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Madeleine Shaw, Founder of LunaPads (INTERVIEW)

Creator of the Pads4Girls Initiative

— March 2, 2012 — Social Good
Madeleine Shaw is the co-founder of LunaPads, an environmentally-friendly line of feminine hygiene products that includes recyclable pads and the diva cup. Madeleine has also been passionate about promoting Pads4Girls, their initiative to bring their products to the majority world where many girls are forced to miss school or work during the week of their menstruation -- or a quarter of every year.

We had the opportunity to catch up with Madeleine and learn more about where the idea for LunaPads came from and the way in which they are using Pads4Girls to empower girls and women so they no longer need to fall behind.

5 Questions with Madeleine Shaw, Founder of LunaPads & Pads4Girls

1. How did the idea for the business model come about?
The business model has evolved considerably since we started. Back in 1993 there was no online shopping or social media, for example, and the model was about going after wholesale sales to health food stores. With the advent of online shopping things started to really expand for us, to the point where today we do upwards of 80% of our business online. With respect to incorporating Pads4Girls into our model, this too has evolved from simply making corporate product donations to today, where we are supporting padmaking workshops in local communities as well as investigating various social enterprise models as well as Transfromation Textiles, whereby waste from large-scale garment manufacturing is upcycled into washable pad and panty supplies in large quantities at very low cost - it's exciting!

2. How did Pads4Girls come to be?
It's just a natural extension of our values and the way that we have always done business. As it happens, our niche (sustainable feminine hygiene) is particularly adaptable to various social enterprise models: the need for the products is global, and there are few if any affordable alternatives in most local markets (i.e. most poor women cannot afford disposable products even when they are available, so there is no potential risk of undermining an existing local industry). Reusable products are far more economical in the long run, and produce negligible waste, particularly when compared to traditional disposables, making them overall a far more sustainable solution.

What's really exciting about embracing the social enterprise model is that not only are girls receiving supplies that will have a direct impact on their education (and by extension, their futures overall), it creates employment through the manufacturing, distribution, sales and/or education involved. AFRIpads (a Ugandan company modeled on Lunapads) is a shining example of this.

3. How do you get your inspiration?
Suzanne and I are motivated above all by creating social change for women and girls, so being able to do it on a global scale as part of our business practice is deeply gratifying and inspiring. The connections and conversations that we are able to create with girls and women around the world via social media are another source: it's Sisterhood in action!

4. What has been your biggest challenge?
Balancing business growth and profitability with our social profit agenda. Sadly, they do not always fit perfectly together and we often feel torn between working on Lunapads and Pads4Girls.

5. How do you reset yourself to be creative? Do you have any rituals?
I am naturally very creative, however have noticed a pattern over the years when I am getting burned out or spread too thin that my creative capacity kind of goes out the window. The first step in getting it back is definitely just noticing: little things like having trouble deciding what to wear in the morning can be giveaways for me. Then I know it's time to take better care of myself, and also to ask for help from others on the team. I still forget sometimes that I don't need to know everything or do it all on my own, particularly with respect to the creative process.
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