Taking on Tampons: Startup Weekend Success from a 19 Year Old Founder

Claire Coder is the 19 year old founder and CEO of Aunt Flow. She first pitched Aunt Flow at Startup Weekend in 2015. Shortly afterward, she dropped out of college, picked up a few waitressing jobs, and began work on Aunt Flow full time. 

Aunt Flow is a subscription box for 100% cotton tampons and pads. Menstruators can go online, customize a box, and have it delivered to their door each month. For every box they purchase, Aunt Flow donates one to a person without access to menstrual products in the US.

I couldn’t spend a weekend pretending that I wanted to code another fitness app. Honestly, the only thing I could think about were the cramps I had from my period. The weekend was Startup Weekend, and I was in my first semester of college.

Growing up, my mom never shied away from sharing with me the realities of life. As an art therapist, she frequently worked with menstruating clients struggling with basic needs. She explained that the women she served often wore plastic bags and multiple layers of clothing to stop the flow. It was easier to soil garments than to get a tampon. I didn’t understand why.

Now, I understand menstrual products aren’t covered by WIC or food stamps. When pressed for money, both menstruators and shelters decide food takes precedence over menstrual products.

It’s one thing to understand. It’s another to ideate, plan, and execute a sustainable solution.

Following Startup Weekend, I dropped out of college, picked up a few waitressing jobs, and went full time on my startup, Aunt Flow. My friends and family were concerned and doubtful. I was 18 years old. It did not matter.

Aunt Flow is a buy-one, give-one subscription box for 100% cotton tampons and pads. Menstruators (and FlowBros and anybody) can go online and subscribe to Aunt Flow for $13/month. They receive a personalized period product box on their doorstep each month, and for every box they buy, we donate one of the same quality to the rotating beneficiary organization of their choice.

In Aunt Flow’s first year of business, I have raised $47,000 via crowdfunding, taken on an employee, been featured in Forbes & Teen Vogue, named best startup in Columbus, gathered over 10,000 pieces to donate, and I am selling 100% cotton tampons and pads all across the United States.

Sounds great, right? That list of accomplishments doesn’t include the all-nighters, weight gain, unpaid hours, and all the time trying to pretend everything was “okay.” But, hey, it’s still pretty great.

Aunt Flow is much larger than a product company – it’s a movement. We seek to ensure ALL menstruators have access to these necessary items, no matter their economic status, gender-identity, or ANYTHING. We’re breaking the taboo on menstruation, because the sooner we aren’t afraid to say the word “period,” the sooner we can get menstrual products into the hands of those that need them.

I tell all new entrepreneurs, “Starting a company is hard. Starting a company that only half the population can truly relate to is even harder. Starting a company surrounding something that no one wants to talk about is f*cking difficult.” But it’s worth it when you have a meaningful drive. For me, success is not a college degree; it is how comfortably you can talk about tampons. Flow forward.