Anyone who has ever gotten their period at an inopportune time knows the scramble to find a menstrual product.
There’s the “sneakily ask all co-workers for a tampon” move. Or the frantic search for a quarter to use at one of those vending machine-style boxes in some restrooms. (Though, let’s be honest, they’re rarely stocked.)
Entrepreneur Claire Coder found herself in this very predicament at a cisgender male-dominated business event in 2016. There weren’t exactly a bunch of people reaching into their purses or pockets to help when her period arrived, so she had to come up with a reason to leave the event early.
When she got home, tampon now acquired, she had a brilliant idea:
Toilet paper is offered for free — so why not tampons?
But why not?! Photo by Aunt Flow/Instagram, used with permission.
While Coder has easy access to menstrual products, many Americans just don’t have it that easy. Tampons and pads are rarely donated to homeless people. And those who rely on food stamps to get by can forget about assistance in this department — SNAP doesn’t cover menstrual products.
In the spirit of giving tampons to people in need, Coder created Aunt Flow.
Photo by Aunt Flow/Instagram, used with permission.
Aunt Flow sells 100% organic cotton menstrual products to businesses so they can offer products for free to employees and guests.
And Coder says it’s working:
“In just one year, I created a company that has stocked over 100 businesses across the USA with freely accessible menstrual products, and we have donated over 125,000 menstrual products to organizations that support menstruators in need.”
She’s worked with establishments of every size — from local coffee shops to companies like Viacom to colleges like Ohio and Brown Universities, respectively.
The goal is simple: encourage companies to purchase more tampons and pads so that more menstrual products can be donated to people in need.
Aunt Flow donates one piece for every 10 pieces a business buys.
Aunt Flow donating to Dress for Success Columbus. There’s more where that came from! Photo courtesy of Claire Coder, used with permission.
Coder wants to encourage positive menstrual education for young people, and often leads talks about the topic.
“When I was growing up, my health teacher handed me a ‘goodie bag’ with a tampon and pad,” she recalls, adding:
“I was forced to go home and figure it out by myself. The conversation was never brought up again at school, which contributed to the menstrual taboo. At Aunt Flow, we are committed to educating young menstruators about menstruation in a fun and engaging way.”
Coder talks #PeriodPositivity at Kent State University. Photo by Aunt Flow/Facebook, used with permission.
Coder has big goals: She hopes to reach 500,000 donated products in 2018. She’s excited about her business, but also about how things are changing in society.
California and Illinois have recently passed legislation requiring schools to stock freely accessible menstrual products — and Aunt Flow is actively working with schools to stay on top of things.
“I am working toward the day when I can be walking anywhere, suddenly get my period, and not feel frantic,” Coder said, “because I know that just down the road, a bathroom will be stocked with Aunt Flow’s products.”
Everybody with a period should be able to feel that way too.
Coder speaking to a packed room at the Columbus School for Girls. Photo courtesy of Claire Coder, used with permission.
Visit Aunt Flow for more information or to order products for your business.