No More Taboo

No More Taboo: Breaking down taboos surrounding menstruation and sanitation. Empowering women.

Bristol, United KingdomBolivia
Year Founded:
2015
Organization type: 
nonprofit/ngo/citizen sector
Project Stage:
Start-Up
Budget: 
$10,000 - $50,000
Project Summary
Elevator Pitch

Concise Summary: Help us pitch this solution! Provide an explanation within 3-4 short sentences.

A not-for-profit social enterprise selling alternative sustainable sanitary products in the UK and investing 100% of the profits into charitable projects that help tackle the taboos surrounding menstruation and sanitation. Reducing waste, starting conversations and empowering women.

WHAT IF - Inspiration: Write one sentence that describes a way that your project dares to ask, "WHAT IF?"

What if women and girls around the world had the power and resources to manage their menstruation effectively, sustainably, cheaply and without restrictions?
About Project

Problem: What problem is this project trying to address?

Menstruation is a taboo topic, a lack of knowledge, access to appropriate materials and facilities can have a huge impact on your life especially if you live in poverty. Women are put at a disadvantage because of their period. Disposable culture means 200000 tons of menstrual waste (in the UK) is thrown into landfill each year taking over 500 years to biodegrade. The average woman spends over £3500 in her lifetime on disposable sanitary products.

Solution: What is the proposed solution? Please be specific!

Education and advocacy both in the UK and overseas is the first step to breaking down the taboos. Understanding your body and what is happening to you, empowers you. We want people all around the world starting conversations about menstruation. Providing appropriate education, sanitary materials and access to toilets and clean water in developing countries enables women to have a fairer chance in school, at work and to stay healthy. To enable the generation of funds for these projects we sell menstrual cups and washable pads in the UK, to reduce our environmental impact and to save women money. Who would pass on the chance of giving to charity whilst saving yourself money and reducing the amount of waste you create?

Awards

Female Start Up of the Year at Enterprise Nation's Festival of Female Entrepreneurs 2015, Highly Commended in the University of Bristol's New Enterprise Competition 2015.
Impact: How does it Work

Example: Walk us through a specific example(s) of how this solution makes a difference; include its primary activities.

Charlotte is 17, she spends £7 a month on tampons and hates wasting her money. She attends a workshop at her college, where she learns about 'chaupadi' a nepalese practice isolating menstruating women. She also finds out there are alternative products that can save you money whilst reducing the amount of waste you create. She decides to try a menstrual cup for £12. For the next 10 years she creates no waste and she gets to keep her £7 a month which she puts towards going to university. The profit from the sale of her menstrual cup was spent on helping Julia’s school in Bolivia to build segregated toilets with a lock and an incinerator for menstrual waste. All the girls in her school learnt about menstruation and its importance to women.

Impact: What is the impact of the work to date? Also describe the projected future impact for the coming years.

Through our sales so far we will save over 100,000 disposable menstrual products the equivalent of 1.3 tonnes of waste going into landfill and saved women over £30,000 which they can reinvest back into the local economy here in the UK. We are working with our potential partners in Bolivia and Nepal to develop projects which will help women and girls have access to appropriate toilets, clean water, education and materials to help them manage their menstruation effectively. We are currently conducting research in the UK into what homeless women and those living on the edge of poverty require in terms of managing their menstruation. We hope by year 5 to have 6 charitable projects around the world, to have saved 740 tonnes of landfill waste and women in the UK £16.8 million, we also hope to have broken down some of the taboos by talking to over 9000 UK students.

Spread Strategies: Moving forward, what are the main strategies for scaling impact?

Over the next 5 years we hope to increase our number of sales to around 30,000 a year and a turn over of £250,000 per annum, donating over £27,000 a year to enable us to run sustainable projects in 6 locations around the world including: Asia, Africa and South America. We hope to develop our education by creating engaging workshops that help change the UK's perceptions of menstruation by working in schools and with communities from lower economic backgrounds who may not usually get exposure to these products. We hope to have a nationally recognised brand and be expanding internationally.
Sustainability

Financial Sustainability Plan: What is this solution’s plan to ensure financial sustainability?

Our ultimate aim is for the enterprise to be self sustaining so that the sales of sustainable sanitary products in the UK are solely supporting running our charitable projects in developing countries and in the UK. This will mean there is no longer a need to rely on external funding from backers.To get to this we need approximately £20,000 investment over the next 5 years, part of this will be raised through grants and part through crowdfunding.

Marketplace: Who else is addressing the problem outlined here? How does the proposed project differ from these approaches?

