Lunapads sets social innovation example
Madeleine – It’s such a powerful experience, it’s empowering and you get to know yourself better and it’s odd, because it’s something that women fear. What are the other consumer choices that I’ve been brainwashed to think I need?
Suzanne – When we first started, our business model was more to be in contact with stores and our stores were the customers but we realized that thinking distanced us from the ultimate end use consumer. The success does lie in having a relationship with the ultimate end use consumer.
Lunapads is making some philanthropic efforts around the world. What can you share about these programs?
Madeleine - We are working with a garment manufacturing company in Egypt and one of the problems with garment manufacturing is waste fabric. What we are doing is taking that waste fabric and making it into pads and underwear kits and we are sending 10,000 kits to girls in Malawi, It’s an innovative example of what we are doing. It’s cool because you’re taking something that would otherwise be garbage and you’re making it into something amazing. It’s low cost and eco friendly but the impact is huge because garment manufacturing takes place on this massive scale. [Production is] currently overseas, because the kits can be produced on a larger scale [and is] more proximate to people who need the products. [We also run] Pads4Girls, (based on the issue that girls are missing school during their periods). We send our products down to developing nations and we are helping a business in Uganda because they are the ones making the product. It’s so much better because it’s creating local employment.
Suzanne – [When we went down to Africa] it awakened this notion of development. It’s not about donating money or products, which are super important but [it's about] changing the model of development. Let’s give these individuals a way to get themselves out of their own poverty and tools to help them improve their lives.
A lot of people in the developing world have some money, and it’s more important for them to participate as consumers rather than passive recipients of charity - seeing that first hand is incredible.
Our next project is the One for One Campaign, launching within the next month. For every Lunapad that is purchased, one is given to a girl in East Africa through our sister company, Afripads.
How do you see the future for social entrepreneurs / social innovation? Any advice to those looking to adopt a similar mission-based model as yours?
Madeleine – I think we are having a bigger impact than we realized. Going to Uganda has been a tipping point. People are now interested in this new idea of social enterprise. We are part of this incredible community of mission based and socially environmentally aware businesses and have been for many years. It’s juts getting more influential and growing like crazy.
Suzanne – it’s a concept that is getting attention and helps that we get these speaking gigs. It’s partly our ability to be able to relate to these causes in a practical way. [Our advice to other businesses] that are aspiring to adopt the same model, [is to] do it in a way that makes sense for your business. You don’t have to travel to the other side of the world to make an impact; you can have an impact locally.
You just have to think about what you are doing and how it can have an impact. It’s not about taking a stretch, it’s expanding what you are already doing and making it accessible. We aren’t doing something that isn’t beyond our knowledge and means. It’s making people aware that they can have a social impact and that’s why people want to hear what we have to say.