In today’s world, getting a degree isn’t the only way to making your entrepreneurial dream a reality. Jennifer talks with Claire Coder, a 21-year-old college dropout and founder/CEO of the wildly successful Aunt Flow. Her company provides high-quality menstrual products to a variety of schools, businesses, and organizations, and donates thousands more to women in need across the country.
- So, where did it all start? Claire takes us back to her high school days and tells Jennifer about the beginning of her entrepreneurial journey: starting a promotional products company at the age of 16.
- Claire was destined for sales. After becoming a top seller on Etsy and having a blast running her modest company, she realized her passion lay in the entrepreneurial world.
- The ultimate question for a young mind: where are you going after high school? For Claire, that question has always meant college. But knowing academia wasn’t where she would thrive, Claire kept her eyes on the horizon for any new opportunity.
- Sometimes inspiration can come from those day-to-day experiences that throw a wrench in your gears. While attending a 54-hour entrepreneur hackathon weekend and realizing that the bathroom had no menstrual products whatsoever, Claire knew something could be done. And thus, Aunt Flow was born.
- Why is better access to menstrual products so important? Claire drops the facts: in the United States, menstrual products are not covered by food stamps or by the SNAP and WIC programs and as a consequence 16 million women living at or below the poverty line don’t have dependable access to tampons and pads. In a woman’s lifetime, she will spend an average of $3000 dollars on tampons and pads, many of them subpar and overpriced.
- After learning about how menstrual products are made with highly dangerous ingredients like chlorine bleaches, synthetic fabrics, and dyes, Claire was driven to create a sustainable and accessible alternative. Aunt Flow now manufactures 100% organic cotton tampons and pads, and sells them to businesses and companies, which they then provide to their students, guests and employees in their bathrooms and restrooms.
- Every new endeavor requires sacrifices and compromise. Claire describes the contentious choice to drop out of school to start Aunt Flow, and what the first months and years of her business were like. From product sourcing, to building a website, to learning how to become an adult, Claire built up her business over two years before finally launching sales.
- In 2016, where does a college dropout working 3 waitressing jobs get the kind of funding to start a company? The answer was, naturally: crowdfunding. Using her experience running crowdfunding campaigns at her marketing day job, Claire raised $25,000 to purchase Aunt Flow’s first product run.
- So where did the name Aunt Flow come from? Jennifer asks Claire about the origin story of the name and how she turned an old-fashioned euphemism into a winning brand identity.
- For ridiculous reasons, most people don’t like talking about menstruation, but Claire is all about speaking frankly. Jennifer asks Claire about her outspoken nature and how that has played into her life’s journey so far. Claire talks about her work as a nude model for artists, and how that experience has helped her embrace both her body and her self going forward.
- Today, Aunt Flow currently serves over a hundred businesses and organizations but its beginnings were more humble. Claire talks about Aunt Flow’s early individual subscription model and how it eventually enabled the business to transition into the B2B space. Claire also describes the values that she held onto from the very beginning, when the company still operated on the subscription model: for every Aunt Flow box purchased, one was donated to a person in need in the United States.
- Aunt Flow now serves some very large organizations and companies, from Fortune 500’s to major universities. Jennifer asks Claire about how she secured her biggest clients and how these large accounts enable Aunt Flow to donate tens of thousands of menstrual products a year. Last year, Aunt Flow donated 100,000 menstrual products. This year, Claire is shooting to donate half a million.
- As a young woman in the business world, asking for what you want, riding out the no, and learning when and how to ask again is the not-so-secret to success. Claire fills us in on her philosophy of business and how it has enabled her company to secure great clients, as well as high-profile media attention.
- When it comes to the brand, Claire is the charismatic face and voice of Aunt Flow. Claire discusses the decision to use her personal profile to push conversations about menstruation into the mainstream via CEO-focused media coverage. She also talks about the more challenging aspects of being a young business woman, and how sometimes both a combination of ageism and sexism can rear its head in both client and investor interactions.
- As a young entrepreneur, what advice does Claire have for other young change makers trying to make the world a better place? Here’s her 2-part breakdown:
- Just Google it! Use the power of the information age to your advantage and don’t be afraid to research.
- Make a Big Ask. If you can’t find the right answer or person for your problem, don’t be afraid to get straight to the point.
- Everyone has role models or trailblazers they look to for inspiration. Claire talks about the success of Jeni Britton Bauer of Jeni’s Splendid Ice Creams, as well as her advisors at Aunt Flow.
- How does Claire feel about not finishing college? Despite some mild FOMO about dormitory experiences or collective school pride, Claire has no regrets. Would she recommend her path to others? Well, figuring out whether or not college is for you is a lot cheaper if you’re not in college.
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