Join the Menstruation Movement

Categories: Innovations, Trends & Technology, Member Profiles

By ISSA Today Staff | April 4, 2022 << Back to Articles Join the Menstruation Movement

Disclaimer: This article may make men and other non-menstruators a bit uncomfortable. But to be candid, when it comes to talking tampons, mentioning menstrual equity, and the purport of all-things periods, I’m tired of whispering into the wind about a problem that is this common, this avoidable, this solvable. Every menstruator can relate to what I mean.

It’s like when you’re in public and suddenly, you know – your monthly visitor stops by early, or maybe even completely unannounced. Then the panic sets in. You frantically start rifling through your purse as a million questions rush to the top of your mind. “Am I prepared? How much is it? Did another pair of jeans get ruined?” Oh, the dread you feel when you realize you are not readily equipped. Yes, all menstruators have been there. I have been there. It’s a surprising and awful moment, often compounded by physical pain and internal shame.

You scurry to the restroom, praying fervently that a tampon or maxi pad dispenser will be available. Maybe there is one, but now you must dig through the depths of your purse for some loose change (who carries change anymore?). After awkwardly asking for a couple of coins from the next person who comes into the restroom, you put that pity change into the dispenser, only to find out that it’s broken. So, what’s to be done?

Aunt Flow (yes, you read that correctly) has found a great solution.

Aunt Flow is a company committed to ensuring that all people with periods have access to period products when they need them. So, who put this innovation that all menstruators have been pleading for since the beginning of time into action? Let’s see.

A timely visit from Aunt Flow

A similar situation happened to Claire Coder as a teenager. While attending an event, she was caught off guard when she got a visit from “Aunt Flow” (or her period) and did not have the supplies she needed. Rather than feel embarrassed, she thought to herself, “Why is it that toilet paper is freely dispensed in restrooms, but tampons and pads are not?”

And then, Coder found out that menstrual hygiene products aren’t covered by WIC (Women, Infants, and Children program), food stamps, and are taxed in most areas of the United States. If you are anything like me, you never even thought much about having the money to purchase these necessary items every menstruator needs. But for the millions of people on their period living in poverty, most must make a choice between buying food or buying tampons or pads, requiring many menstruators to use items that should not be used to stop the flow. I can imagine how Coder felt, because this certainly makes me mad.

So, at 18 years old, this young entrepreneur dedicated her life to developing a solution to at least ensure businesses and schools could sustainably provide quality period products in bathrooms, for free. With that idea in mind, her company Aunt Flow was founded in 2016.

“Aunt Flow offers a variety of 100% organic, high-quality period products and free-vend menstrual product dispenser systems available in thousands of bathrooms across locations like nationwide K-12 schools, Princeton University, Google, Viacom, and more,” says Jen Severns, vice president of happiness at Aunt Flow. Their goal is to provide every menstruator with quality period products.

To help facility teams join this menstrual movement, researchers at Aunt Flow shadowed facility directors to understand their pain points and come up with a better solution than those outdated dispensers to help achieve their objective of providing every person with quality menstrual products.

One step in this direction has been the innovation of the Model R Free-vend, Recessed Tampon & Pad Dispenser.

Dispenser dilemma

Many bathrooms still have those clunky, coin-operated pad and tampon dispensers. They rarely work, and most people don’t carry around change anymore.

At Aunt Flow, they thought to themselves, “What is a solution that makes sense?” That’s where the Model R comes in.

“Aunt Flow’s On-Demand Model R Free-Vend Tampon & Pad Dispenser is the most efficient solution in replacing coin-operated dispensers,” claims Severns. “It helps facilities leaders meet the demand to provide free period products in restrooms. With the Model R, facility leaders can spend a quarter of the time refilling dispensers, easily view inventory, and open the dispenser with just one universal key.”

What is different about this dispenser in comparison to other models? First of all, the products dispensed are free to users. It also saves facility workers time and effort. With its visibility window and universal key for all dispensers on the property, it is easy to check if the product is low or empty. The quick load refills can be rapidly replaced.

And for patrons of the bathrooms, the products are free. No more digging for a quarter.

The struggle is real

As with bringing any product to market, the Model R Free-vend, Recessed Tampon & Pad Dispenser has had its challenges. Severns explains, “As with most product companies, COVID-19 affected our supply chain. In addition, we have a disruptive product. We believe that menstrual products are a necessity. However, menstrual free-vend is a new concept. There is a need to educate along with bringing our product to the market.”

But growth and interest have exceeded expectations. The world is ready to discuss menstrual equity, and Aunt Flow is here to help facilitate those conversations. “We’ve received nothing but positive feedback from our customers,” continues Severns. “We’ve grown internationally, in the United Kingdom, and in partnership with Citron Hygiene.”

Aunt Flow and ISSA

According to Severns, ISSA has had a substantial impact on the success of Aunt Flow and its products. In fact, this past November, at the ISSA Show North America 2021, Aunt Flow’s Model R Recessed, Free-Vend Menstrual Product Dispenser was an Innovation Award winner of the Distributor Choice Award.

“ISSA has been instrumental in our growth and maturity as an organization,” Severns reports. “We developed our dispensers with the facilities’ community in mind. ISSA has helped educate our team and prepare us for rapid growth. We are thrilled to have won the Distributor Choice Award! It has inspired us to continue to innovate.”

People helping people. PERIOD!

Aunt Flow is on a mission to design a world where every bathroom outside the home offers free period products.

That is why for every 10 sustainable 100% organic cotton tampons or pads sold, the company donates one to a menstruator in need. More than 900 companies are flowing forward and have joined this menstrual movement.

Will you be next?

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