Before we jump into a profile of Lunapads, I would like to take a moment for some full disclosure. One of the things we are most excited about with this whole project (the website and book) is the opportunity to meet other business women, this profile however is of some very dear friends. In fact, these gals are more than friends they are also clients, mentors and a real inspiration. Given that we’re so fond of them and admire and support their business so whole-heartedly, I can’t really think of a better business for our first profile.
Anyway, you don’t want to know all about how fabulous I think they are when you can read some excellent advice from straight from the source. And so, with no further ado, we are proud to present our first Boss Lady profile, with Madeleine Shaw and Suzanne Siemens of Lunapads Products International:
1. How many years have you been in business?
We incorporated in 2000.
2. In your own words, how would you describe your business?
We make and sell eco-friendly menstrual products that help women feel great about their cycles.
3. What kind of experience do you have/did you have before starting your business?
Madeleine: A Women’s Studies degree, a passionate personality, a love of fashion and textiles, a strong desire to do something unusual for a career, topped off with profound intolerance for working environments that involve being far away from the ground, pantyhose and windows that don’t open.
Suzanne: a university business degree (commerce) and Chartered Accountant designation. Fifteen years working experience in businesses as an accountant, financial planner, controller and team leader.
4. What was the best piece of advice you have been given as a business person?
Madeleine: Don’t feel like you have to be able to do everything in your business. Part of your skill as a businessperson will be getting clear about what you’re not up for and finding others to do it.
Suzanne: Cash flow is king/queen. Keep an eye on your cash flow: make sure you have enough to keep your business running smoothly. Always be on the look out for more equity (cash for your business), even when you think you don’t need it.
5. What has surprised you the most about being your own boss (owning your own business)?
Madeleine: That I could actually be a businessperson and like it. I didn’t have a business background and never had entrepreneurial aspirations, but it’s been the perfect vehicle for my political “agenda”, and has helped me to learn and grow immensely as a person.
Suzanne: It is a great indicator of what you are capable of doing and learning about yourself. Running a business is much like raising children; you care for it with a passion and it gives back what you put in.
6. What business advice have you received that you feel is best ignored? and/or What is the worst business advice you’ve received?
Madeleine: I have an instinctive mistrust of anything that imputes its “truth” by working its way into a pat acronym (Together Everyone Achieves More), being overly alliterative (The 5 Ps of Marketing) or having an arbitrarily prescribed number of steps or components (The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People), but that’s just me.
Suzanne: I hate it when businesses put profits before people, but unfortunately, that is the standard business model, particularly for publicly traded companies. I also don’t believe it when people make the general comment that businesses that have a strong social or environmental foundation will not be successful and that investors aren’t interested in these types of ventures because they don’t make enough money. It is not all about profits!
7. What are your top three measures of success? (That is, how do you define success for your business?)
Madeleine: At first, sales. Next comes profitability. But you’re not anywhere unless what you’re doing is making the world a better place, including happier people; you, your employees and customers being foremost.
Suzanne: same… sales, profitability and being respected for what you do and how you do it.
8. Was there a moment you knew you were making the right decision to do your own thing?
Madeleine: From the first second that I decided to start a business it just felt right. Meeting my business partner was also a major confirmation of being in the flow.
Suzanne: Taking the risk of leaving the financial security of the traditional business world was incredibly liberating. Once I did, I achieved a great sense of freedom and empowerment to do what I wanted, or explore what was possible.
9. What keeps you going on the tough days?
Madeleine: Love for what we do. This is what I always tell people who are thinking about starting a business: choose something that you are genuinely passionate about, because there will be hard times, and it’s that feeling that will keep you going. Also people: our employees and customers are so wonderful, just a few positive words from them can make all the difference.
Suzanne: Same, plus knowing what we are doing really matters… to the planet, to women, to the people we touch.
10. What is the wildest success story you can imagine for your business’s future?
Madeleine: Bigger picture, periods and washable pads becoming cool to the point where women talked about it all the time, compared and bragged about their pad collections. Lunapads would collaborate with celebrity women to create Pink and J Lo and Hayley Wickenheiser etc. special edition pads. Commensurately, having your period would also become known as a woman’s “wicked” time of the month, when you get your best ideas and take special care of yourself. There would be wonderful celebrations held for girls when they reach menarche – it would even has its own section in card and gift stores. Millions and millions of dollars in sales (with good margins!) Lunapads could become a franchised chain of women’s self-care centres, sort of modern “Red Tents” where women can go for a massage or pedicure, yoga class, ritual, or just a quiet cup of tea with other women in their community. A lot of menarche ritual parties would take place at them. Women could of course buy all kinds of beautiful pads and other products to support their wellbeing. I’d also really like to develop a component to the business’ mission that offers work and training opportunities to at-risk girls and women. Oh – connecting with other women around the world in creative ways would also be very exciting, whether on a strictly business level or through finding ways of supporting women in developing countries.
Suzanne: Yes! Plus: being on Oprah with the likes of Eve Ensler, Inga Muscio, and other rad feminist. Having Oprah say gosh, I wish I had known about these products when I was still bleeding. She would tell the story of how shameful or dirty she felt when she was bleeding, and that what we are doing for women is so important. The audience would be full of like minded women and not the shallow ones you often see!