12-year-old entrepreneur launches healthy comfort food for menstrual cramps

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Every month, many women around the world experience intense cramps, loss of energy and irritability when they are on their menstrual cycle. In a perfect world, they would have access to something with which they would not only be able to replenish their reserves, but also comfort themselves and their taste buds.

But as it stands today, menstruation continues to be a taboo. In India, many young girls and women do not have access to sanitary products, and are not even aware of proper menstrual hygiene. Such is the stigma attached to periods that any inconvenience faced during a cycle, is discussed in a hushed manner.

When 12-year-old Ayraah Lodha, a student of Ascend International School, got her period, she realised the Indian market lacked a product which could be a nutritional supplement, and with which a woman could also enhance her mood.

It further got her thinking if she could do something about it. Thus, the seventh grader put her entrepreneurial skills to use and launched High5, a nutritious granola brand. The pre-teen did intensive research of products that could help with period cramps as well as foods that are mood enhancers, and put these together to create the granola brand.

The journey was naturally not easy. Ayraah had to interview a sample set of about a 100 women. She found that while 87.5 per cent of them have experienced mood swings during menstrual cycles, 79.2 per cent experience period cramps, and 100 per cent need and want a product like the one she had imagined.

Based on her research, she used food items that are rich in iron, like dates, as well as natural mood enhancers like dark chocolate, to create a product that is specific to the menstrual cycle of women.

In an interaction with Express Parenting, while Ayraah talked about her journey of becoming an entrepreneur and smashing menstrual stereotypes. Her mother Vinti Lodha, an advisor at Lodha Luxury, shared her joy of watching her child grow up and work towards something she is so passionate about.

Excerpts:

When did the idea to launch such a product come to you?

Ayraah: The product idea came to me when I got my period and realised the market had nothing readily available as a nutritional supplement or to enhance the mood for women on their menstrual cycles. I knew I had to make this product not just for its nutritional value, but to also help slowly break the stereotypes that come along with this taboo topic.

Who was the first person that you discussed it with? Did you also check with a doctor?

Ayraah: The first person I discussed it with was my mother and my mentors at the Young Entrepreneurs Academy (YEA) program, who helped me bring the idea to life. I also checked with our family doctor who encouraged me to take this idea forward.

What were the challenges that you faced while working on it?

Ayraah: A challenge that I faced was the fear of people taking the product idea in the wrong way, as well as not being supportive of breaking the stereotypes. But, the results were absolutely amazing and everyone was extremely supportive. In fact, I even won the third prize at YEA investor panel. After I launched [High5], I faced a big challenge of marketing and actually getting people to buy it. I started to use Instagram as well as person-to-person advertising, which helped enormously.

Was anyone close to you experiencing crazy period cramps?

Ayraah: Yes, my mother had cramps, and whenever she had her cycle, she had no product for her to use, and she had to stick with hot water bags which may not necessarily work for her, and do not give her any nutrient supplements or iron sources. My brand helps with that and has ingredients that are mood enhancers.

Why do you think menstruation continues to be a taboo in the country?

Ayraah: I think people are ashamed to talk about it. Some women are not even allowed to enter kitchens and temples. We have to normalise it and let it be something that can come up in a conversation casually.

What do your friends and teachers think of High5?

Ayraah: They really like the product idea. Launching it was a bit scary for me as I was confused as to how others would react to a topic that could be considered strange, but the way everyone has reacted is phenomenal and I really appreciate it so much.

How did you zero-in on the name?

Ayraah: The reason the brand is called ‘High5’ is because ‘high’ means to elevate and ‘5’ signifies the days an average menstrual cycle lasts. Also, high-fives are a universal symbol of positivity, which is what I want to spread.

How can the product be accessed and what is the price?

Ayraah: The product can be accessed through my website http://www.highfivesnacks.com and our Instagram is @high5_snacks. The price range is between Rs 350 and Rs 400, depending on the flavour.

How proud are you of your daughter for thinking on these lines and coming up with such an innovative product?

Vinti: It’s such an honor raising a child who is thinking beyond boundaries, breaking stereotypes and working towards what she is passionate about. As parents, we can only give them wings but it’s their effort and hard work which can enable them to fly.

Did you have conversations with her about problems faced during menstruation?

Vinti: She was a part of the YEA program and just then she had her first period and realised there was nothing in the market to help her with her cramps and mood swings. That’s how the idea was born.

There was a lot of work that she had to do on this product. As a parent, how much did you help?

Vinti: Here I would like to give her the entire credit. She did months of research, sat with a nutritionist and a gynecologist, along with her grandmothers for inputs on selecting ingredients that were time-tested to reduce pain and elevate mood.

Have you tried the granola yourself?

Vinti: Yes, of course. We had months of trials before launching the product. She tried various concoctions before we narrowed it down to five flavours based on taste and nutritional benefits.

Besides academics, how important is it for parents to fan these other interests, so that we get more child entrepreneurs?

Vinti: Honestly, these skills take you way beyond anything that academics can do. This is real-life business. At 12, she set up her website, created this amazing product, figured the most environmentally-friendly packaging which is economical. She takes orders, organises couriers, researches so much. She set up her social media account. This is way more than any bookish knowledge.

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