To kick off Menstruation Month here at Alpha Woman, I sat down with an entrepreneur and impressive Young Alpha, Nicole Sanchez. Nicole is the co-founder of sustainable period product brand Ruth Pads, named after Ruth Bader Ginsberg. These innovative period products help to reduce waste and provide comfortable and ethical alternatives to traditional brands.
Nicole has a familiar story when it comes to menstruation. She described how as a young Filipino woman, she received little education or guidance around menstruation. And like many other young girls and menstruators, she hid her period as a young twelve-year-old, unsure why she was ashamed.
Nicole was inspired after learning that period pads can take 500-800 years to decompose. And by contrast, sustainable products can decompose within just a year. When Nicole discovered this, she was studying e-commerce at the University of Alberta. She later joined the sustainable period brand, Hempact to provide a much-needed alternative to traditional products. This year, Hempact evolved into Ruth, a brand featuring ethically and sustainably made period pads. And while Nicole didn't have plans to be an entrepreneur, her passion for sustainable and shame-free periods inspired her involvement in such a life-changing project.
Nicole described some of the major challenges in starting a business as a young woman of colour in an industry dominated by white men. During our conversation, she described the intimidating environment of pitching a brand for periods in a room full of predominantly white, cis, men. As a young businesswoman, it can be difficult to feel confident as is. But it can be an added challenge when you're selling products considered taboo for many squeamish men. But intimidation did not stop Nicole's entrepreneurial spirit. Today, Community Foundations Canada and Alberta Innovates proudly support Ruth.
After hearing her story, I asked Nicole if she had women entrepreneurs to look up to when she was younger. And her answer was moving. She described how entrepreneurship ran in her family, and her grandparents were poultry farmers. While many don't associate farming with the glamorous image of entrepreneurship, for Nicole, her grandparent's farming was the entrepreneurial inspiration she needed. She also named her grandmother as one of her Inspirational Alpha Woman.
Nicole is an inspiration. She overcomes obstacles, promotes sustainability, and prompts a much-needed change in the period industry. Most importantly, she reminds us all that menstruation is a normal experience worthy of our attention and innovation. And we can't wait to see the impact of her innovation.
Start of interview (1:43)
All about Hempact and Ruth (4:19)
The stigma around women's periods (8:58)
Balancing going to school and starting a business (13:01)
When Nicole first found her entrepreneurial spirit (16:49)
The difficulties of being a female entrepreneur (26:32)
Nicole's Inspirational Alpha Woman (35:00)
Behind the name "Ruth" (41:22)
Advice for Young Alpha Women (48:34)
Where do you see yourself in 10 years? (54:13)
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