North American leader in reusable menstrual products.

Suzanne Siemens and Madeleine Shaw, co-owners of Lunapads //
Number of Employees: 
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Lunapads is now Aisle.

Madeleine and Suzanne’s Story

In 1993, a young fashion designer named Madeleine Shaw created a small collection of colourful and reusable cloth menstrual pads. Though initially inspired by an allergy to tampons, her experience awakened an eco-feminist desire to reconnect women with their monthly cycles and to run a business that celebrated womanhood. A few years later, Madeleine met chartered accountant Suzanne Siemens who was looking for more meaningful work as a woman in finance. They were a perfect professional match and incorporated Aisle in 2000. In the following years, drawing on their friendship and resolve, they survived a rollercoaster start-up, became first-time mothers and developed a thriving business—liberating women from the throw-it-out, flush-it-down, pretend-it-didn’t-happen experience of menstruation. Today, Aisle is making revolutionary changes to the feminine hygiene industry on a platform of social responsibility.

Meeting Renewal Partners

"So what you’re saying is that it’s cool to have your period," said Joel Solomon from Renewal. Madeleine and Suzanne were awestruck and relieved. Finally someone got it. An investment from Renewal spurred a loan from VanCity—but their initial business plan failed to deliver. "Renewal said they would pay off suppliers if they started banging down our door, but trusted we could pull through. They challenged us but believed in us, which made all the difference," explains Madeleine. "And they supported our business values, respecting slow growth while our children were young, then stepping in with advice when we were ready to go big," adds Suzanne. With a shift to direct sales via the internet, Aisle took off in its second year, with sales now approaching $1 million.

Making Ripples

Every year 14 billion disposable pads and tampons end up in sewage or landfill. Since 1993, Aisle has inspired over 100,000 women to switch from disposables to cloth pads or tampon-alternatives such as the DivaCup. Moved by their experiences, more than 2500 women are supporting these natural products on the social networking site Facebook. After Proctor and Gamble pledged to send disposables to Africa, Aisle was flooded with emails from women like these, encouraging their involvement in a more sustainable solution. Aisle was eager to respond. With help from their customers, they have sent over 500 cloth pads to girls in Africa, Central America and South America. Passionate about their vision to empower women worldwide, Aisle is now talking with African communities interested in making the pads themselves.