Let’s talk periods, y’all. Earlier this month, I was lucky enough to be able to sit down with Lindsey McEntee, the COO of Aunt Flow, an amazing up-and-coming social enterprise right here in Columbus, Ohio. Aunt Flow is a buy-one, give-one subscription box of 100% cotton tampons and pads. Subscribers simply go online, customize their box of 18 pieces (can be pads or tampons or any combination your heart desires!), and have it delivered to their door.
For every box purchased (a monthly subscription runs $13, which is pretty great value considering you’re getting great product and shipping built in), the subscriber can select one of Aunt Flow’s featured organizations to receive a “give-one” box. So far, 22,000 pads and tampons have been donated thanks to Aunt Flow’s awesome charitable donation subscription model!
My chat with Lindsey was illuminating, hilarious, and informative! Lindsey is a recent grad of The Ohio State University with a focus in marketing, English, and women’s studies – perfect for helping lead an organization like this! Lindsey enjoys Gilmore Girls, The Office, Broad City, and anything Harry Potter, so we hit it off pretty well. If you haven’t already read up on the company, you might not know that Aunt Flow’s founder, Claire Coder, launched the business at just 19 years old. (Uh, for real!) After deciding that college at The Ohio State University just wasn’t for her, Claire dropped out and started blazing her own trails. She attended the Columbus StartUp weekend in November 2015, where she got her period. A sustainable solution for periods came to her throughout the weekend and the idea was built through the course of it.
I was at a Columbus StartUp weekend November 2015, and all I could think about were my cramps. The period pains reminded me of how my mom would share with me that many of her clients (she is an art therapist) would come to group wearing multiple layers of clothing or plastic bags to stop the flow.
I didn’t understand why women who are living at or below the poverty line had such a hard time getting tampons and pads until I started doing some research.
Menstrual hygiene products aren’t covered by WIC or food stamps and many organizations do not have budget line items for the necessary items. I was tired of donating money/tampons, so at the StartUp weekend I pitched the idea to create a sustainable solution to the need. Thus Aunt Flow begun.
-Claire Coder to Every Ella
Claire came in second place during that StartUp Weekend – businesses don’t usually come out of this weekend, Lindsey tells me.
In May 2016, Coder launched a CrowdRise campaign and earned $25,000 from that campaign. According to Lindsey, Claire has been going full speed ahead ever since. And yes, thus, Aunt Flow was born. (What an amazing way to both sell menstruators an amazing product and help out others while destigmatizing menstruation, am I right?)
While with Lindsey, I wanted to know some #realtalk: How does Aunt Flow compare to other subscription/tampon services out there, like Lola and Cora and Conscious Period?
Lindsey was actually pretty pumped I had asked this question, and her passion about Aunt Flow’s model truly came out here, which was beautiful to see – and infectious! So according to Lindsey, “there are a lot of alternatives to a subscription box. Lola just started to donate, but it’s not built into their business” like it is with Aunt Flow.
And what’s more, companies like Lola and Cora really don’t seem to be very period-positive. If you look at their websites, they really kind of shill the “unmentionable” aspect of menstruating. Cora even sends their tampons with cardboard cases that you can put the tampon in to hide it away. In my personal opinion, those two brands are fashionable, but they’re not really trying to take the stigma out of periods like Aunt Flow is.
Conscious Period, Lindsey says, is most similar to their subscription model but is still not a one-for-one model like Aunt Flow is. Conscious Period focuses on homeless women, while Aunt Flow focuses on multiple different charities and they are more gender-neutral, calling their customers “menstruators” instead of solely marketing them toward women, which is a beautiful thing. Also, Conscious Period is solely donating pads, while Aunt Flow donates both as they truly see a demand for both. Aunt Flow also rotates out their causes quarterly, working with at least three to five charities at any given time.
So there’s lots of similarities, but Aunt Flow? They’re different. Claire and Lindsey are period-positive, gender-neutral, loud and proud. They’re selling a movement rather than just an organic cotton tampon. Their model has a built-in charity aspect and the products are customizable. What more could you ask for? I truly believe a model like this, as it continues to grow, has the potential to disrupt the market and continue doing so.
How do you see the business growing in the next year?
Lindsey: “We hope to expand the product line a little bit to include bigger pad variety.” (This was something that Lindsey said she was super passionate about, and as a pad user personally, I’m also all for this. IUD periods are no joke, y’all.) They get a lot of feedback about people wanting menstrual cups, and they have been looking into it, but they are choosing to continue with their pad and tampon subscription and hope to continue growing. What I found amazing and enlightening was that right now, Lindsey and Claire are a two-woman show, handling all the social media, the appearances, media, and the hundreds of subscriptions (+more being added monthly)!
What does fulfillment look like right now?
Aunt Flow has a warehouse, and once a month they all go in there and get the subscription boxes ready. They have the little boxes their product comes in, the shipping boxes, and all the tampons come in bulk and they have to read off the customizations. Imagine doing that for thousands of customers! But that’s what they do, and they do it well. All of their subscription boxes are shipped at the same time, on the first of the month. Any time after the 20th of the month, there might be a delay in getting your box for the next shipment. For instance, I ordered my box on March 31, so since that’s after the 20th, I’m getting my first box in a couple weeks at the beginning of May. It can be a bit confusing for a new subscriber, but they are loud and clear about this on the website, and I appreciate the transparency!
Are there charities or causes you will be looking into supporting in the future?
Lindsey is the recruiter of charities and causes, so she is super passionate about this topic as well. They have a survey that people can contact them through their website for in order to be considered as a partnering charity or cause. Lindsey looks at how many people they serve and how the Aunt Flow donation will affect them. Ideally, they work with a variety of causes, but Lindsey specifically called out that Aunt Flow would love to work with more LGBTQ+ organizations, prisons, schools, and other nonprofits, specifically with a focus on menstruators. Any interested charity can contact Aunt Flow through the Contact Us portion of their website.
I hope you all choose to support this seriously awesome business run by seriously awesome women selling seriously awesome product and donating to seriously awesome causes. Some exciting news for Aunt Flow – Claire, the founder, will actually be on TLC’s GirlStarter show, airing April 28th! Check out her blog post here about the show and what she wants to do with it.
Thank you so much, Lindsey, and Aunt Flow, for spending some time with me spreading the love!
Check out Aunt Flow and subscribe here. For May I’m donating my give-one box to Dress for Success, an amazing local Columbus charity dedicated to empower women to achieve economic independence by providing a network of support, professional attire and the development tools to help women thrive in work and in life.