Personal experiences and the desire to make a difference in the lives of others are often the two key drivers of social entrepreneurs when it comes to starting up their businesses. For Nigerian social entrepreneur, Olivia Onyemaobi, founder of Pad-Up Creations, her inspiration came from the need to help women and girls to manage their menstrual hygiene and fulfill their potential.
LoA found out more about this social entrepreneur on a mission to make a difference.
What does your company do?
We are a social enterprise in Nigeria manufacturing affordable and eco-friendly washable/reusable sanitary pads to help keep girls in schools during their menstrual cycle and also improve women’s economic involvement in society. We also organize menstrual hygiene management and reproductive health education in schools and women groups.
"Pad-Up Menstrual Kits contain sanitary pads that are chemical free, breathable, leak proof and super thin."
What inspired you to start your company?
Sexual abuse experiences are usually indelible. Remembering my 9 years’ cruel, incredible and sour sexual abuse experiences during childhood, I raised a campaign against child sexual abuse in July 2015, educating and rehabilitate children, especially the ones suffering from sexual trauma in Nigeria. During the course of counseling and rehabilitating the girls, we discovered that many of the girls are regularly exposed to sexual abuse because their parents could not afford some of their material needs, one of which is a “sanitary pad”.
We also discovered that out of the 1500 girls counseled in the space of one month during October 2015:
- 68% had infections due to the use of unhygienic materials during menstruation (Use of leaves, feathers, rags, old foams, hay, sitting on sand, etc).
- 79% are usually absent from school during their menstrual week because they could not afford sanitary pads.
- 97% of them lacked self esteem
- 70% regret being girls because of their menstrual flow.
- 95% of the girls counseled have had sexual intercourse at least twice in exchange of material needs, one of which is a sanitary pad.
All these issues and more led me into research to find the most affordable, healthy and eco-friendly menstrual management solution for Nigerian women and girls. This research gave birth to the PAD-UP MENSTRUAL KIT. It’s a kit of affordable and eco-friendly washable/reusable sanitary pads with a minimum reusable period of 1 year. My idea was considered outstanding, being among the 1000 selected out of the 45,000 applicants in the whole of Africa in the 2016 Tony Elumelu Entrepreneurship Program.
"We have in these few months impacted the lives of over 20,000 girls/women with our products and menstrual hygiene management education."
Why should anyone use your service or product?
Pad-Up Menstrual Kit contains sanitary pads that are chemical free, breathable, leak proof and super thin. Our pads save anyone from rashes or irritation as we do not line our pads with polythene and they have no chemicals in them. Also, the pads save you from the monthly expenses of buying pads, for a whole year.
Tell us a little about your team
We have a team of passionate and self motivated staff who are working tirelessly to fulfill the company’s vision. Most times, we have a good number of staff exceeding their daily targets - some staff members in operations go as far as developing new markets and selling the products. We work like a team and we believe in every staff member.
Share a little about your entrepreneurial journey. And, do you come from an entrepreneurial background?
Yes!. I had always wanted to do something new. Everyone in my house believed I would create an invention before the age of 15. Between the ages of 11-14, I did so many things. At 11 I had already written my first book. I made shoes for adults, school bags, sewed clothes with needles, and made hairstyles for people. I had always known that I would own a business. Though I earlier focused more on writing books, I have 7 publications in total so far. In 2011, my husband and I started a poultry farm, we always had 200 ready to sell birds every week. But because we left the management in the hands of other people, it failed as a business. In 2013, I started a company that manufactured liquid soap. We were doing well, we had distributors in different states, but because we hadn’t enough time for the business, it failed. But this time, I had to quit my formal job to get this business going well. I started this company in May 2016, though I had another person to manage the business, I was not getting the right result needed. In December, 2016, I resigned from my Auditing job in a commercial bank in Nigeria to formally focus on Pad-Up Creations. It has been a fulfilling period, working with amazing team full-time.
"We hope to reach 15 million women/girls in 5 years. We tagged it Vision ‘15 in 5’. We also hope to be a household name in Nigeria and Africa."
What are your future plans and aspirations for your company?
We have in these few months impacted the lives of over 20,000 girls/women with our products and menstrual hygiene management education. We hope to reach 15 million women/girls in 5 years. We tagged it Vision ‘15 in 5’. We also hope to be a household name in Nigeria and Africa.
What gives you the most satisfaction being an entrepreneur?
The major satisfaction I derive from being an entrepreneur is creating jobs which in turn creates products that positively impact the lives of women/girls. There are so many people who have the skills, energy and are willing to work, but have no job. Giving them an opportunity to express themselves is what gives me fulfillment. Also, understanding that people derive satisfaction from our products also keeps me fulfilled. Imagine receiving a call from someone very early in the morning, that she wants to appreciate us She had a spontaneous menstrual flow very early in the morning and what saved her is that she had a kit of our washable and reusable sanitary pads. You can imagine how frustrated she would have been, rushing out to buy sanitary pads very early in the morning before going to work.
What's the biggest piece of advice you can give to other women looking to start-up?
To every woman out there, just start something! Do not wait until you have all you need, no one gets all their needs met in the early days. If I hadn’t started the campaign against sexual abuse, I wouldn't have discovered that there is need for sanitary pads in Nigeria. You can start, no matter how small, and surely you will grow bigger sooner.
Contact or follow Pad-Up Creations
Why LoA loves it….
Social entrepreneurs are driven to make a difference, and in the case of Olivia Onyemaobi, her passion comes from her desire to educate and help women and girls to manage their menstrual health and lives better. The result is not only that large numbers of women and girls are being positively impacted, but also that jobs are being created and skills learned. --- Melanie Hawken, founder and editor-in-chief of Lionesses of Africa