Two women entrepreneurs powering through the pandemic

As part of our Bitesize world of work series in 2019, we explored careers focusing on reducing carbon footprint, food and plastic waste, and harnessing renewable energies.

We checked in with Alison and Karina, two women entrepreneurs, to see how their businesses have grown and how the Covid-19 pandemic has affected them.

Powering through is our motto at the moment

During a trip to Kenya as a volunteer, Alison Wood learnt that many girls in rural communities have little to no access to sanitary products and were not taught about their menstrual cycles in school. This meant that some girls would miss school during their periods.

In response, Alison founded Lilypads, a social enterprise that manufactures and sells reusable sanitary pads and provides menstrual health education.

Since we last spoke to her, Alison has been able to reduce the cost of sanitary pads and manufacture them using all British materials. Lilypads has also expanded internationally and does work in Malaysia and Cambodia as well as Kenya, teaching others how to make the pads locally which brings the manufacturing costs down and makes them more affordable.

Working through the pandemic hasn't been easy, but it has had some silver linings. As schools closed, Alison had to very quickly move the menstrual health education online.

"That's been weird to say the least," says Alison. "It’s quite personal, usually students will ask things in hushed tones... but now they have to ask in front of the room and you have to respond to the room."

However, lockdown has allowed Alison the opportunity to work with some partners she wouldn't have otherwise been able to. She's also been able to create more of a work-life balance whilst working from home.

Alison's goal now is to continue building and creating awareness about menstrual health education. Her aim is to work with new organisations and support their communities by selling sustainable pads and continuing to educate about menstrual health.

Alison hopes to raise more awareness around menstrual health

I believe in a sustainable future where there is no food waste and no food poverty

Karina Sudenyte is a mum of twins who owns a social enterprise called Flawsome! which tackles food waste, and celebrated its second birthday in 2020.

Alongside her husband and business partner Maciek, Karina takes so-called ‘ugly’ and unwanted fruit and vegetables and turns it into juice which is then distributed around the country. The idea originated from a food waste campaign which found that we waste 4.4 million apples every day in the UK. This is important because if unwanted food is left to rot, it emits harmful gases. By using these fruit and veg which would otherwise be wasted, that’s one more source of pollution eliminated.

Flawsome! has since undergone a rebrand, inspired by a design student who was doing work experience with them. Unfortunately, due to the pandemic, helping students take on work experience with Flawsome! has become more difficult, and many places in the food service industry have shut. However Karina has been able to build her team and help create jobs to take on the growing workload, and has started exporting abroad in countries such as Germany and Belgium.

“We really had to think about what opportunities were existing that we could take onboard,” says Karina. “You just need to put yourself out there.”

Karina has since started to focus on distributing to schools and providing a healthier drinks option which is good for the environment. She now has a five-year mission to save 20,000 tonnes of wonky and surplus fruit, donate 1 million drinks to charities around the UK and spread a message about sustainability and food waste to the masses. So far they have saved 1004 tonnes of produce, which is the equivalent of 508 black cabs!

Karina aims to tackle food waste and poverty through her juice enterprise
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