Passion + perseverance (with Aunt Flow CEO)

Hi #Empowerista! My corner of the internet is a place to celebrate and support powerful women. Things like fear, self-doubt and our inner critic often get in the way of how powerful we truly are. The women I feature experience all these difficult feelings too, but they've learned how to manage them and move forward anyway. My hope is these women inspire and empower you to do the same.

Today I want you to meet Claire Coder, the founder and CEO of Aunt Flow. Perseverance, passion and periods pretty much sum up her journey! But it's in the details that you'll learn she is an example, regardless of your age, of paving your own path, finding purpose, and counting on Google for your most complicated questions 🙂 In my interview with her, you'll read about how she dropped out of college and credits nude modeling (for figure drawing classes) as a source of confidence. She shares some of the challenges along the way (like funding!) and how her mission inspires her to keep on making strides.

What is Aunt Flow?

Aunt Flow is a buy-one, give-one subscription box for 100% cotton tampons and pads. Each monthly box includes a surprise gift from a girl-boss. For every box you purchase, a box is delivered to an organization that supports menstruators in need.  People helping people. Period.

What was the inspiration behind it?

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 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 pitched the idea for what is now known as Aunt Flow.

Tell us a little about you, your background and any experiences empowering you to build a business:

I started my first business when I was 16, There’s a Badge for That- a promotional products company selling buttons, magnets, and compact mirrors. I would hand-press every piece. In two years, I grew the company to employ 8 independent distributors and sell internationally online. By the time I graduated high school, I had no intention to attend college. My parents believed it was imperative to get a college degree, thus I was shipped off to The Ohio State University. After just one semester studying comparative religion, I dropped out. At that point, I did not have a job lined up; I didn’t have Aunt Flow yet; I didn’t know where I was going to live. January 2016 was the hardest time for my life. January-March 2016 I was struggling to afford tampons and that is where the real passion behind the business grew.

What are the first steps to build a business like Aunt Flow?

Start with passion. Building a business gets extremely tough, and if it is not built on passion, it will be astronomically easier to give up when times are tough. Once you find something you are passionate about, determine how you can monetize the passion. Is it a product? Is it a mobile app? Is it a service? From there, you can begin to research, research, research.

What has been the biggest challenge? How have you overcome it?

Funding Aunt Flow has been a wild journey. In May 2016, I launched a crowdfunding campaign to raise $25,000. After 3 months of begging, calling and pleading, I reached my goal. Money is still a challenge considering we are not backed with equity capital. We have a shoe-string budget for everything. We are still overcoming this struggle. Our office is a broken kitchen table. We don’t use comfortable toilet paper. We hardly pay ourselves. These are all temporary solutions until we are able to attain an appropriate number of subscribers and scale our company.

What are some of the positives to running a mission driven company?

When everything else is going to shit, we can reflect on how many menstruators we are supporting. To date, we have donated over 25,000 tampons and pads!

How do you keep up your confidence and strength as an entrepreneur?

I owe all of my confidence to nude modeling for figure drawing classes. I started modeling when I dropped out of college because it was quick cash, but the experience has been life changing. There is something very poetic about nude modeling for artists. Clearly, the artists want their artwork to look beautiful, so they look at the model for all of the beauty she is. If I can pose in front of an audience at my most vulnerable state, I can stand in front of thousands talking about menstruation.

What is your biggest piece of advice for an up and coming professional?

If you don’t know how to do something, just Google it. People find it amazing that I was able to find a manufacturer, figure out price points, create financial models, and raise money- all without any formal education. My education is Google. Quora. and

For $5 off your first subscription box, use the code - empowerista - at check out. 

Thank you Claire for inspiring and empowering us with your unique path + purpose!