Lunapads sets social innovation example
Social innovation means different things to different people; and in a world dominated by consumerism, it may not often be the driving force behind a company. For Lunapads founders Madeleine Shaw and Suzanne Siemens, social enterprise and innovation are, they say, the key to their success.
Growing up with a traditional Asian upbringing, Suzanne Siemens was taught the importance of academics with an intense expectation to work in a respected profession. Ultimately, she was unfulfilled in her career as a chartered accountant and was seeking an outlet and creative expression for who she was.
With a social worker for a mom and a judge for a father, Madeleine Shaw credits her parents for her passion towards social justice. Growing up relatively affluent, Shaw understood that there was a bigger world than the one she had been accustomed to.
Shaw and Siemens first met in 1999 at a community leadership course held by Volunteer Vancouver and the Vancouver Board of Trade. While working on the same project together and learning about poverty, social investment and politics, they began to develop a shared passion. And after much encouragement from their spouses and loved ones, they went into business together to create Lunapads, a company that produces a line of reusable feminine products.
How did Lunapads begin and how has the company / product evolved since your beginnings?
Madeleine: I was an aspiring fashion designer, and I became allergic to tampons. Feminine hygiene products are something we take for granted. When I came to a place where I couldn’t use them anymore, I needed to find something else. Making this product made me question all of our cultural dialogue or lack thereof around our periods. I realized much of this had to do with the product and I felt really inspired to remake the products and sell them.
The values of Lunapads have always been a social based business and that’s where the mojo comes from. It’s a social revolution that has adopted a business to give it a vehicle in the world.
What has been one of the early challenges you've encountered?
Suzanne – While it was pretty tough in the early years, I think that now is our time, [because] there is this awareness among women looking for healthier choices for their bodies, whether it’s the food or the cosmetics they choose. That [awareness] extends to their feminine hygiene products. The Internet has been our channel of delivery to our customers. The rise of social media has been a success factor for us.
Some may believe that selling a reusable product is not the most profitable way to do business but your company goes beyond the typical business! How else does Lunapads as a product and as a company differ from its competitors?
Madeleine - Most people aren’t aware that people have a choice. Our task from a business perspective is that once we have a customer we have to find a new customer! We become focused on story telling and building a community, finding ways to engage our consumers to do the marketing for us – word of mouth.
Suzanne- We acknowledge that the market is so big, and the biggest task is how do we reach more women and let them know that there is a choice.
How is the feedback from your customers who have made the switch to your products?
Suzanne – There’s no shortage of stories, and we are launching a video called the Luna Revolution. In general, people are happier to find something that makes them feel better about their body, and they are saving the environment and saving money.