Menstruation is a topic that is often avoided, and to some, it’s is awkward to talk about this in public. Minh Ngoc, founder of Green Lady Vietnam, believes that this is something that shouldn’t be hidden or be ashamed of as this is a part of nature and women’s health. Through her eco-friendly sanitary napkin business, she aims to educate women’s health, support women’s empowerment, and help fight climate change at the same time.
Faces of SMEs team got the chance to have a chat with Minh Ngoc. Here is her business story:
Menstruation is a topic that is often avoided, but for Minh Ngoc, this shouldn't be the case. Through her eco-friendly sanitary napkin business, Green Lady Vietnam, she aims to educate women's health, support women's empowerment, and help fight climate change at the same time."Just do it and “Keep moving forward” as my favorite cartoon character Dory in Finding Nemo said."
Posted by Faces Behind ASEAN SMEs on Tuesday, February 11, 2020
F: How did you start your business?
M: I had a full-time job at an education company. I also started my business during that time, but then I realized that my career at Green Lady Vietnam is something that I want to pursue more. I decided to leave my full-time job after 1 year and tried to focus on GLVN. However, the business did not go well at that time. I could not give salaries to anyone, including myself. After 3 months, I had to take another full-time job to sustain myself financially. I was still passionate about Green Lady Vietnam, I knew it’s exactly that’s what I want to do. That’s the reason why after another year, I left my job again. Now, I’m working full-time for Green Lady Vietnam. Starting a business is not easy for me. I would not describe myself as an entrepreneur or businesswoman, but here I am with Green Lady Vietnam because I’m passionate about what I’m doing and I strongly believe in my vision, mission, and philosophy.
F: Why did you start your business?
M: I was first introduced to cloth pads in Oct 2016 when I was attending an Ecovillage Design Education course in Thailand. It amazed me about how diverse people find ways to deal with their period. I found the products beautiful and bought 1 set of cloth pads for myself. When I went back to Vietnam, a Cambodian friend from the course contacted me and asked me to collaborate with her on a project of introducing cloth pads in Cambodia and Vietnam. We applied for YSEALI Seeds for the Future 2017. We got a seed grant to start Green Lady Cloth Pads as a 1-year project in the 2 countries. At first, we imported Eco Femme cloth pads from India to offer fo Vietnam and we also conducted a workshop on environmental issues. We still want to continue our work even if we don’t receive funds anymore, but this time, we chose to produce the cloth pads locally.
F: What got you interested in sanitary napkins?
M: I’m interested in the idea that period is “the connection between women and the moon”. That’s why I would like to find an alternative to take care of my period in a lovely and eco-friendly way. When I started Green Lady Vietnam, a lot of people said I should not work on a “challenging product” because it will be hard to convince women to switch to other alternatives. Even though they had a point, we still think that cloth pads have their own role in the collection of menstrual products. We believe diversity and inclusion is the solution to a lot of social and environmental issues.
F: What is the impact of your company in your community? Or to the customers?
M: Green Lady Vietnam currently contributes to both social and environmental impact. Aside from selling our products, we also increase knowledge and education about environment and menstruation, help improve healthcare during the period for customers, support women empowerment, ensure that women are part of the impact goal, reduce a huge amount of plastic waste to the environment, and organize green living workshops for young people.
F: What do you advocate?
M: Menstruation is considered taboo in Vietnam. I remember my mom told me before to not enter the pagoda when I have my period. She said, “your body is dirty today, play outside, and do not come in.” I realized the word “dirty” is a big problem in our mindset about menstruation. Even now, when a friend asked me to hang out on the weekend, I said that I could not join them because I have a period on that day. They were embarrassed and told me to lower my voice. The issue is that we aren’t supposed to talk about menstruation in public. That’s the reason why I want to do a project to normalize menstruation. It’s not something dirty, not something to be hidden, and not something to be ashamed of. Women menstruate monthly. It should be biologically and psychologically considered as normal. I wish every woman understand that menstruation is essential for life.
F: What legacy do you want to leave behind?
I wish every girls and women will feel confident, take good care of themselves, feel proud of being a female, and live in harmony with nature
F: What is the greatest learning that you gained from Green Lady Vietnam so far?
M: I learned to work with stakeholders. In order to establish a social enterprise, I need the support of stakeholders: co-founder, teammates, mentors, customers, business partners, grant organizations. I try to keep the relationships with them and broaden the network of our supporters. I think that the more we collaborate with like-minded people, the greater the impact we can create.
F: What is your advice to those who also want to start their own business?
M: Just do it and “Keep moving forward” as my favorite cartoon character Dory in Finding Nemo said.