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Small Business Credit Profiles

An overlooked product breeds inspiring results

What do a menstrual cup, fighting the gender gap and building stronger communities all have in common? They're all being done by the same company

Summary

VOXAPOD not only created a menstrual cup designed to be the most comfortable and easy-to-use on the market, the company also gives back to those in need. By donating products and a portion of sales to keep girls in school, VOXAPOD is on the frontlines of reform.

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Amanda Wilson

Amanda Wilson

Amanda Wilson is the founder of VOXAPOD®, a Portland, Oregon-based period care brand. Her company – which began pre-order sales on International Women’s Day in 2018 – produces a patent-pending menstrual cup designed to be the most comfortable and easy-to-use on the market. It replaces disposables, such as pads and tampons.

VOXAPOD is set up as a benefit corporation that fights the gender gap, reduces waste and builds stronger communities. “We donate period products and 2% of sales to keep girls in school and provide menstrual health education,” says Wilson. “In the U.S., some women are forced to choose between food and period products, while 40%-60% of girls in developing countries won’t attend or stay in school, in part because they lack access to period essentials. Instead, they use mud, leaves or dirty rags, risking infection.”

Because VOXAPOD is reusable and toxic-free, it can be worn for up to 12 consecutive hours, which eliminates the disruption of class time and expensive monthly cost of disposables. “We believe the single most powerful way to combat poverty in the world is through the education of girls,” says Wilson. “They’ll marry later, have fewer children, earn higher wages, have healthier families and reinvest 90% of their earnings back into their locality.”

In addition to being a passionate fighter for gender equality, waste reduction and community building, Wilson is a board member of XXcelerate, which helps women entrepreneurs grow their businesses, connect with resources and peer support and scale profitably.

Along the way, Wilson uses credit cards – effectively and powerfully.

See related: Sounds like a hit: Business and music come together in harmony

What was the beginning of VOXAPOD like?

I’m very proud of the humans that make up our team and their resiliency, creativity and strategic agility! They overcome challenges – personally and professionally – every day to ensure this important work is realized.

Our first crowdfunding attempt was a fail (talk about a sucker punch to the gut), but we quickly learned, pivoted and rebounded with a second relaunch that was successful and allowed us to take our concept to market.

From there, our manufacturing went awry at several turns for the first year. Finding a qualified manufacturer, in and of itself, was a challenge. It required FDA registration, expertise in complex product designs and cleanroom capabilities to make medical devices.

Our first manufacturer fell through, forcing us to start over. The months that followed made it clear that we needed to re-tool, but our budget for tooling had already been spent. We managed to secure a grant that allowed us to purchase a new tool and move manufacturing to California with a reputable medical device manufacturer.

In overcoming these hurdles, we’ve continued to float sales and ration our remaining inventory on-hand to avoid a backorder situation. That being said, we’re excited for new inventory to arrive in June, at which time we will be able to ramp up marketing and sales, do more outreach and create more jobs!

See related: Menstrual products now classified as qualified medical expenses

Were you surprised by any costs along the way?

Yes! When our first manufacturer fell through, the bids that followed were a 300% or more increase from what we had budgeted. I always advise entrepreneurs with a consumer product goods company to ensure they have two backup manufacturers lined up, should anything go wrong.

How have you incorporated credit cards into the business?

It’s always a good idea to have additional credit at the ready, should an unexpected expense arise that your budget cannot bear. We’ve used credit cards to float expenses while waiting on accounts receivable at times, but also to maximize rewards and build our business credit. The latter feels like a no-brainer.

The main card I use is the Visa business credit card through Umpqua Bank, and the other is the Chase Freedom* card. We charge all of our monthly operation subscription fees – including QuickBooks, Later, ShipStation and Dropbox – but we also charge larger business expenses such as packaging, inventory, registration fees and contractors. It helps us build our business credit and accrue cash back rewards.

Do you keep a balance on the credit cards?

At this time, we remain debt-free. However, with some pretty hefty growth goals coming down the pike, we plan to temporarily leverage our credit to ensure our inventory supply is meeting our demand.

What is ahead for the business?

We are in a really exciting place of expansion and positioned for growth this year. In April, we were one of four businesses that won a $10,000 grant from Visa and IFundWomen. This will allow us to hire an operations assistant to oversee day-to-day logistics, grow production and market reach, improve supply chain management and expand outreach and product donation in the U.S., Africa and India.

Since retooling, we will be equipped with new inventory. But to keep up with the demand, we need more hands on deck. This key hire is critical for hitting next growth milestones and allows me, as the founder, to invest more time in driving sales and marketing efforts, which will ultimately secure funding for future hires.

Also, VOXAPOD is currently sold online through our website and in small retail stores, but because of the grant, we plan to ramp up our marketing and sales strategies and expand through retail locations, affiliate sites, online retailers and strategic exports.

As a brand, we intentionally use our resources as tools for ethical progress. With the recent outbreak of COVID-19, we are committed to expanding our operations and outreach to provide safe period products, education and opportunities to those most in need – both in developing countries and right here at home.

What have you learned about credit and money along the way?

Unfortunately, we were not handed a step-by-step guidebook on borrowing money and had to learn along the way. This is where it is imperative to shelve your ego and ask all the questions. Then, ask more questions.

I believe entrepreneurial growth is directly tethered to personal growth. We all grow up with different perceptions and narratives about money, including our childhood experiences that inform those narratives. That means, learning about borrowing money isn’t simply about making a calculated risk or technical business model, but often requires dismantling old beliefs to cultivate a healthy relationship with borrowing money and adopting a growth mindset.

Lastly, can you share any advice to entrepreneurs who are just starting out?

Surround yourself with people that challenge and inspire you. Find a community of other entrepreneurs; it can be isolating and you will need peers to get you through. Be agile and willing to ditch an idea when there is no proof of concept or market validation – this will save you time and resources in the long-run.

Recognize failure as part of the process and fail fast to flush out what is working when you don’t have data points to draw from. Listen to your customers a lot and follow their lead. Be transparent and kind. It builds trust and community.

And raise more money than you think you need because you will need it!

*The information for the Chase Freedom has been collected independently by CreditCards.com. The card details on this page have not been reviewed or provided by the card issuer.

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