Based in Columbus, OH, Aunt Flow is a buy-one, give-one subscription box for 100% cotton tampons and pads. Menstruators can visit auntflow.org, customize their box, and have it delivered to their door each month. For each box purchased, Aunt Flow donates one to someone without access to menstrual products in the US.
The founder of Aunt Flow, Claire Coder, started the company in 2016 at just 19 years old. She dropped out of college last year to go full-time on building the company, and has been committed to menstrual equality ever since.
Below is a Q&A with the amazing Claire Coder, founder of Aunt Flow. Claire is so dedicated and we should all be inspired by her journey to take a risk and just go for it.
How difficult was the decision to drop out of college and work on your company full-time?
I never wanted to go to college, so dropping out of college was not a difficult decision. I want to be that girl that other entrepreneurs point to when explaining to their parents that they can be successful without a college degree.”
I had spent my first semester skipping class for networking events and to see what Columbus had to offer. When the second semester rolled around, I just couldn’t justify going back. So I went to my guidance counselor’s office and said I was dropping out. 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.”
How does your specific one for one model work at Aunt Flow?
Aunt Flow is the only true buy-one, give-one subscription box for menstrual products. For every 18 pieces (one box) purchased, we donate 18 pieces to an organization that supports people without access to menstrual products in the US. Every quarter, we partner with five organizations that support menstruators in need. When purchasing a subscription, subscribers can select one of the organizations to receive their “give-one” box. People helping people. Period.
We both know if this was issue for men it would be covered and subsidized, but why you think it is so difficult to talk about and support women’s heath in our country?
For the most part, we don’t talk about menstruation. When we do, it’s with squished-up faces and hushed euphemisms. That’s taught to us even as kids. When Aunt Flow’s COO was in elementary school, they skipped teaching her 5th grade class about the reproductive system because they were “too immature.” So, they separated the boys and girls, gave them little bars of gendered deodorants, and called it a day. Not only did it keep the girls in the dark about their own bodies, but it sent the message that girls needed to have a “secret” meeting about their private parts, and vice versa. I’ve heard other schools handle the situation worse, and mine wasn’t much better. This silence and shame follows people into adulthood. 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.
Was there one particular moment that made you really think wow this is f*cked up and we need to change the conversation about menstruation?
My first job, I was the only female in the office. I would pretend I had music playing in my headphones while I idly listened to my male co-workers degrade women. I didn’t do anything. Instead, I would slip tampons up my sleeve and shuffle shamefully to the bathroom when I was on my period. I wouldn’t stand up for my gender; I was a phony. I am a strong woman and I still didn’t speak up, until I quit. That is f*cked up. Now I dedicate my life to speaking up.
Has Aunt Flow tried to approach this issue from a policy perspective and reach out to local legislators to make changes?
Aunt Flow loves the color red, unless it is referring to the status of the house and the senate. We have actively supported the ban on the #PinkTax in Ohio. Greta Johnson is Ohio’s tampon queen, and routinely introduces bills to alleviate the luxury tax on tampons and pads. #ShedWallsDontBuildThem
You dream is to be on Ellen, if you had to pitch her on the phone of why you should be on the show, how would you approach that?
Ellen. We need to talk about what it is like to sit on your white couch while we are menstruating. Let’s also play chubby bunny with tampons.
Since you have started Aunt Flow what have you been inspired by? Has it been the women and organizations you have helped or the customers thanking you for talking about the issue?
Starting a company is hard. Starting a company that only half the population can truly relate to is even harder.
We are getting ready to make our first donation of 22,000 pieces. I cannot wait to hear from those whose lives have been bettered. But, over the past year, we have grown an amazing support network around the country, and even the world. They are constantly telling us our work is valuable and necessary. That’s great on the hard days. Growing an Aunt Flow team of girlbosses has also been incredible and rewarding.
The female-entrepreneur community in general is a constant source of inspiration. Jeni Britton Bauer, founder of Jeni’s Ice Cream, has been my all-time inspiration. Her passion, quirky style, and girlboss attitude gives me positive vibes when times are grey. What can beat chowing on a pint of Jeni’s Ice Cream while menstruating?