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Former Ohio State student gives hygiene products to women in need

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Claire Coder, founder of Aunt Flow pictured with the tampons she sells. Credit: Courtesy of Claire Coder

Claire Coder uses the profits from the hygiene products she sells to provide products for women in need. Credit: Courtesy of Aunt Flow

They say the first step in solving a problem is recognizing there is one. Claire Coder, a 19-year-old entrepreneur, saw a problem in women not having access to tampons, and sought to solve it through her startup business, Aunt Flow.

Aunt Flow offers a subscription service for pads and tampons, with one box given to a woman in need for every box bought.

Coder was a communication major at Ohio State — for one semester. She said she realized school wasn’t for her so she left OSU in January 2016 to start her company.

“Growing up, my mother was an art therapist so she talked a lot to me about how a lot of individuals did not have access to certain products, among them tampons,” she said. “Aunt Flow is the answer to a national need.”

Menstrual hygiene products are not covered by food stamps or WIC, which affects many of the 16.9 million women living in poverty, according to the Aunt Flow website. The organization partners with multiple charities including the OSU Star House and the Mid-Ohio Food Bank to distribute the boxes of feminine products.

Born out of a startup weekend event, Aunt Flow was financed by a crowdfunding campaign held in February 2016. Coder works on the company full-time with the help of Lindsey McEntee, the social media director, who graduated in marketing at OSU in May.

“I can’t say enough good about Claire. She’s five years younger than me, but she’s so mature and such a great boss,” McEntee said. “She cannot take me on as a full-time employee yet, but she’s been helping me out in a lot of ways.”

Coder said it is challenging, but important, to get people talking about menstruation in order to bring attention to her cause.

“I still struggle with getting support. It’s a hard topic to talk about,” Coder said. “A lot of men get grossed about it and getting male investors on board is significantly harder when they don’t understand the kind of products I’m selling, and the importance of it.”

That is why Aunt Flow works to get the word out. Coder and McEntee organize parties, publish articles on the company’s blog and record videos in order to normalize discussions about menstruation and make them as fun as possible.

“One of our main goals is to get people into talking about it. Because one of the reasons people living in poverty don’t have access to these products is because they don’t even know that it is an issue,” McEntee said.

Aunt Flow plans to give away 100,000 boxes of hygiene products by the end of 2017. Coder and McEntee’s endeavor is just beginning but they have faith they will get through hardships, with the company’s motto, “Don’t be self-conscious about being socially conscious.”

Subscriptions to Aunt Flow are available on the organization’s website.

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