Are Making Innovative Products For Their Periods

Women Entrepreneurs Are Making Innovative Products For Their Periods

It’s been about 70 years since the disposable tampon came on the scene. Considering half of humanity has to deal with menstruation, that’s far too long since we’ve had a breakthrough in feminine products. Thankfully, revolutionary upstarts are disrupting the period space, and unsurprisingly this new class of “period-preneurs” are women.

Let’s start with Cora, a subscription service for organic tampons with black packaging that bears closer resemblance to a lipstick than to a shiny yellow plastic bullet. But the brand is not just content with being pretty. For every month of Cora tampons you buy, Cora provides one month’s worth of pads to women and girls in need in India through its partner, Aakar Innovations.

Then there’s Thinx underwear. You’ve likely come across the cheeky ads for its ultra-absorbent (and cute) underwear that offers an alternative to pads, tampons, and cups. Newcomer feminine-care brand Lola will ship you 100 percent organic cotton tampons, pads, and panty liners right on schedule. Lola also recently created a refreshingly elevated period starter kit for girls.

And women are behind all of this. For decades, a handful of companies have dominated the $15 billion feminine hygiene space. But today impressive startup companies led by female entrepreneurs are finally disrupting it.

“Feminine care as an industry had been stale for such a long time, so it was overdue for innovation,” said Alex Friedman, a cofounder of Lola. “As women, we’re naturally more prepared to know how to make periods better, simply because we’ve had years of firsthand experience.” When starting her business, Friedman and her cofounder, Jordana Kier, decided to create a period experience they would want themselves.

They’ll Actually Make Your Period Better

Safety, comfort, convenience, and helping other women around the world are some of the values these companies put first. “Contrary to popular belief, the FDA doesn’t require feminine care brands to fully disclose the ingredients in their tampons, so they don’t,” explained Friedman. “That’s not OK with us in any other product category, so why would that be OK for a product that goes inside our bodies for several days every month?” To address that issue, Lola produces 100 percent organic cotton tampons in compact BPA-free plastic applicators. It also offers safe pads, panty liners, and applicator-free tampons.

“We’ve actually had women tell us that Cora makes them look forward to their periods because it’s such a beautiful and grown-up experience.”

Cora, which also sells organic products, was founded by 28-year-old Molly Hayward. By creating stylish packaging, she saw an opportunity to improve the awkward experience of hiding your tampon in your sleeve as you run to the bathroom.
“We are driven by great design, and internally we obsess over every detail of the Cora woman’s experience,” Hayward said. “So we looked at a day in the life of managing your period as a busy modern woman on the move and realized that there were these very specific inflection points.”
Those included storing your tampons in your home bathroom or carrying one from your desk at work to the bathroom. Hayward and her team decided they could easily make those experiences more pleasant. “We’ve actually had women tell us that Cora makes them look forward to their periods because it’s such a beautiful and grown-up experience,” Hayward said.

While working women in the US might lament the awkward bathroom run during that time of the month, around the world, menstruation often has debilitating consequences.
For example, without sanitary pads, girls in developing countries often miss a week of school every single month. With pads, school attendance increases as much as 90 percent. Hayward said that Cora wants to change the experience of womanhood on a global scale. Not content with just making tampons prettier, Cora also has a mission of helping girls facing these challenges in India.
“Business is a powerful force in this world, and we believe in using it to make the world better for women and in turn everyone else too,” she explained.

If you want to see what things look like when women aren’t driving the conversation around menstruation, look no further than the so-called tampon tax. In many US states, tampons and other feminine care products are not tax exempt like other medical necessities. Instead, tampons and pads are treated as a luxury item, which means you pay an additional four percent at checkout. Think about how crazy that is: tampons and pads are officially considered “nonessential” items in many parts of the US. If they’re so nonessential, why are disadvantaged girls around the world missing school when they get their periods and don’t have access to pads or tampons?

Obviously, menstruation is not a choice, so why does the government act like it is? Perhaps because our government is often disproportionately run by men. Note that medical necessities and prescription drugs like Viagra are not taxed, yet tampons are. According to California legislator Cristina Garcia, each California woman spends $7 per month for tampons and pads over the course of four decades. When taxed, that gives the state $20 million in revenue each year. In 2016, she introduced a bill to end the tax in America’s most populous state, but California Governor Jerry Brown vetoed it, citing budget concerns. Apparently, fiscal responsibility relies on women getting their periods.