Photo by The Wonder Jam
Claire discusses period positivity, dropping out of college and entrepreneurism
She’s only 20-years-old, but Claire Coder is changing the world – one cycle at a time.
As Chief Estrogen Officer of Aunt Flow, a subscription service which mails a customized box of tampons and pads, Coder’s mission is to provide every menstruator access to menstrual products. For each box bought, another one is donated to a select organization or an individual in need. Businesses can also purchase their tampons and provide them – for free – in bathrooms.
As the website reads: “Taking care of your flow, takes care of their flow.”
Tampons and pads are not covered by food stamps or by the Special Supplemental Nutrition Program for Women, Infants and Children (WIC). According to Aunt Flow’s website, 26.4 menstruators live in poverty.
When women do not have access to menstrual products, there are only a few options.
“One of them is that you just bleed through your underwear, the other one is that you shove a plastic bag up there or try to figure it out by putting toilet paper up there,” Coder said. “It makes you feel constantly worried, constantly fatigued.”
A box of Tampax Pearl tampons – which can be found at any grocery store – are $9.29. If you are a mother of three daughters, menstrual products can cost at least 40 to 50 dollars a month, Coder said.
“If you’re living at or below the poverty line, that equals to 20 meals,” Coder added. “Would you rather feed yourself or buy yourself menstrual products? Those are the kind of questions people ask themselves.”
Aunt Flow’s work and productivity are impressive in its own right, but so is its energetic and charismatic leader.
Originally from Toledo, Ohio, Coder moved to Columbus to attend The Ohio State University. During her first semester in October 2015, she went to Startup Weekend. But then she got her period.
“I was frantic because it was a primarily male-dominated event and I didn’t know how to ask for a tampon, and there were no tampons in the bathrooms,” Coder said. “This is bullshit that I’m going to have to leave an event early just because aunt flow made an unexpected visit.”
Then and there, she pitched her Aunt Flow startup idea.
“It was enough of a reason for me to drop out of college,” Coder said. She signed a lease at an apartment in downtown Columbus. She worked three waitressing jobs and at a marketing company to pay the bills.
“Just the idea of paying upwards of $60,000 to not really pursue my dreams was just kind of ridiculous,” Coder said.
Some may think dropping out college is a bold move, Coder said school was never for her.
She had already started her first business in high school and had severe test anxiety. She took the ACT five times – the first time, her score was 16.
“Just the fact that people get in college based off of an ACT score is almost as bullshit as people not having access to a tampon,” Coder said. “It’s really hard to think big picture when everybody is telling you have to get a good grade on your ACT if you want to be successful, but big picture: It doesn’t f*cking matter.”
Coder hated the college atmosphere, and it wasn’t conducive to her dyslexia.
“I didn’t know that there was any other option to be successful without getting a degree because that was what was instilled in me,” she said. She read Undecided by Simon Fraser, a book that explains why college is not for everyone – and it gave Coder the support to leave Ohio State for Aunt Flow.
“Of course, it was scary. My parents disowned me,” Coder said.”I didn’t have any friends from college, I didn’t know anybody in Columbus. It was just good to finally feel like I was moving in a direction that I wanted to instead of what my parents wanted to go.”
Coder went on to make more than $25,000 from a crowdfunding campaign, launched Aunt Flow in November of 2016 and competed in TLC’s show Girl Starter, where she was able to learn from Microsoft and Vera Bradley executives.
Coder says these experiences taught her the value of fake it until you make it.
“I’m constantly in my brain saying, ‘I don’t know,’ but in reality I’m saying, ‘We can do this.’”
However, running a company has challenged Coder. She explained that it is one thing being a good leader, but another to be an employer.
“I can lead people toward period positivity, but it is another thing when someone reports to you every day,” Coder said. She adds that it is difficult to “really get people inspired to come to work,” and make “them feel cared for, making them feel loved.”
Despite the difficulties of running a business, Coder says she loves seeing people have access to tampons when they did not before – and reading their reactions on Twitter. So far, Aunt Flow has donated over 30,000 menstrual products.
In addition, Coder emphasizes that Aunt Flow also wants to help with period positivity and the menstrual movement. Aunt Flow sells merchandise that play on period euphemisms, like “shark week.” Others include on the reg, no sex week and blowjob week.
“That kind of stuff is so infuriating,” Coder said. That is why she wants to make sure “we can talk about it, and that it’s not a bad thing, it’s actually really cool.”
Open conversations about periods would allow for a healthy dialogue and may help young girls understand how their bodies work – without the shame.
“The more conversations we have with more trusted individuals, the better,” Coder said.
Coder wants everyone to have access by the time she is 30-years-old.
“That would be my mission accomplished.”
To learn more about Aunt Flow, visit its website or follow the company on Facebook, Instagram and Twitter. Aunt Flow is launching non-apps for consumers on August 19. Businesses can start offering Aunt Flow tampons by reaching out to firstname.lastname@example.org.
Author: Deepti Hossain
Author Email: email@example.com
Author Bio: Deepti is an intern for Harness Magazine and a Journalism student at Ohio State. She loves her 3 Fs (french fries, fruits and feminism), pop culture, social justice and dance. Contact her if there’s a special woman, with a special story that she can write about on Harness Magazine.
Link to social media or website: Twitter @deeptih08