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 a fabulous team, sell our locally-made products all over the world, own our own office space, and have turned thousands 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're 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 people seeking to help themselves and others 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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Don't stop there.