Claire Coder has an unbreakable Flow.
In our Fall issue, we’re telling the stories of those business owners who faced the pandemic and resolutely determined to succeed by transforming or pivoting their businesses. Throughout the U.S and Canada, these businesses charted new ways of adapting by introducing new services and products that benefit them, their customers, and the world.
Today, we’re introducing you to Claire Coder, the founder of Aunt Flow a for-profit, mission-based company that ensures everyone has free access to quality menstrual products in public spaces.
Without a doubt, the coronavirus pandemic hit businesses hard. For some, it meant cutting back on expenses and losing employees, while others had to completely shut down their operations. But, for Claire Coder, a 23-year-old serial entrepreneur, it was total survival mode.
Featured in the Forbes 30 Under 30 class of 2020, Coder is the founder and CEO of Aunt Flow, a for-profit, mission-based company that ensures everyone has free access to quality menstrual products in public spaces. The company is also completely redesigning the commercial bathroom experience with its free-vend menstrual product dispenser. Coder is no beginner to the hustle business, as she launched her first company at age 16, when she designed a bag for Vera Bradley that sold out within 24 hours.
STARTING AUNT FLOW
“After getting my period at an event without the supplies I needed, I thought to myself, ‘Toilet paper is offered for free, why aren’t tampons and pads?’” Coder shares.
It was an aha! moment at its best. Aunt Flow was built on pure transparency, selling 100 percent natural cotton and biodegradable pads and tampons that are FDA-approved with no synthetics, chemical, or dyes. For every 10 tampons and pads that the company sells to consumers, it donates one through period.org, a nonprofit that also distributes menstrual products to people in need. Coder likes to call this “people helping people. PERIOD.®” To date, the company is proud to report that 500,000 menstrual products have been donated.
LOSS OF BUSINESS ‘FLOW’
Like most businesses, Aunt Flow had goals to expand and grow into the new year. However, “when COVID hit, I had one goal— maintain all employees on payroll,” says Coder.
“Although menstruation doesn’t stop for a pandemic, Aunt Flow predominately stocks bathrooms with tampons and pads in the office and education markets,” Coder adds. “In March, we saw a massive and immediate drop in usage of menstrual products, considering folks were not in office or in class.”
Instead of panicking, she did what was best for her team—pivoted. “We knew we needed to make moves to ensure we could support our mighty team based in Columbus, Ohio.”
THE QUICK PIVOT
Pre-COVID, the majority of Aunt Flow’s revenue came from product usage and paying customers. However, instead of focusing on what it didn’t have, it became hyper-focused on what it did have—domain experience manufacturing Class II medical devices and servicing the facility industry.
“When focusing on what we were good at, we were able to quickly launch Work Flow,” says Coder.
Work Flow is a sister company with a line of FDA-approved, three-ply medical masks; surface cleaning wipes; and isolation gowns. Together, both companies became FLOW.
“We now support customers ranging from the U.S. government to hospitals, and all of our Aunt Flow customers,” says Coder.
The FLOW team members have proven themselves to be “relentless advocates for access to basic necessities.” To date, they have donated 500,000 menstrual products and 15,000 medical masks. While uncertain if they will face more challenges, the pivot definitely provided a chance for them to focus on their strengths.
“I want to walk into any bathroom and never need to worry if I started my period, because Aunt Flow menstrual products will be freely available,” says Coder. “Until then, we are working hard to make that happen! … Forever changing the world, one cycle at a time.”
For more information or to become an advocate for FLOW, visit Aunt Flow at www.goauntflow.com or Work Flow at www. goworkflow.com.