TamPal, a member of the 2021-22 Social Innovation Lab cohort, was founded by Erica Duffy.
SIL: Tell us about your company. What are you working on?
Erica Duffy: TamPal is a products and services company aimed at making tampons and pads as accessible as toilet paper in bathrooms. Period. This mission is in service of a greater vision to end period shame once and for all.
We have three products in development: our @Home dispenser; a free period product locator app; and a commercial dispenser.
The @Home dispenser aims to make period products of all types (including tampons, pads, menstrual cups and period underwear) easily accessible from the toilet at home when needed. It also breaks down the stigma that usually starts in the home that menstruators should hide these products.
Our second product in development is an app to connect college students with locations on campus where they can access free menstrual products. Many colleges have student-led period advocacy groups that have lobbied to install dispensers in different areas throughout campus. This app aims to help students locate these dispensers and bring awareness to dispensers that may need refilling to increase reliability.
Lastly, we are developing a commercial tampon and pad dispenser, specifically with middle schools and high schools in mind, that will help combat stigma and make access to period products more equitable.
Why did you decide to start this? Where did the idea come from?
In 2018, I was frustrated by my own bathroom setup. I had a water closet where there was no place I could easily store, let alone rest, my menstrual products when I used the bathroom. I went online to find something to buy, thinking that surely someone had developed an at-home solution to easy period-product storage from the toilet. I found DIY solutions on Pinterest, like crafted boxes that said things like “Tampons.” I wanted a solution that looked clean and intentional that a person would come to expect to see in a bathroom, like a toilet paper roll holder. I started drafting the idea for TamPal @Home — a small convenient storage solution meant to be installed right next to the toilet.
While working on this at-home solution, I was also curious about what existed to make products easier to access in schools and broader commercial spaces. During this research, I learned that one-in-four students in the United States cited a lack of access to period products as the reason for missing class.
What have you accomplished so far?
TamPal has been busy at work bringing our concepts to life. We just completed the first prototype of our @Home design and are getting ready to conduct user testing. Our Period Product Locator App is in development and is expected to be ready for testing this summer, which we will do with the support of a Johns Hopkins University student-led menstrual advocacy group called Wings. Lastly, we are continuing to iterate on our commercial dispenser design to make it as accessible and equitable as possible for users.
How can people get involved in supporting you in your venture?
Join our community of period people (and period people advocates) today! — Head to our website and join our mailing list to stay up-to-date on what is happening with TamPal. If you are connected with a school that could benefit from our dispenser, reach out as we would love to talk further about how to assist young menstruators.
Help us pilot our app — If you are a college student on a campus that has free period product dispensers, let’s connect to discuss how we can partner in launching our Period Product Locator App on your campus.
Help us fund our mission — Bringing our physical products to life has some significant design and development costs.
What advice do you have for would-be social entrepreneurs thinking about starting a venture?
There will always be hard days, but we need more of you doing the work that matters. Rome wasn’t built in a day and your business doesn’t need to be either, as long as each day you are helping one more person than you did the day before.
Why did you apply to SIL? What attracted you to SIL?
I have participated in some other really wonderful incubators but what attracted me to SIL was that I knew I would be surrounded by other companies that were grounded in a social mission. I was excited to learn from other business leaders on the best way to lead a for-profit company in a way that ensures its social mission remains at the core of its business decisions. I also saw several organizations that I looked up to also participated in SIL.
How have you grown personally during your time in the Accelerator?
I am an introvert through and through, so the thought of getting on a stage or cold-calling a random stranger makes me want to climb in bed and throw the covers over my head. But now I feel this less often. I have learned to focus on the parts of these experiences that I do enjoy, such as connecting with others that feel strongly about period equity or educating those that are unaware about the extent of this issue.