Magic can happen when two determined women with entrepreneurial spirits and complementary skills sets cross paths.
Business partners Madeleine Shaw and Suzanne Siemens have conjured up just that by channeling years of hard work and their passion for making a difference into a successful, socially-minded company that’s been in operation for over ten years now.
An Idea Takes Off After a Chance Encounter
Lunapads International Ltd., a Vancouver-based company, manufactures and markets natural feminine hygiene products as reusable alternatives to disposables, as well as an underwear line called Lunapanties.
As a lifelong non-conformist with a passion for social activism, Madeleine began developing Lunapads and Lunapanties in the early 1990s as a part of her first company. While motivated by personal health and environmental concerns, Madeleine discovered an unexpected benefit in making the switch to reusable pads – she felt more positive about her body image and more accepting of her menstrual cycles.
At the same time, Suzanne was winding down her career as a corporate controller when she and Madeleine met. While her previous career had been successful, it was also very demanding and didn’t provide Suzanne the personal fulfillment she wanted from her work. After meeting Madeleine at a community leadership course, Suzanne knew she had found the right opportunity to align her business acumen with her personal values, and the two partnered to bring Lunapads and Lunapanties to a global marketplace in 1999.
A Productive Partnership
Since Madeleine and Suzanne joined forces, Lunapads International Ltd. has taken off. Today, you can find Lunapads products at London Drugs. And thanks to Madeleine and Suzanne’s hard work, along with the commitment of their loyal customers, over 1 million disposable feminine hygiene products are now diverted from landfills every month.
Not surprisingly, one of the biggest lessons Madeleine and Suzanne have learned in their business is the importance of having a partnership with someone with complementary strengths. Madeleine’s excels at storytelling, writing and relationship building, while Suzanne covers leadership, finance and operations. Together, they pool their collective strengths to take care of human resources, strategic planning and public speaking.
Making a Difference, Globally and Locally
For Madeleine and Suzanne, making a difference in women’s lives around the world is essential to their business. “Lunapads donates washable pads to women in developing nations through our Pads4Girls program, providing a sustainable solution to the often overlooked problem that millions face – missing school for several days every month because they lack adequate means to manage their periods,” says Madeleine. “Thanks to Lunapads’ buy-one, give-one campaign called One4Her, for every eligible Lunapads product sold, an AfriPad made by women in Uganda, is donated to a girl in East Africa.”
While Madeleine and Suzanne are very aware of the societal and global impact of their business, they’re also committed to making a difference in their immediate community too. Their company directly employs nine people locally, and the majority of product manufacturing is also local – their production partner is a family-owned business located just steps away from the Lunapads head office. All of their web and graphic design, printing, packaging and other services are sourced from the Greater Vancouver area as well.
And their efforts haven’t gone unnoticed. Lunapads International Ltd. recently won Best Community Impact at the 2013 Successful You Awards, and was also named one of BCBusiness magazine’s Top 20 Innovators in 2011. What’s more, in 2011 Lunapads International Ltd. became a certified founding Canadian Benefit Corporation, which is to sustainable businesses what Fair Trade certification is to coffee. They are one of only 675 qualified members worldwide.
Madeleine and Suzanne have no intention of slowing down anytime soon. They’re currently focused on growth with plans to launch a line of incontinence products, and also plan to focus even more on the needs of teens and young girls as they move their business forward. Of course, they’ll continue giving back by donating pads to developing nations, mentoring local women entrepreneurs, and participating on various boards and in other volunteer activities.
But when bogged down with the day-to-day details of operating and growing a business, what keeps both of them inspired after over ten years in business? “Our staff, peers and colleagues, and the partner organizations we work with through Pads4Girls,” says Madeleine. “But above all, the girls whose futures we are able to enhance though Pads4Girls and One4Her – they’re the ones who are going to change the game for everyone.”