Tell us a little bit about Lunapads and how and why you started it.
Lunapads is an award winning, globally recognized manufacturer and web retailer of healthy and sustainable menstrual and other personal care products.
I started making Lunapads in 1993 when I realized that the recurrent bladder infections were occurring within 24 hours of the onset of my period. Once I started questioning why it might be that my body was rejecting tampons – supposedly “sanitary”, “hygienic” products – I came to understand that there was a profound lack of transparency around their ingredients and manufacturing process that persists to this day.
I have strong sewing skills and a lifelong interest in design, and so I set out to make washable alternatives myself, and came up with pads as well as padded underwear. I had never liked the idea of disposable pads, however the idea of cloth appealed to me: it seemed kind of radical, and an opportunity to be creative, irreverent and even celebratory about something that I had previously given little thought to and essentially tried to minimize and ignore.
Once I switched to cloth pads, my interest in and respect for my cycle increased dramatically, and I noticed a powerful, overall sensation of feeling prouder and more accepting of my body. As someone – like most women – who had struggled with body image issues, this was a truly wonderful feeling, especially around something that is typically portrayed as negative or shameful.
I am also a social change disruptor by nature, and felt excited by this opportunity to create change in such an interesting and fundamental way.
What do you hope to accomplish with your business?
In addition to providing our customers with healthy, body-positive alternatives to disposables, we are hoping to set an example that business can be a fantastic way to create positive social change while being financially sustainable. So far, so good!
So besides running an incredible, successful business, you also are a part of G Day. It sounds like the best thing to happen to any adolescent girl. Can you tell us a bit about the event and how you got involved?
G Day is a national series of day-long rite of passage celebrations for adolescent girls and their champions (parents and other supportive adults). Each event is attended by approximately 200-300 people, and we have held them in three Canadian cities so far – Vancouver, Victoria and Toronto.
Each G Day follows three basic stages: first, where we gather together as a the proverbial “Village” (that it takes to raise a child, according to the famous African proverb), followed by a period of ritual separation where the girls and champions have separate programming. Finally, the two groups are reunited in a moving ceremony where the girls are witnessed and welcomed by the champions into their new social status as young adults.
Activities for girls include discussions about self esteem, positive peer relationships and leadership, as well as physical and creative activities, while champions hear from parenting experts and reconnect with their adolescent selves.
I founded G Day based on my own experience as a young girl. I read Judy Blume’s Are you there, God? It’s me, Margaret and totally identified with Margaret and her friends curiosity about puberty. I was so excited about the idea of becoming an adult woman and felt like I wanted to be witnessed and celebrated when it happened.
In the end it was a total letdown, however many years later the idea resurfaced when I was asked to speak on the topic of how I would change a city. My inner Margaret showed up in full force, and the idea of creating something that would have made her feel special came back in full force, so I decided to give it a try. Over 1,000 people have attended them so far, and we are now on our way to making it a registered charity and having events across North America: not bad for a childhood dream.
What do your kids think about your work?
I went back to work about a month after my daughter Gigi (now 10) was born, so it’s always been normal to her. She has been cared for by both sets of her grandparents, our staff, neighbours, public daycare and of course her Dad. As much as it makes me feel a bit sad not to have had more time with her – my only child – it was largely driven by necessity (Canadian business owners at the time were not eligible for maternity leave benefits). Plus I love my job, and I was able to bring her with me much of the time until she was around 18 months old.
I started G Day in 2014, and she has been to 4 out of 5 of the events, which has been incredibly fun to share with her. I hope at the very least that spending so much time with me at work will open her up to the idea of being an entrepreneur herself!
Share with us a total win (brag away!)
Throughout my career with Lunapads, there have been people who have scoffed at the products and even considered the idea that people would be willing to wash and reuse their own products rather than throwing them away ridiculous.
I am proud to tell you that today, Lunapads is a 7-figure company, and profitable to boot – a clear indication that there are plenty of people who don’t think that our products are weird or gross. In 2014 I received one of the Vancouver Board of Trade’s inaugural Wendy McDonald (named for one of British Columbia’s most renowned entrepreneurs) Awards for Entrepreneurial Innovation, a massive honor that reflected back to me the value of sticking to my vision.
What's your relationship with Mamalode?
My friend Mark Brand met Elke at a retreat last year and thought that I would be a great fit for your audience.