Student Innovators of the Week
Kathryn Aiken and Devin McMahon
Co-Founders of LilyPad
Please provide your 30-second pitch about your company.
The LilyPad Company was founded in February 2016 when Kathryn Aiken and Devin McMahon decided to team up and work to break down the social stigma around menstruation. They believe that by designing superior menstrual products that provide women with comfort and confidence in their bodies during every week of the month, and pairing those products with a community of open discussion and female empowerment, they can change the conversation around menstruation.
The LilyPad Company is an online store for women to satisfy their menstrual needs in a convenient way, and a trustworthy place for women to share empowering stories, have feminine questions answered, and remember that menstruation is a natural part of life for most women – and so nothing to be ashamed of.
Kate: I think we both just got to the point where we were so frustrated with the stigma around menstruation and the lack of satisfactory products that we had to step up and do something about it.
Devin: We want to remind women that menstruation is completely natural and that they deserve to feel comfortable with their bodies every day of every month, but we also want to get a social conversation going that makes people more comfortable with menstruation. We are still largely stuck in a place where it’s embarrassing for women to talk about their periods, and that’s not ok.
Who or what was your best resource for starting your company?
Devin: We’ve found the Entrepreneurship Center (ECenter) at UNH to be an incredible resource. In its innovator space, we actually have an industrial sewing machine that we’ve been using to make prototypes of our design.
Kate: Alpha Loft also has a co-working space in the ECenter. Between the ECenter and Alpha Loft we have been able to work with so many reputable advisors who have been able to share different perspectives on “best practices” with us. We feel so lucky to be in a community of people who support entrepreneurship and are excited to help us create an incredible company.
What was your biggest obstacle in starting your company and how did you overcome it?
Devin: I think that our biggest obstacle has been that not only are we young, but we have never started a company before.
Kate: We knew that right off the bat, so we made sure to surround ourselves with experienced entrepreneurs and professionals who we trust. They have been invaluable in their assistance to us, and we have learned so much already.
Devin: We’re learning very quickly that people sometimes look at us in a strange way, wondering why on Earth we would spend so much of our “college glory days” on starting a company. A hurdle for us has also been starting to listen to ourselves and using the doubt of others to make our partnership and company stronger.
Kate: Yeah, we definitely have begun to see that some people brush us off because we are younger and less experienced, but between the support of our families, friends, and much of the community, as well as our teamwork, we are getting better at learning quickly and being confident in ourselves- which is pretty ironic considering we’re starting a company to support women and remind them to always be confident in themselves!
What’s the best advice you have received?
Devin: To stop second-guessing ourselves and to start making confident decisions. I think we are still learning how to do that, but anytime we second guess what we should be doing, now we sit down together, take away all of the different advice we’ve been given, and figure out what WE think is best for OUR company.
Kate: Ian Grant and Todd Boucher actually both gave us a similar piece of advice- that entrepreneurship is an art form, and so we need to take in all of the information that we can and make our own decisions. We aren’t “young college girls” anymore, we’re entrepreneurs.
What made you interested in starting your own company?
Devin: We’re both the kinds of people who like to take action. Once we acknowledged that there was a problem, instead of mulling on that we instinctively moved towards how we could solve the issue, and then started making plans.
Kate: We also both have nonprofit organizations, and so although managing a nonprofit and a for-profit company is different, we’ve had experience in starting and managing companies. Like Devin said, our biggest reason for starting The LilyPad Company is really that current menstrual products don’t make women feel confident and comfortable in their own bodies, and actually cause women added stress during menstruation. We want to change that.
What does the future look like for your company?
Kate: Right now we’re preparing our Launch for January 2017 and then we plan to grow from there. We are really focused on outlining our online community so that people know that we are more than our products.
Devin: In our eyes, The LilyPad Company is changing the way that society reacts to menstruation and the ways that women feel about themselves during menstruation and in everyday life – we’re just starting out by selling menstrual products and creating a trustworthy community for women.