Eco Femme turns 10!
In searching for an overarching metaphor to attempt to describe what this journey has been about, the one that jumps most naturally to mind is motherhood – so bear with us as the related metaphors start to flow!
From the beginning, as our initial seed idea germinated, we sensed Eco Femme was precious and, whilst birthed through us, also bigger than us. We realised that our job was to nurture its growth, protect it and guide it without controlling what it wanted to become. We realised instinctively that it was not ultimately ours and it would have its own destiny. Our job was to listen for what IT wanted to be.
The project started at a pregnant moment in the world. In India and globally, menstrual health management (MHM) was becoming the flavour of the month. Cloth pads, however, were virtually unknown. In our early attempts to present the idea in different forums we were often met with mild curiosity at best and sometimes outright scorn and contempt as if we foreigners were trying to turn the clock back to “primitive” practices.
The first years were very challenging. We were not confident mothers of Eco Femme and had a steep learning curve ahead when it came to understanding the business side of things in particular. Moreover, trying to introduce an innovation is never easy as it pushes against established mindsets. Was our baby healthy? Were we getting it right? Did it need more of this or that? And of course, lots of sleep disturbed nights when the pressures and anxieties took over. The first years were relentlessly busy and demanding – we could never have imagined how all-consuming this would become!
It was only about five years ago when we realised we were no longer a start-up… the baby survived, thrived actually, and had made it through its early milestones successfully.
As an adolescent, Eco Femme needed a different kind of care. Our neurotic obsession with its survival transformed gradually into something else. We settled into a new phase where we understood what Eco Femme was and its secure place in the very niche menstrual landscape. We understood what was necessary going forward with a confidence earned from the years of being so intimately attuned to it. With financial stability achieved, the focus shifted to establishing the team, structures and strategy that would sustain growth and ensure future stability. There is a lot more than can be said but perhaps it is more fun to look at in the visual representation below.
What we would like to say though is that NONE of it would be possible without the incredible support and help of literally hundreds of people over the years. They say it takes a village to raise a child and we agree. It took a global village and, in particular a community, to raise Eco Femme 🙂
In the early years we had incredible help and mentoring from Gijs and others at Unlimited Tamil Nadu. Dasra also helped us establish our place in the MHM landscape of India by offering timely and professional support that nurtured our skills and helped us establish those systems for sustained and healthy growth with a social impact focus. There has been the community of Auroville – our home – which has provided endless inspiration and supportive conditions for starting up. Particular Aurovilians and Auroville projects like Auroville Village Action Group, Uma from Upasana and Elaine who stepped in to help us at critical moments. To all our friends and supporters within the community who have encouraged and guided us on our way, a deep bow of thanks.
Today we also work with four local production units and their loyalty and commitment is something we feel deeply grateful for. While they are not our employees, they are a huge part of what has made Eco Femme a success.
Over the years we have come into contact with an incredible band of ambassadors and NGO partners who have voluntarily joined us in spreading the cloth pad revolution. And to our loyal customers and retailers who have believed in our brand and helped it grow in India and around the world, thank you for being with us, believing in what we do and stepping up to find your own voices on behalf of women and girls and the earth. Together, we are helping shape the menstrual movement in India and all around the world.
Last but not least are our team. Today we are 21 women and if we had to name what brings the greatest joy and personal satisfaction, it is the energy working closely together on a daily basis that feeds us. Their passion, goodwill, loveliness and commitment give us tremendous strength and motivate us every single day. Imagine a place where going to work can actually lift your spirits when feeling low – that is what it is like for us at Eco Femme. It is a field of love! Our gratitude for the whole team – both current and to those who have been with us and moved on – is boundless. Eco Femme is a team effort and working with such people has been a thoroughly enriching and perspective-changing experience of what is possible when working for a higher vision.
Endings of cycles are also beginnings of new ones and we look forward to embracing the future together and continuing to impact the whole culture around menstruation. We still dream of a transformed worldview where one day we may look back and ask ourselves incredulously – whatever were we thinking when we thought disposable napkins were ok!? Or shake our heads in disbelief at the idea that a girl could possibly feel shame around something so natural as attaining menarche! And we also hope to be smiling and wondering about all of this 10 years from now in a new building as the place we are currently working from is simply too small for us now. This is our little personal dream along with the bigger ones… building a permanent base for Eco Femme’s continuous growth and social and environmental impact on an even larger scale (watch this space!)
We close this note with full hearts brimming with so much gratitude for all your support along the way – we would not be here without you and look forward to sustained partnerships and collaboration in the years ahead!
Jessamijn and Kathy
Co-founders ( i.e. mothers of), Eco Femme