When we first met Molly Hayward of Cora at a local event, we couldn’t help but connect with her friendly personality and engaging smile. But once we started talking about our businesses and passions, everything changed. Molly is one of those individuals you meet in this lifetime that leave you excited about the future. Her ambition and passion to make a difference in such a niche, and often overlooked, industry is extremely admirable and inspirational. We are proud to introduce you all to our Fab Femme Molly Hayward of Cora, the woman who’ll change your view on periods. Read on to learn more about her vision for Cora and her current crowdfunding effort on Plum Alley!
Femme & Fortune: On your website is a beautiful Founder’s Story, (Wo)manifesto, and Modus Operandi. We really love the whole package but can you share a little bit more about what Cora is to our Femme Community?
Molly: Cora in its essence is a movement for women’s reawakening and empowerment. We provide organic tampons, pads, and panty liners in a convenient monthly subscription box, and each time we ship your month’s supply we provide a month’s supply of pads to a girl in a developing country who would otherwise miss school during her period. The products we provide and the support and resource we offer are designed to help you reconnect with a power in you that is uniquely feminine, and wholeheartedly embrace who you are as a woman. When we denigrate, dismiss, and disregard our period as a monthly nuisance or a curse of womanhood, we not only silently inflict a degree of hatred on ourselves, we also miss out on having a real and meaningful life experience in the bodies we were born into. We want you to come to know your body—its natural cycle, rhythms, signs, and signals—and therefore come to know who you truly are so you can be happier, healthier, and more at peace in the rest of your life.
Femme & Fortune: How and when did you realize that there was a void in the market for sanitary products for women?
Molly: On a trip to Kenya, I met a girl who told me that she was home from school because she had her period but couldn’t afford sanitary pads. As a woman, I felt such empathy for her, and right away I wanted to create a way for women in my society to contribute to solving this problem for girls in need with a buy one give one model. And when I started learning about the products most of us use, I was horrified. Conventional tampons and pads are made from chemical synthetics and cotton that has been sprayed with pesticides, and then bleached in a way that contaminates them with cancer-causing chemical byproducts. We then place these products in or next to some of the most absorbent and delicate tissue in our bodies. I was afraid for my own health, and for all of our health. I knew I only wanted to offer safe and healthy organic products to Cora customers, but most organic tampons and pads are only available at stores like Whole Foods or independent natural food stores, or online. In addition, I always seemed to need one more tampon than the number that came in a standard box, but only two panty liners from the pack of 18. So each month I had too much or not enough of the products I needed and ended up having to run back to a specialty store to get what I needed. I knew I wasn’t the only woman who was silently fighting this battle each month. I wanted to create a company that actually honors every woman as an individual, and meets her unique needs during menstruation. I wanted to turn the typical experience of menstruation on its head by making it personal, convenient, thoughtful, and connective.
Femme & Fortune: There are some pretty alarming statistics regarding socio-economic, health, and environmental issues that affect women and girls and their experiences of womanhood. What are some statistics that stood out to you about this problem and how is Cora changing those figures?
Molly: When working with our partners on the ground to decide where to begin the Month for Month giving initiative, I was struck by the fact that only 12% of women in India have access to affordable sanitary pads, and that one in four girls drops out of school at puberty. We’re supporting the widespread establishment of sustainable pad manufacturing in India, which will make affordable, biodegradable pads more accessible, and making sure that girls in school are not burdened with the cost of such products at a time when their focus should be on completing their educations.
Femme & Fortune: It’s hard for some of us (who have the privilege to enjoy first-world luxuries such as sanitary napkins) to really understand the seriousness of some of the issues you address simply because we may not directly relate to the women you met in other parts of the world. Will you please share with us where you’ve traveled, who you’ve met, and some of your experiences that inspired the founding of Cora?
Molly: I’ve traveled to countries throughout the world working for women’s rights and economic empowerment in various capacities, meeting and hearing the stories of hundreds of women and girls. But the most profound experiences relating to menstruation happened during more recent trips to Kenya and India. On my last trip to India, I had the chance to spend time with a group of radiant young women who will receive pads from Cora and our partners. Most of them are the children of sex-workers, and were born into extreme poverty and circumstances that put them at risk of entering into the sex trade as well. They are bright and ambitious, and they know that their education is their ticket to the future they want for themselves, but without sanitary pads, they would have no choice but to stay home. These girls will create the future of their society, and knowing that we can contribute to making their journeys easier keeps me inspired to grow this movement and give girls everywhere the same support and peace of mind during their periods.
Femme & Fortune: In your eyes, what would an ideal world for women look like?
Molly: A world where feminine energy and power balances the current masculine structures of our society—where women are empowered to live according to their own natural rhythms, not those prescribed by a patriarchal system, and where no woman is disempowered by her menstruation.
Femme & Fortune: We love the fact that you encourage women to celebrate womanhood. In your words, we should “experience the seasons happening inside [of us]” which is such a refreshing and holistic approach to embracing womanhood. Can you further explain this understanding and why it is important for women?
Molly: There was a time in history when women were worshipped and revered for their life-giving power. But when masculine power sought dominance, all things feminine, including menstruation, were demonized and degraded, and we are still battling that stigma today. As a result, most of us have fallen completely out of touch with the natural rhythms of our bodies because the masculine structure does not allow for it. Menstruation, for example, is a natural time for physical and mental rest and regeneration (hence why we feel tired and unbalanced). But instead of resting, we pop painkillers, double our lattes, and push through it because our society doesn’t see it as a legitimate reason to slow down.
But when we give ourselves permission to slow down and recharge during our periods, we feel liberated and peaceful. When we embrace our natural cycle we can use it to make sense of how we feel in our day-to-day lives, and make choices that support our wellbeing at every phase.
Femme & Fortune: Cora is obviously also conscious about the environment. Can you explain the significance in Mother Nature for Cora and women?
Molly: Conventional feminine products like tampons with plastic applicators and pads made from synthetics and plastics take millions of years to biodegrade in landfills. At Cora we offer only 100% organic products from Natracare. The cotton is not sprayed with toxic pesticides or genetically modified, and because Natracare products are free of synthetic plastics, they are also biodegradable. Similarly, the pads we provide to girls in India are made from sustainable plant fibers and biodegradable plastics, so there is no negative environmental impact created.
Femme & Fortune: There is so much more that we’d love to learn about Cora and we want to celebrate womanhood with you. Is there anything else you’d like to share with the Femme Community about Cora?
Molly: We want you to know that no matter where you are on the journey to discover who you are as a woman, that we support you and want to help you find peace, acceptance, and power in your womanhood.
Femme & Fortune: Finally, we think Femmes would really enjoy Cora. How can we get started on celebrating womanhood?
Molly: We’ve launched our movement and building our community with a crowdfunding campaign on Plum Alley this month. We’re excited to expand our global reach and spread awareness of this issue. You can hear our story on film below, get free monthly boxes and other amazing backer gifts by contributing to our campaign, and help use spread the word (and the love) to the important women in your life.
[embedvideo id=”93439041″ website=”vimeo”]
Thank you so much to Molly and her beautiful company Cora. Femmes, now is our time to help support such an important cause to us. Share Molly’s vision for a better world for girls and women by helping her fund Cora! Click the image below to learn more.