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In 2016, it’s quite shocking that Claire’s endeavors are so vital. Aunt Flow, a persona that she has so graciously taken on, is out to change the world, one period at a time. Yep. Aunt Flow is the face of Aunt Flow LLC, a subscription-based model that allows you to buy a tampon and give a tampon.
The Lady in the Coral Dress
Claire Coder, full-time entrepreneur and part time Zumba instructor, pulled a complete 360 when she dropped out of college to start a social enterprise. Originally from Toledo, Ohio, Claire moved to Columbus to pursue an education at The Ohio State University, majoring in comparative religious studies. After her first semester, Claire, a lifelong straight-A student, decided that college just wasn’t for her. “I told my parents that I was going to stop college, and they freaked out,” she recalls. “It was not an easy conversation, but here I am!”
Claire’s first and only semester of college was during the fall of 2015, so she was only having this conversation with her parents about four months ago. Yep. Over the course of the last four months, the 19-year-old left college, worked as an account executive at a marketing firm, waitressed at a cafe, and became a full-time entrepreneur.
But this isn’t Ms. Coder’s first conquest in the business world. At the age of 16, Claire started her own promotional products company. Over the span of two years, she employed eight independent distributors, sold internationally online, and sustained some pretty large partnerships in the midwest as well. “I was selling buttons, magnets… Compact mirrors,” she recalls. “It was a lot easier than selling tampons!” *LOL
Claire says that often when spreading the word about her efforts, her age and even her gender tend to make getting her foot in the door hard. “I’ve been asked ‘is this a joke’,” she says. “This is what I’m doing. I just continue to flow forward.”
To some, Claires’s endeavors may seem a little silly. You’re probably thinking “what could be so special about tampons,” right? Women have been haveing a monthly menstrual cycle since the bite of the apple; you would think that the necessary feminine products that essentially every woman will need at some point in her life would be easily accessible. Claire, aka Aunt Flow and Founder of Aunt Flow LLC, knows that women, every day, are facing extra burdens of properly caring for their period, as if cramps weren’t bad enough.
The Problem: unplugged
According to Aunt Flow, more than one in seven women, more than 18 million, lived in poverty in 2015. When budgets are tight, women, families, and shelters decide that food takes precedent over basic feminine hygiene products. Even with assistance, these essentials can be hard to come by, as Tampons are not covered by the WICs program or Food Stamps. In 40/50 states and the District of Columbia, including Ohio, tampons and pads are taxed. Often referred to as the Pink Tax, these extra dollars can significantly drive up the cost for shelters and other programs that may hope to provide feminine products to the women that they assist. Aunt Flow serves as a sustainable solution for many women who may not have access to tampons.
Claire learned about this problem through her mother’s work as an Art Therapist. Claire’s mother would hold women’s group sessions with underprivileged women. Many of the women would come to the sessions wearing paper bags or layers of clothing. They expressed that it was easier for them to get new pants from places like the Goodwill than it was to get tampons. Even at organizations that are able to supply tampons, often women are only able to receive two tampons per woman per month. In these cases, mothers often give their products to their daughters instead.
After learning this, Claire instantly set her sights on finding a way to help alleviate at least one issue for these women. In November of 2015, during Columbus Startup Weekend, Claire gave her firs pitch for what she believed was a sound solution to the tough realities surrounding access to feminine products in this country. “I understand that tampons won’t solve world hunger or poverty,” she says, “but providing these products is a start and we need to start somewhere, so why not “down there?”
Shifting the Flow
How does it work? Women can go online and design their own box of 18 tampons of light, regular and super, and have them delivered to their door every month. As a buy one, give one subscription model, for every box that a woman buys a box is given to a woman in need. “Essentially, taking care of your flow takes care of her flow.” At checkout, women, or men who’re socially conscious (Flow Bros), can choose a partnering organization where tampons will be donated to women in need. Aunt Flow is currently in collaboration with Columbus YWCA, OSU Star House, Freedom a la Cart, and Mizzou Tiger Pantry.
One of the best parts is that Aunt Flow is branding products that women can feel good about. Aunt Flow’s tampons are 100 percent cotton, biodegradable, with no bleach or harmful chemicals that are often found in leading brands.
Aunt Flow also is working hard to shift social consciousness and the stigma that comes with tampons and a woman’s natural, unavoidable time of the month. “I’m trying to lessen the taboo of talking about tampons.” Claire dresses up in the coral dress and white glasses and goes around town asking women about their most embarrassing menstrual stories, in a YouTube segment that she calls “Tampon Talks”. She even talks to men, asking if they know what a tampon is, how it works or if they understand what a period is. Claire, or Aunt Flow rather, believes that “you don’t need to be self-conscious about being socially conscious.”
With more dialogue, people, both men and women, women who are used to a lifetime of paying thousands of extra taxes on necessities, will understand how essential is it to have accesses to quality feminine hygiene products. Claire’s ultimate goal is to ensure that there are tampons and dispensers in every women’s restroom across the country. Aunt Flow is expected to be in full swing early 2017. In order to get there, Claire is having a Crowd Funding Campaign. The goal is $25,000. The money raised will help Aunt Flow purchase the first order of 100% cotton, FDA regulated, hypoallergenic, dye free, 75% biodegradable, branded products and supplies to support over 9,000 women. Within the first two years of operations, Aunt Flow will offer light, regular, and super tampons and add pads and menstrual cups to be available for purchase and, of course, donation. Within the first year, the organization will donate over 100,000 tampons to organizations across the United States.
At $19,224, Aunt Flow has raised 77 percent of the funds that will be instrumental revolutionizing periods for thousands of women across the country. If you’re interested in helping Claire spread awareness and getting feminine products to women in need, log on to auntflow.org, and donate today! There are even cool prizes for every flow.
To keep up to date with Claire and Aunt Flow, check out her handles below: