The Scoop: This nineteen-year-old entrepreneur is bringing organic menstrual products to your doorstep and leading the charge in de-stigmatizing periods.
Claire Coder is the nineteen-year-old behind Aunt Flow, a new eco-friendly subscription service for menstrual products. The company's period puns are on point, and you can even customize your box with 100% cotton pads and/or tampons to fit your unique period needs (heeelllll yeah!). Coder's team is seriously changing the game, and increasing access for menstruators in need. We asked Coder about her experience building the company (did we mention she's 19?), and the stigmas surrounding periods; we're pretty excited for all that Aunt Flow has in store.
First of all, congratulations on starting this company. As you know, we adore everything about it. What was the “ah-ha” moment you had when you realized Aunt Flow needed to exist?
I was sitting at a Startup Weekend in Columbus, Ohio. Friday night I got my period. Surrounded by men, I knew the odds of getting a tampon when I needed one were little to none. I knew that that night, I would be able to go to the store and buy more products. Unfortunately, considering menstrual products are not covered by WIC or food stamps, many menstruators go without tampons and pads. No one should EVER have to go without tampons and pads. I knew I needed to create a sustainable solution. Thus, I founded Aunt Flow.
Can you tell us about your journey deciding to drop out of college to pursue Aunt Flow full time? What was the response you received from family and friends, and how did you handle it?
I never wanted to go to college, so dropping out of college was not a difficult decision. The aftermath of the decision was tricky. I instantly rented an apartment in Columbus, picked up a job at a marketing company as an account executive, and started adulting right-away. The first few months were rough—I struggled to make rent and the marketing job that I had was cluttered with harassment. I didn't have any college friends and I had yet to immerse myself in the "business world." January 2016 f*cking sucked, but I kept pushing—I felt like menstruators were relying on me. I really had no other option than to succeed.
How do you choose your beneficiary organizations? How often do they change?
Aunt Flow is a true buy-one, give-one subscription box. Every quarter, we feature 4-5 organizations that support menstruators in need. When purchasing a subscription, subscribers can select one of the organizations to receive their "give-one" box. For every 18 that is purchased, 18 is delivered to an organization that supports those in need. People helping people. Period.
You recently made the change to eliminate the term “feminine hygiene” and embrace a more gender inclusive approach to menstrual products. Can you tell us a little bit about that decision?
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?
As an entrepreneur, what is one of the greatest risks you’ve taken (besides leaving school — an already major risk) that has (or has not) paid off?
Right after I dropped out of college, I knew I had to find an apartment in Columbus— there was no way that I could move back in with my parents. In a bind, I took on a lease for $1200/month. I quickly realized this was a severe mistake, considering I was still working at $10/hr at the marketing company. I had to figure something out, so I craftly started an AirBnB enterprise. Of course, this went entirely against my lease and it was troubling to live in the three bedroom apartment with 2 random strangers each night. Once my landlord found out it was quickly shut down, but by then I had made enough money to cover the astronomical rent.
What is the most valuable or surprising thing you have learned as a founder?
One year ago, it was just me. It was just an idea, a web page, and a purchase order for 30,000 tampons and pads. Today it is a team of 3, subscribers from across the country, and donations totaling over 25,000 pieces. I would have not been able to grow at the rate that I have grown without letting down my guard, showing vulnerability, and asking for help. As a leader, it is imperative to delegate and understand that I am not always right. Transitioning from an angsty, arrogant teen to a twenty-year-old business owner forced me to understand that I do not know everything and it is okay to ask for help.
Why do you think there is so much stigma around talking about periods, and how can we start squashing that shame?
Many men and women do not even know that menstrual products are not covered by WIC or food stamps. We don't talk about menstruation, so we don't know the struggles surrounding it. The biggest barrier to solve menstrual inequality is to start TALKING about menstruation. The more we know, the more we can solve. Period.
What is the future of menstruation innovation, and how is Aunt Flow a part of it?
The future of menstruation is a tampon in every bathroom. Keep your eyes on Aunt Flow in early 2018. We have a majigger coming out that will ensure that no menstruator will be caught without a tampon.
For more great content on sexual health and relationships, sign up for the tabú waitlist!
tabú connects young adults with trustworthy and engaging answers to their sex ed questions by connecting them to certified health experts and peer to peer support.