Our Unique Selling Point of donating 100% of profits to charitable causes on menstruation and sanitation sets us aside from the other sustainable sanitary product retailers. Although some of the manufacturers donate a small percentage to charity or such as Ruby Cup provide a 'buy one-give one' scheme, specifically giving away their own product. We want to work with different manufacturers to show their is a choice in products. There are a number of charities already working in menstrual hygiene in developing countries who we hope to partner with. A large part of our work shall be advocacy.
Team

Founding Story

Chloe (the Founder) was volunteering in Bolivia in 2014 for Fundacion Sodis, managing a menstrual hygiene project aimed at school girls. She was shocked by how little knowledge the girls had of menstruation as well as the poor facilities and limited access to sanitary products they had. Yet these girls, many living in poverty, were still concerned for "Pacha Mama" or mother earth and the impact of using disposable sanitary products. This inspired Chloe to do more about disposable culture on her return to the UK. Chloe endeavoured to create an organisation that not only creates awareness of the social issues around the world but helps reduce the amount of waste impacting the environment.

Team

We are currently run by a team of part time volunteers including Chloe our Founder who works on a voluntary basis. Other volunteers include: Brand Developer, Event's Coordinator, Website Manager, Head of UK Research and a Social Media and Communications Manager. We hope to expand our network of volunteers and ambassadors over the next few months to include an Advisory Board and a number of Brand Ambassadors in the different key markets such as students. By Year 2 we hope to have the equivalent of 2 full time paid positions. Chloe has a Master's in Engineering Design and experience working in International Development, Research and Programme Management.
Background
Please confirm how you heard about the Unilever Awards:

Advert on a guardian article about young entrepreneurs

Please confirm your role in the initiative (eg Founder/co-Founder) and your organisational title:

Founder and Director

Which of the 8 UN Global Goals (Sustainable Development Goals) pre-selected for this competition does your solution relate most closely to? [select all that apply]

Gender Equality, Clean Water and Sanitation.

Leadership and the Unilever Awards
Please provide examples of any previous entrepreneurial initiatives you have pioneered.

Chloe, Founder "Throughout my degree at the University of Bristol I was involved with a number of entrepreneurial activities. This included my Master's design project that was looking at how electric vehicles could change the way we travel within cities. I spent much of my time volunteering throughout my time at University including working with the organisation Engineers Without Borders. As the Branch Partnerships Officer I approached two charities running international development projects in India and managed a team of student engineers to develop a rain water harvesting system and a small scale Biogas system for a slum in Mumbai. This experience got me my first taste of social entrepreneurship, looking at the different ways these could be funded and managing the whole project, from budgets down to intricate designs and prototypes.

I have spent time working as part of a Research team for a large wind turbine manufacturer, this has given me an insight into how large corporations work and experiences and knowledge that can be applied to a much smaller enterprise. I pioneered a new manufacturing technique for large scale blade manufacture and saw this through to pilot stage.

I have had the chance to work with two different charities working in menstrual hygiene Fundacion Sodis in Bolivia and Irise International in Uganda, both are small organisations. I have managed projects them and really challenged how they operate and led pilot programmes to explore the different ways of tackling the problems of menstrual hygiene.

I also have experience of working with FRANK Water and the Converging World two organisations in the UK working in international development and trying to change the way people perceive charitable giving. One through carbon credits and the other through buying water to give water."

Beyond your existing team, who else are you working with to achieve your objectives, eg partners, advisors, mentors?

Chloe, Founder "For the next year I am part of the School for Social Enterprise this provides me with one day a month training in how to be a social entrepreneur plus a one to one mentor to give me guidance and advice. The School for Social Enterprise also enables Action Learning Sets a way of problem solving for your organisation through questioning from peers. This opportunity gives me a great chance to work alongside fellow start-up social entrepreneurs and knowledge share as our journeys develop.
Alongside this I previously had a short term mentor through Social Enterprise Works an organisation based in Bristol who have advised me on legal status and guided me through the first steps of launching. As part of my prizes for the New Enterprise Competition I have gained marketing support which includes a Market Research Company helping me to develop a large scale questionnaire and a year long marketing course, giving me the skills to market my organisation on a small budget.

By winning the title of Female Start-Up of the year, I have received one to one advice from mentors in many different areas including crowd funding, investors, web developers and sales.

Over the next few months we hope to develop our network further to be able to set up a board of Advisers of social entrepreneurs, business leaders, experts in the charitable side and academics.

We are working with a number of potential partners including homeless charities and food banks in the UK as well as charities focused on menstrual hygiene and women empowerment in the developing world, including in Nepal, Bolivia and Uganda, we are in the process of developing a rigorous assessment of determining who are the most appropriate partners and what the partnership shall mean to both sides. "

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