Interview with Meghan White: Founder and CEO of Period Packs
Name: Meghan White Degree: Business Administration Age: 30 Organization: Period Packs Role: Co-Founder and CEO
Launched last year on International Women’s Day, Period Packs is a nonprofit grassroots organization operating in the Ottawa area that addresses the disparities in menstrual equity across Canada. Over a lifetime, it can cost individuals over $5,000 to manage their period, an expense that leaves 1 in 3 Canadians struggling to access products. Period Packs helps these people by delivering a consistent stream of free menstrual products to community hubs and pushing for legislative reform on menstrual product pricing at the provincial and municipal levels.
Q: What inspired you to start Period Packs?
A: I have a rare genetic disease, and my parents formed a national organization to gain access to treatments for myself, my siblings, and, subsequently, all other patients in Canada. I have therefore seen first-hand the impact that NGOs (Non-Governmental Organizations) and nonprofits can have on legislation. However, it wasn’t until I returned to school that I realized how expensive menstrual products are. On March 8 of 2019, I decided to purchase $100 worth of menstrual products and donate them to charity. I was quite optimistic; I thought I would be able to leave with half the store. But I was very wrong. It was at this point that I realized I could do something more for the people in my community. I decided to host a community drive and invited everyone I knew. I plastered the city with posters encouraging people to donate products to create ‘period packs’, the inspiration behind the name of our organization. That event alone yielded thousands of products. Following that success, I knew I could make a difference and that there was a real need for our service.
Q: Are there currently any other organizations who offer a similar product or service?
A: Several organizations around the world offer similar services. In the US, Period, a Menstrual Movement is a massive movement that is pushing to eliminate taxes on menstrual products in the United States. In Canada, the United Way has provided us with valuable mentorship. They championed the groundbreaking legislative reform, mandating that all BC public schools offer free, safe, and accessible access to menstrual products. Now we know it can be done! We are working to make sure other Canadians are afforded the same access. Fortunately for us, nonprofits don’t compete with each other in the same way that for-profit businesses do. In fact, one of Period Pack’s goals is to create a band of organizations with similar objectives so that we can optimize our resources and push for legislative change across Canada.
Q: Do companies who produce menstrual products feel threatened by organizations like yours since the change you’re pushing for could potentially make them lose millions of dollars in revenue?
A: No, on the contrary! Many of the big players that produce and distribute menstrual products actively seek to build partnerships with organizations like ours across the world. These companies have made it part of their corporate social responsibility plan to end period poverty. They help organizations such as Period Packs by either donating thousands of products to people in need or by selling them to us at a deep discount.
Q: You operate as a nonprofit organization and give your products away for free. How is this initiative being financed?
A: We accept monetary, product, and in-kind donations and use grants to fund our programming. We are also building partnerships with larger corporations and start-up menstrual product providers who donate large amounts of products or will let us buy them for one cent apiece. We have community drop boxes situated all around Ottawa, where individuals can drop off products. Finally, people can sponsor someone in need through monetary donations, which cost roughly $20 for three months worth of supplies.
Q: According to your website, you currently serve the Ottawa community. Do you have plans to expand across the country? If so, what is your timeline?
A: Yes! We plan to go national within the next two years. To achieve this expansion, Period Packs will serve as an organizational hub and connect with community groups and students in order to create chapters across the country.
Q: How do you plan on marketing Period Packs?
A: We use social media with the main focus on Instagram since it gives us a chance to engage with our key demographic of people aged 19 to 30. We do a lot of cross-promotion or Instagram takeovers with experts who help us educate our audience. We are also present at any community event that focuses on women’s health, where we can table and engage with even more people. We have worked really hard on our branding to make sure people identify with us and love our brand. We have also capitalized on memes and funny hashtags such as #periodproblems to make people feel more comfortable about their periods.
Q: What are some initial challenges you faced?
A: Dealing with the overwhelming response was very difficult. We were being contacted by so many different people that wanted to get involved, but we could not manage the demand effectively at the time. From there, we implemented a CRM system, which really helped. The other initial challenge was marketing. We made a lot of mistakes at first, but as an entrepreneur, every mistake you make is a step forward. From there, we learned how to best use social media by creating consistent content, posting every day, and getting the right look and feel for our audience.
Q: How has JMSB or Concordia influenced you and your company?
A: When I first transferred to JMSB, I connected with JMWIBC (the John Molson Women in Business Club). They invited me to be a speaker at one of their events, where I facilitated a workshop to put together period packs that were then donated to Chez Doris, a Montreal women’s shelter. Coming to a new campus also solidified my belief that something needed to be done to help people everywhere. I am also thankful for the incredible network and connections I made. Without them, it would be almost impossible to even imagine organizing an out-of-province event. As a JMSB student, we have an unbelievable amount of resources available to help kickstart an organization.
Q: Would you be interested in collaborating with Concordia faculties, such as Health Services, in implementing Period Packs within this community?
A: Absolutely. It has been an incredible but hectic year for me, but hopefully, in the coming semesters, I can make enough political and legal connections, both in and outside Concordia, to push for change on campus. Menstrual products must be free, safe, and accessible to all students. Period.
Q: Do you have any final thoughts to share with us?
A: It is among my deepest desires to see my community members, peers, and fellow global citizens recognize and harness the power they possess. Individuals do have the ability to kickstart institutionalized change. When you look at organizations like Unicef, Plan Canada, Care, and Amnesty International, it is hard to imagine the starting point from which all of these greatly influential and impactful organizations were born, and this can be a deterrent. All organizations, no matter the industry, begin with a simple desire, idea, or observation, and our communities’ greatest losses come when people do not act on them. When you see a problem, address it. Trust me; it’s worth it.