Lunapads: big or small business?

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A Livejournal thread I came across the other day stirred up some feelings for me, so I thought that I’d post about it. It seems that there is an impression out there in certain communities that Lunapads and a few other “major” pad making companies are “big” and therefore “bad”!

Well, you could have knocked me over with a feather.

There are a few issues that I’d like to explore: first, is Lunapads a big company or a small company? Next, what does it mean to be “big” and why does this necessarily mean “bad” in some people’s eyes?

By most standard definitions of small business, Lunapads is a speck of dust. That said, we have worked pretty darn hard to create what we have, and are justifiably proud of it – we have 5 fabulous employees, sell our locally-made products all over the world, own our own office space, and have turned thousands of women on to washable pads. My verdict: small business with big impact.

So what’s the anti-Lunapads sentiment about? I suspect a couple of possibilities, as I know them well myself. First is a general anti-business stance. I was heavily into this in University – basically the idea that anyone who was out to “make money”, no matter how, was “bad” – it was just all about greed. I decided to become a social worker or activist who wouldn’t have to dirty my hands with capitalist muck. All very well and fine, except it didn’t really jive with the feminist view that women should have equal power (including economic) and be able to decide their own destinies (for example running their own businesses). It was all a bit of a conundrum for me until I discovered that business could be a powerful force for the kind of change I believed in, and that my willful ignorance of financial matters could “cost” me and my desire for a greener, more just future, big time.

A further issue seems to lie in the perception that Lunapads are “expensive”, with the implication that we are making an excessive profit. Without getting into too much detail, the fact is that we actually make very little (if any) profit, yet like a “big” company we take on responsibilities and large expenses such as annual registration with the US FDA (menstrual pads are classified as medical devices and resellers must comply with a myriad of regulations) securing product liability insurance, paying for medical and dental benefit policies for our staff, and donating hundreds of pads to women and girls in developing nations – all of which adds up to a small fortune.

As I see it, at its heart, Lunapads is a group of women seeking to help themselves and other women to be healthier and feel better about themselves while reducing environmental harm. Our mission also includes building a successful business as an example of women’s business savvy and financial competence, not to mention supporting our and our employees’ families financially. In fact, I often think of Lunapads as an eco-feminist political agenda that has taken the form of a business in order to maximize its impact. When viewed from this perspective, I ask those who take issue with our size if these are not in fact values that they share, as I have a feeling that they probably are.

As someone who has cut and sewn more than her fair share of pads from home and beyond, I have the greatest of respect for the DIY/WAHM/SAHM pad-makers out there. If their products are what work best for you, then honestly I couldn’t be happier. But please don’t judge Lunapads for choosing to see how far we can take this (and we have lofty plans!) We’re all here for the greater good.

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  • Well said, Madeleine! As one of the other “big” cloth pad manufacturers, I understand and agree with all your sentiments, struggles, and motivations. You are such a good writer! Thanks for sharing your thoughts so eloquently.

    Your compatriot menstrual mogul,

    Brenda

  • Marie

    As a disabled woman who owns a small business out of necessity (in order to feed and shelter myself) I have a great respect for all small business owners. I’m delighted to have found Lunapads. I chose to buy them because they seemed to be the most professionally designed and manufactured products in comparison with similar items on the market. I encourage you to keep up the good work and know there are many women who truly appreciate your efforts!!!

  • Amanita

    I’m the one who wrote that post on LiveJournal…I didn’t know you guys were going to read and blog about it! I feel special. Anyway, I’m a big fan of your company. If I hadn’t seen an ad for Lunapads in Bitch magazine, I would still not know that cloth pads existed, no doubt about it- so, that’s an obvious plus for having your name out there! I think that both work at home women and “large” companies can coexist peacefully, and people shouldn’t get all self-righteous about choosing one over the other. You’re all here for the greater good.

    Cheers,
    A

  • Genevieve

    I’m an auditor at one of the Big 4 accounting firms, but my client base is nearly entirely composed of private companies, big and small, as well as NPOs. Therefore, I’ve been exposed to many different types of organizations in the the course of my career, but the one thing that I can say links them all together is the fact that for the people who run these businesses, making a profit isn’t all about greed. It’s more for the assurance of the survival of the organization. In the media for the past few months, we’ve been hearing about the big 3 automakers going to Washington for handouts, and the huge banks collapsing and paying out huge bonuses, so it’s easy for some people to forget that businesses are not soulless, but made up of people. Take away the people and the business doesn’t exist.

    I use your products and I’m proud that I’ve helped to support people who are trying to use their business to make our world a little better.

    Best wishes to you!

  • Ren

    Big or small you are a great buisness. The “haters” out there are a sign of success on your part. I am proud to support your buisness. Something as positive as LunaPads deserves to grow!

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  • Kimberly

    For those who have questioned the likelihood that they are little to no profit…I can vouch for other similar type businesses. My the time my husband pays all of his expenses including payroll there is nothing left at the end of the month – for 7 years! Sure he would like to bring home money, but it doesn’t happen – yet. I think you may be reading their comment to mean that the founders do not earn money. I’m guessing their business model allows for paying all the employees including the founders, but that the business itself does not have much of a profit at the end of the year.

    Some businesses have a model that allows the owners/founders to bring home money (which you might view as a profit), but others might not. Don’t assume, large or small, that all businesses are making a killing and that the employees are over paid.