Interested in starting your own entrepreneurial journey but unsure what to expect? Then read up on our interview with Aiko Pickering, Founder of Monthly, located in Mobile, AL, USA.
What's your business, and who are your customers?
Monthly makes gender-inclusive, sustainable, and affordable period underwear. We also donate 10% of our profits to charities in the South focused on fighting period poverty and promoting period equity. We serve all people with periods that are looking for comfortable, affirming, and affordable alternatives to disposable products like pads and tampons.
Tell us about yourself
I am the CEO and Founder of Monthly, and it all started in 2020. Like many, the pandemic forced me to pivot my career. After graduating in December of 2019 and moving to the UK, thinking I would never be back in my hometown, I soon found myself back in Mobile, AL. I began looking for jobs in social impact, non-profit, or similar, but those jobs were few and far between in Alabama. So, instead of waiting for the role I wanted, I started a charity project to address the issue of period poverty. We donated pads and tampons to those in need, and I found a growing passion in that work. In late 2020, donations slowed, and I pivoted yet again and created Monthly. When I embarked into the period care space, I was exposed to menstrual equity, gender dysphoria and periods, the burden that pads and tampons had on our planet, and the growing realization that sustainable period products were expensive and lacked inclusion. From then, I was determined to find a better solution for all of us who menstruate, and I have been working on Monthly ever since.
What's your biggest accomplishment as a business owner?
My biggest accomplishment as a business owner is being able to help people feel seen and heard while changing the narratives around periods. The period care space and development has historically left out the lived experiences of trans and non-binary people. It has also perpetuated a single narrative of what it means to experience periods which has included putting a tampon in and jumping off a diving board or doing a backflip on a gymnastics beam. Through Monthly, I have been able to challenge these narratives, truly address the pain points people have with current period products on the market, and join the growing discourse of how people actually live with periods. From partnering with trans and non-binary creatives to influencers that share their period experience living with vaginismus, I get to join these awesome folks in revolutionizing how we talk about periods and how we create period products. It is truly heartwarming to see the warm response and support Monthly has had and the impact we've been able to make.
What's one of the hardest things that comes with being a business owner?
As a first-time founder with an English degree, finding my footing in the startup space was tough, especially running a business in the period care space and living in a place where periods are not often talked about. I have heard a lot of "no's," "this product isn't necessary," and "you don't know how to run a business" comments throughout this journey -- which led to a lot of imposter syndrome. Getting into the headspace that I am capable of running a business, that I know what I am doing, and that my product fills a need took a while to do. I was able to get this far and believe in myself and my abilities because of the really awesome people in the startup space that showed up for me and believed in my idea.
What are the top tips you'd give to anyone looking to start, run and grow a business today?
My first tip is to look at yourself in the mirror and tell yourself that you can do anything you set your mind to. From a young age, we are taught that there is a path that we should follow for success, and that makes it scary to take the leap into business ownership and deviate from that path. It can also make us feel like we aren't the right person for it. We are the right people for it. You CAN do it.
Second, lean on your community or find a community to lean on. If I had not reached out to startup/business resources and people in my community, I would have never seen this business through. Find people who have experience and want to help you and your business grow. They will be your advocates and will help you more than you know.
Third, don't let someone who is not your customer tell you that your business is not necessary. I cannot tell you how many people without periods did not understand my product! And at first, it really discouraged me, but my customers understood my product, and that is what matters. If your customer likes, wants, needs, and is purchasing your product, THAT is what is important and determines if your product is filling a need.
Where can people find you and your business?
If you like what you've read here and have your own story as a solo or small business entrepreneur that you'd like to share, then please answer these interview questions. We'd love to feature your journey on these pages.
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