Molly Hayward '10 has reimagined feminine hygiene to provide women around the world with access to healthy menstrual products.
By Amy Martin
Molly Hayward ’10 has a vision: Some day, every woman and girl on the planet will have a safe and effective way to manage her period.
It’s a lofty goal—worldwide, more than 100 million women lack access to adequate menstrual products—but Hayward is quickly making an impact as the founder and CEO of the premium feminine hygiene startup Cora. And the company’s early success is getting attention: Hayward was recently named to the Forbes 2017 30 Under 30 list for retail and e-commerce.
Cora provides organic feminine products to women, with a twist: profits from each sale fund a month’s supply of feminine products for girls in a developing country so they can attend school or work.
“Menstruation is one of the only experiences all women across the world share,” says Hayward. “In some cultures, it is shamed and it can be oppressive for women who lack access to safe and healthy ways to manage their menstrual cycle. No woman should feel disempowered by her womanhood, and I believe that women in our society empathize with a woman’s need for these products.”
Through Cora's commitment, nearly 200,000 pads and menstrual products have been distributed to women and girls in need. Cora products are also manufactured in rural villages and impoverished urban areas to support local economies and provide employment for women who live there.
Hayward's passion for social justice was initially sparked by a study away experience in southeast Asia during her first year at Connecticut College. The two-week trip through Vietnam and Cambodia exposed her to intense poverty, steering her academic focus from economics to social advocacy and the Holleran Center for Community Action and Public Policy. Since that initial trip, Hayward has traveled to 13 countries to study women’s human rights and socioeconomic empowerment, shaping her company’s vision along the way.
Developing over the past three years, Cora went full bore in 2016, launching its line of organic tampons via online subscription in February. Just seven months later, Cora products could be purchased at Target stores across the country.
And 2017 is shaping up to be an even bigger year for Hayward and Cora. More than $1.6 million was raised by Cora last year and plans are in place for even more funding this year, continuing a path of aggressive growth. Cora products will also now be available for free in several locations on the Connecticut College campus, thanks to a new partnership with a student initiative launched in the fall.
Emma Horst-Martz ’18 created the Menstrual Health Pilot Program to break the stigma of menstruation and provide free pads and tampons in dispensers located in restrooms around campus. The program launched with three dispensers in the student center; two more were recently added in the library.
Plans are in place to add more dispensers in the athletic center and Cummings Arts Center, according to Emma Anderson ’18, who is running the program this spring. Through the new partnership with Cora, the program will purchase Cora’s organic tampons and provide them free to the College community.
“We are very excited to promote a good cause and move toward better menstrual health, both at Connecticut College and around the world,” Anderson said.