When I asked 19-year-old Claire Coder for advice about starting a business, she said to:
“understand you have to commit your life to being an entrepreneur”
…which is exactly what she’s done. At age 6, she was selling beer to construction workers (more on this topic later), at 16 she started her first company There’s a Badge for That, and by 18, she dropped out of college to pursue her social enterprise, Aunt Flow.
How does she do it? Keep reading and you just might figure it out…
- Entrepreneur Spotlight: Claire Coder
- Companies: Aunt Flow, There’s a Badge for That
- Location: Columbus, Ohio
EARLY ENTREPRENEURIAL ADVENTURES
Claire began with the typical lemonade stand when she was 6-years-old. There were a couple of construction workers outside her house and she realized that only selling lemonade wouldn’t result in much profit at all. So, she offered the workers beers for $5 each and ended up making a $25 profit off of them. What she realized from this was that at age 6 she was already able to understand her target market. Since this, she has been doing business legally (just wanted to make that clear).
THERE’S A BADGE FOR THAT
- Founder & CEO
- April 2013- January 2016
When Claire was 16, her grandmother gave her a badge maker. She took pleasure in designing these for friends and family until she ran out of supplies. If she wanted to keep going, she was going to need to make a profit from it. Soon after, she began selling them, made a website, and worked with seven distributors across Ohio and internationally. She kept up the business for many years, then recently sold it four months ago to spend more time pursuing her other passions.
- Social Enterprise
- Founder & CEO
- January 2016-Present
ABOUT THE COMPANY: There is an ongoing problem among impoverished families’ that when times are tough, “budgeting, housing and food often take precedent over basic feminine hygiene products.” Claire believes she has found a solution to this through Aunt Flow. It’s a simple buy one, give one business model for tampons. For paying a monthly or yearly subscription, users receive a box of tampons each month and in return, a second box is shipped to a woman in need. Aunt Flow is working with a variety of non-profits including Columbus YWCA, OSU Star House, Freedom a la Carte, and Tiger Pantry in Missouri. “With just 500 women signing up for just one month, Aunt Flow will be able to serve the Columbus YWCA for 6 months” – yes, it’s that easy for us to make a difference!
AUNT FLOW WILL BE LAUNCHING HER FIRST CROWDFUNDING CAMPAIGN ON MAY 12TH (2016) HERE IN COLUMBUS FROM 6-9 PM AT THE KITCHEN
How it began
While participating in the Startup Weekend Columbus conference this past year, Claire became inspired to form her business idea for Aunt Flow and make a true impact on women’s lives. She won second place at the conference, and then went on to win first place in a business competition through the APTE (Alleviating Poverty Through Entrepreneurship) summit at OSU (Ohio State University).
At that time, she was a freshman in her first semester of college at OSU studying Comparative Religious Studies, another interest of hers. She didn’t study Entrepreneurship because she felt that she learned these skills better by acting on them and wouldn’t get the same result out of a classroom setting. She was also working part-time as an Account Executive at Content Via, a startup in Columbus, Ohio.
Aunt Flow was gaining more traction and starting to take up a lot of Claire’s time. She decided after her first semester of college to drop out and pursue her business, in addition to taking on a full-time job with Content Via. Likewise, her job has been very useful in starting Aunt Flow because she’s gained experience writing proposals, managing accounts, working with social media, and more facets of starting a business.
Since you left college, what about your degree in Comparative Religious Studies?
She said that she still studies what she did in school, getting a basic understanding of different religions, but she just learns on her own instead.
Would you ever go back to college?
“No, I wouldn’t go back,” Claire said, and that “not having a degree is more stand out-ish” these days. In fact, she’s able to learn more on her own through her business and her work at Content Via instead of spending money and time in the classroom earning a degree.
“If you’re starting a business to make money, you’re in it for the wrong reasons.”
This was another piece of advice I got from Claire. One reason for this is that when you start a business it will most likely be at least two years before you see any profit. Additionally, she believes that a lot of people need help in the world so starting a company for the purpose of just making money wasn’t a path she wanted to pursue. Instead, she pursued the social component of business…
Claire created the buy one, give one business model because she recognized that “things can’t just be free all of a sudden”. She’s been working to keep the price of her tampons comparable to store brands and negotiating with suppliers to find different alternatives – this way, the decision to buy Aunt Flow’s product and help women in need doesn’t have to be a hard choice.
What’s you end goal for Aunt Flow?
“For every woman in the U.S. to have access to feminine hygiene products…and then the rest of the world after that,” Claire said. She also wants people to be able to talk more freely about things, whether that be feminine hygiene, religion, or anything really….
…To do this through Aunt Flow, she has plans of starting a YouTube channel soon “welcoming taboo to feminine hygiene.” The channel will discuss menstrual topics with both males and females, and will be hosted by a male business partner who goes by the name “Uncle Flo.”
“Don’t be self-conscious about being socially conscious.” – Aunt Flow
What’s the biggest challenge you’ve faced as an Entrepreneur?
Claire answered this question with a few responses. She said that a tough decision for her is figuring out when she should take away her stable job in order to commit fully to her startup. Another challenge she faces is her age. A common form of networking in the area involves events centered around drinking and not only does she not drink, but she’s not old enough to attend these events in the first place.
Do you experience any challenges being a female in the business world?
She said in some ways she does, especially with her new branding for Aunt Flow involving a lot of the color coral. Between being a female and her age, she said, she’s able to get passed this struggle, not by persuading, but through showing her hard work and commitment. However, Claire said that men her age would actually struggle more starting their own business because there are so many more resources and support for female entrepreneurs these days.
What would you say your greatest asset or skill is?
Claire said having the ability and passion to articulate very well with public speaking, especially when it comes to presenting her ideas in front of others. She’s able to sound like she’s older than her age when doing so.
What keeps you motivated?
She said she drinks a lot of coffee, for starters. Also, she sometimes just takes mid-day breaks and dances/does Zumba to boost her energy.
Are you involved in any entrepreneur organizations?
Claire is involved in Unsector, Test City USA, Columbus Young Professionals, and many other networks around the Columbus area.
What are some of your hobbies outside of work?
Claire said she really enjoys dancing, in fact, she’s a certified Zumba instructor and teaches classes here in Columbus. Also, she enjoys writing poetry, specifically spoken word poetry – check out some of here work here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=oBAvIlNAnWU
Through interviewing Claire, I learned an inspiring lesson that age, sex, and whether or not you have a college degree won’t limit you from achieving your dreams of becoming a successful entrepreneur. It’s articulation, self-esteem, and A LOT of hard work that play a role in your accomplishments, no matter what titles you hold.