Women Entrepreneurship Week encourages attendees to focus on personal problems to start businesses
When Claire Coder started her period in a bathroom stall as an undergrad, she discovered a personal problem: she did not have a quarter to buy a tampon.
This personal problem kickstarted her entrepreneurial career, inspiring her to drop out of college at The Ohio State University after her first semester in 2016, and launch Aunt Flow, a company that supplies free period products and product dispensers in bathrooms. The business currently has more than 20,000 dispensaries across the United States and Canada.
Coder shared her experience as part of Women Entrepreneurship Week at Ohio University, presenting to students and OHIO community members through an entrepreneurial workshop. Coder then spoke at a Founders’ Forum hosted by TechGROWTH Ohio, where she shared her business strategies with Southeast Ohio entrepreneurs.
Coder does not have a conventional business background; she emphasized that there are alternative pathways to entrepreneurship and building a business, especially if you are passionate about the issue at hand.
“I had a personal problem and as I talked more about it, I learned that other people also had that problem and eventually we were able to validate it,” Coder said. “This goes against every business practice...there are a variety of different ways to build.”
During the workshop, participants were invited to ask Coder questions, and after sharing her experiences, Coder asked them to identify their own personal problems in small groups and think through possible business plans that could be created from them.
Grace Grunewald, a freshman studying business finance, attended the workshop. As a female business student, Grunewald said she found Coder’s story to be very empowering.
“I thought it was very beneficial to see how much someone can accomplish through one problem,” Grunewald said.
After the workshop, the Founders’ Forum, held at Athens Uncorked, allowed for various entrepreneurs in the Athens area to ask Coder about her business and to network with one another in an informal town hall session.
Lynn Gellermann, executive director for TechGROWTH Ohio, said the conversational nature of the event allowed for deeper connections to be built among the attendees.
“It's important to connect different aspects of the community. Part of that could be students, part of that is business professionals, part of that is different entities within the university,” Gellermann said. “Even though Athens is small, (there’s a lot) of networking going on.”
Coder’s business has expanded to include over $11 million raised in venture capital and 3.6 million period products donated to organizations in need. Her success in extending her personal problem to this degree and seeing it reach schools and universities such as OHIO, who currently stocks the products in a few bathrooms, is surreal.
“It's so incredible to have the opportunity to talk about this business on a campus that has been supportive of the organization in the mission for years now,” Coder said. “It's really exciting to be able to come back and do a full circle.”
These free events were hosted by Ohio University’s Center for Entrepreneurship and TechGROWTH Ohio. The Center for Entrepreneurship is a partnership between the College of Business and Voinovich School of Leadership and Public Service.