Illustrated by Sydney Hass.
I was talking to a 12-year-old girl in the outskirts of South Africa who I had met on a random weekday while traveling, wondering why she wasn't in school. When I asked her, she replied, "It’s my week of shame.” She was so shy, but when I probed her for details, she said softly, “I stay at home during my week of shame. When I menstruate, I stay at home for one week."
Following this encounter, I dug into the issue and discovered that more than 100 million girls in the developing world are using things like leaves, old rags, and newspapers to manage their periods. Though they may start by missing just one week of school, they can eventually fall too far behind and drop out. And, we're talking about millions of girls.
I came back home and talked with my twin sister Radha and my friend Antonia about this, and we eventually began talking about our own period problems. We realized all women have embarrassing accidents that can interrupt the days during our periods, too — and that something could be done about it. Up to this point, I was already a social entrepreneur, having built restaurants and a children’s media company, but I knew that this was going to be my greatest challenge yet — this was all about breaking one of the biggest taboos in the world.
More than three years, a lot of sleepless nights, and hundreds of conversations later, THINX was born as our answer to this big problem. I've learned a lot up to this point in my journey and am excited to share my learnings about getting into social entrepreneurship. Here's my 9-step guide to help you start your own journey!
Illustrated by Sydney Hass.
1. Ask yourself, “What is a problem that’s negatively affecting your life or the lives of others in your community or other communities?” Remember, necessity is the mother of invention. Start by noticing the annoying things you have to do on a day-to-day basis that can be done more efficiently. Rather than complain about, do something about it.
2. Start thinking: What's an idea or a solution that could alleviate the strain of this problem?
3. What is a product, service, or business you could create that could make this solution possible? Don't be afraid to have a pie-in-the-sky attitude here.
6. Find inexpensive web designers, graphic designers, and coders to build a full website. Or, you can figure it out on your own on Wordpress.com, where there are free tutorials and existing templates.
7. Create an effective blog and social media pages to build a readership and brand loyalty. I recommend starting with Facebook and Twitter.
9. Test your product to assess market viability via local fairs, or online stores like Etsy, or pre‐order sites like Kickstarter and Indiegogo.
Sure, some of this may take more than a weekend, but these are simple steps to start now — even if you don’t have any experience. All of my businesses began out of something that was annoying in my life and the only thing all of them have in common is that I had no idea what I was doing at the beginning. The journey has been all about figuring it out. That’s the fun part!
Perhaps most importantly in my experience growing my businesses over the past 10 years is passion. Working with a company that has a mission attached to it is the absolute goal for us: To be able to do well and do good at the same time. This is social entrepreneurship.
I look forward to sharing my journey and lessons with you!