Strategic Innovation in Product & Service Design Final with John Zapolski, Fall 2010.


Challenge

For our final project, we were tasked to propose and conceptually develop a business concept. In response, I proposed a for-profit, social enterprise that would address the alarming lack of access to sanitary napkins in developing countries.

 

Approach

Why Sanitary Napkins?

It’s a fact of nature that all females, at one point or another, will probably experience menstruation. And while technological advancements have remarkably improved feminine hygiene products that are currently available, there are still many females in the world who have little to no access to affordable sanitary products. These females have to rely on alternative methods such as newspapers, old rags, or even bark that are not only insufficient as absorbent materials but may also jeopardize their health.

Studies are also indicating that the lack of sanitary napkins can impact school attendance and performance for these females. Take Uganda, for example. Only 38% of girls entering Primary 1 (which is the equivalent of kindergarten) will actually go on to graduate. This is primarily due to girls dropping out once they hit puberty. To add to that, 1 in 10 girls will skip four or five days of school per month due to their periods. Or worse yet, they’ll drop out altogether. Why is this significant? Because “educating girls raises lifetime incomes for them, their families and their countries.” Simply put, one could infer that poverty and menstruation are related.

An Alternative Solution?

 

A few initiatives do currently exist that try to combat this particular issue, such as micro-finance business models that utilize local materials to develop affordable and sustainable products as well as non-profit charity organizations.

While these initiatives are great steps toward alleviating the lack of affordable sanitary products, there may not be a great market for sanitary products in poor areas. 75 cents for napkins is considerably cheaper, but may still be unaffordable for families that survive on as little as $1 per day. And the donation-reliant model may not be sustainable in the long run, particularly when menstruation is a monthly occurrence over a period of many years.

Outcome

As an alternative, I proposed a for-profit business that produces sanitary napkins for the US consumer market, while providing sanitary products for free to the women and girls who either cannot afford such products or have no access. By tapping into the US consumer market, we can use the profits to directly fund efforts in developing areas and provide sanitary products for free.

View presentation slides (PDF)