It all started with a heated discussion between me and my two daughters, that resulted in a Big Hairy Audacious Goal. We wanted to work out how we might fix period poverty in the UK in a sustainable way, that didn’t rely on the government, and the concept for Hey Girls was born – for every sanitary product we would sell, we would give one away to someone who needs it. Sounds simple hey!
Now that idea is becoming a reality. This morning (2nd January 2018), 330,000 sanitary towels arrived into the port of Grangemouth in Scotland. That’s a lot of pads – here’s how we went from a concept to a container full of quality products in less than a year:
- First and most importantly we spoke to people. Quite a lot of people in fact, starting with women and girls. But also to policy makers, schools, and people that work with vulnerable women. We also spoke to product designers, retailers, investors, and business support agencies – just about everyone we could to work out whether Hey Girls was a good idea (we think it is) and whether we could make it work.
- We looked at the competition. We gathered together lots of existing brands to compare the shape and feel. In workshops across the country, we asked women and girls what they liked about the sanitary products they use right now, and how many they used per month and in what combination. This helped us come up with a new product that is comfier, better fitting, healthier (chlorine and bleach free), and more environmentally friendly than other sanitary pads on the market.
- We found someone to make them for us. The team looked hard for a factory in Europe that could make what we needed, but eventually we settled on a manufactures in China that offered the right kind of working environment to create our products.
- We prototyped the product and tested it for comfort and leaks to check it was what we wanted it to be – and had lots of fun sticking pads on fabrics to check they had just the right amount of stick!
- We spoke to retailers. Hey Girls will (hopefully) be available in supermarkets later this year.
- We built partnerships with schools, women and girls groups, refuge centers and others to build a network to distribute our free ones. We took time to find our first like-minded local authority to launch our products with, and are so thrilled that Hey Girls pads will be available free of charge in 11 schools in West Lothian from January.
- We spoke to other groups working to end period poverty across the UK to figure out how we could work together. And because it’s not enough just to give products away, we’re now working with the Real Period Project and local schools to design education workshops for kids (girls and boys) across Scotland.
- Hey Girls was created by girls for girls, but we needed a little help along the way. We created partnerships with amazing social and values-driven enterprises to make this a reality – Holy Cow took our vision for a brand and made it real; Becky White took on our PR activity; BOLD marketing designed our website; Haven Products will manage quality inspection and our distribution; and it’s the Hey Girls team on the boxes and website photos! (no models for us). We wanted to be sure that when you buy a Hey Girls product you know it’s social enterprise all the way – from the design to your crotch!
- We raised some money. Through social enterprise funding and pitching for cash wherever we could: First Port and UnLtd helped out, a Crowdfunder gave us a little more and we topped up with lots of generous donations (we emptied our savings accounts too) and finally gathered the capital we needed to place our first bulk order.
Now the order has arrived. All the way from China, 330,000 pads have arrived into Grangemouth. From there they will make the journey to Inverness, where the amazing Social Enterprise Haven Products will check them for quality, carefully pack our online sales orders and help us distribute bulk donations to women and girls across the UK.
For now, Hey Girls products are available to order online here. But watch this space – we’re dreaming big – by March this year Hey Girls will hopefully be on the shelves of a couple of major supermarkets.
It’s been quite a journey. Along the way we’ve learned things we hadn’t even considered. Like bar codes, importing, customs and duty, logistics, B2B sales, pallet sizes and adhesives, and had help from a huge range of people that have given their time, skills, advice and support – massive thanks to them for all their help and support to make this a reality.