In high school, Claire Coder had great grades and a list of accomplishes out the door, including a small business. There's A Badge For That, was Claire's first business which sold buttons and compacts. When the time came to apply for colleges, friends and family never thought twice that Claire did not want to attend. In her town of Sylvania, everyone goes to college. The question was not if she wanted to go, but where she wanted to go. Claire did what everyone else was doing, just to make everyone happy. August of 2015 rolled around and Claire was headed off for the Ohio State University. During her first semester, it became very prevalent Claire did not want to be there.
Columbus has a lot to offer, it is a post-graduates perfect town. There are startups, conventions and a plethora of job openings. Shortly after the beginning of Claire's first semester, she found herself skipping class. Claire would rather attend networking events, startup conferences and exploring Columbus, than sitting through a lecture. One of the many things Columbus has to offer is Startup Weekend. Startup Weekend happens to be where Claire had her idea, for what is now known as, Aunt Flow. While at the convention she noticed that there was a wide variety of things being offered for free. The convention offered free food, drinks, beer, etc. but it did not offer free menstrual products. That is when the idea hit, and Claire dropped out of college to pursue this idea. Claire's biggest obstacle was informing her family that she wanted to drop out of college to start a business. At first no one in her life was supportive, because they believed if you want a good job, you need an education.
Prior to Claire's idea for this venture, she had previous knowledge that not every menstruator, has easy access to affordable menstrual products. Her mother works in art therapy, and from an early age would inform Claire on the harsh realities some women face. Menstrual products are not cheap and they are not covered under WIC. Some women have no other option but to use other things, besides menstrual products, because they simply cannot afford them. This prior knowledge along with her idea that menstrual products should be free led to Aunt Flow. Originally, Aunt Flow started as tampon subscription box, with a business model similar to Toms. After every box that was purchased, another box was donated to a woman in need. This is where Aunt Flow's motto, “People helping people. Period,” comes from.
Claire put forth a big sum of her money to fund this venture and the rest she received from generous donors. During her time studying at the Ohio State University, she worked for their calling center. At this job, she called alumni and asked for donations to the university. This skill proved very important when starting Aunt Flow. Before working on Aunt Flow full time, Claire worked various jobs including waitressing and for a marketing company, just to be able to fund her startup. This venture is not Claire's first take at being an entrepreneur, there was one other she was involved in. In high school, she owned and operated a small company that made buttons and compacts. Claire took this business around her local boutiques and art shows to gain a following. After high school, it was put on the back burner, and eventually ended.
Getting Aunt Flow up and running was a big struggle for Claire. The biggest struggle was the fact she was a teenage college dropout attending conferences and trying to network. The second struggle was feminine hygiene and menstruation being a taboo subject no one wants to talk about. People did not want to take her seriously. Claire wants to change the way people think of taboo subjects, because why shouldn't they be talked about? Claire has gone around and talked to various schools and universities about womens health, entrepreneurship and being a woman in business.
Some of the significant sources of assistance would come from, Claire and Aunt Flow being featured on Forbes, Teen Vogue, various other online articles and the TLC show, Girl Starter, where she placed second. Being featured on many different platforms at such an early stage really helped Claire's business. It got her business out in the open for people across the United States to find and become a subscriber to. With any new business venture, word of mouth and networking are important to gain a following. More assistance comes from Claire herself and her personal drive and work ethic. She wants to help people and change the world. She worked three jobs to be able to fund her business all while still paying rent and for groceries. When she started pursuing the business full time, she was running the business from her tiny home and didn't pay herself for 9 months. Claire wanted everything to look good from the outside, but the business wasn't making money. Aunt Flow did not have inventory for a couple months and the consumers were getting upset. Everything started to turn around when the business model changed.
Within the past year, Aunt Flow changed the business model from being a buy one, give one subscription service, to being a business that partners with others to ensure everyone has access to free menstrual products. Within the new business model comes a new motto, “Toilet paper is offered for free, why aren't tampons?” This new movement collaborates with other companies across the United States and puts Aunt Flow products in restrooms, for free. Aunt Flow is currently working with over 100 companies, including Stanford University. Most of the companies are located within Columbus, but there are a couple throughout Ohio and other states. This new business model still maintains the same buy one, give one service. For every 100 products purchased, Aunt Flow donates 10 to an organization in need. This new model has helped pushed Aunt Flow in a positive direction. Claire is able to pay herself through the company and has a few employees.
During this venture Claire has learned numerous things. Learning about your businesses competitors and how to deal with them is a big lesson. Claire had a couple other competitors when she entered the market with the subscription service. The other competitors were growing faster than Aunt Flow had the capacity too, which led to the switch. Understanding the consumers and the industry is key for a new business. If you're not aware of where the industry is going and what the consumers want, the business has a small chance of success. New small businesses need room for growth and those growths can take the business in a completely different direction than anticipated.
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