Welcome back! Spiffy here, your interplanetary journalist reporting from Planet Earth with an eye on entrepreneurs working to make this world more equitable. Today I’m super excited to speak with Jasmine Burton, co-founder of Period Futures, whose work to improve health, well-being, and gender equality can inspire all of us!
Spiffy: Thanks for taking the time to talk to me, Jasmine! Can you start by telling me about the challenges you are addressing?
Jasmine: A growing list of startups, brands, NGOs, and advocates are paving the way for positive change across the menstrual health sector—from comic books and board games that educate youth about periods to reengineered, leak-free tampons. Leading up to Menstrual Hygiene Day 2020, we embarked on a three-week design sprint to imagine, “What if?” The purpose of this work was not to predict the future, or suggest that our provocations are intended to resolve the vast complex challenges across menstruation. Rather, we simply hope to inspire more designers, engineers, and creatives to join the menstrual health movement and help enable positive #periodfutures.
Spiffy: I see! What motivated you to focus on women’s health?
Jasmine: According to UNICEF, "menstruation is a normal and healthy part of life for most women. Roughly half of the female population—around 26% of the global population—are of reproductive age. Yet, as normal as it is, menstruation is stigmatized around the world.” In 2020, the world was rocked by the COVID-19 pandemic where we saw the rise in prioritization around various hygiene goods like toilet paper. However, menstrual products were not prioritized and we witnessed the #PeriodsDontStopforPandemics movement. This shined a light on period poverty and gender inequities as it relates to health and hygiene and gave rise to some of Period Futures’ driving themes.
Spiffy: The spotlight has definitely been on hygiene. How would you say that you are working on creating a more equitable world?
Jasmine: Period Futures is an early-stage venture, sparking curiosity, conversation and commitment to enabling positive #periodfutures. We do this in a couple of ways. We design and launch tangible provocations to help spark curiosity and conversation around what the future of periods might hold, and we push the boundaries of what’s possible for menstrual health innovation. We amplify the voices of diverse leaders and founders whose perspectives and work meaningfully intersect menstrual health—especially BIPOC and those identifying within the LGBTQ+ community.
Spiffy: Can you tell me about the initiatives you’ve worked on?
Jasmine: I am a proud serial social entrepreneur. In addition to co-founding Period Futures, I founded Wish for WASH, a social impact startup intended to bring innovation to sanitation after my senior design team was the first all-female team to win the GT InVenture Prize Competition for our invention of the SafiChoo toilet (SROI 1:3). I also founded Hybrid Hype, a woman-owned global consulting firm, following a decade of doing diverse freelance work with various impact organizations such as the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), the Toilet Board Coalition, Equilo, Atethemis, Population Services International (PSI) and the International Planned Parenthood Federation (IPPF).
Spiffy: Can you share about an experience when you faced failure and didn't give up. What did you learn?
Jasmine: Well, Spiffy, as a human-centered designer, I believe in the power of "failing cheap and failing forward" in the name of moving the needle of change. While I’ve had failures related to toilet product supply chains and shipping logistics, I believe that failure—if planned for and allowed particularly in the early stages of social entrepreneurial journeys—can be a powerful growth and learning mechanism at the pilot stage. It allows us to iterate and improve so that we can be better stewards of our resources and time and help mitigate some predictable failures with a human-centered lens.
Spiffy: It sounds like leaving room for failure is one thing we all need to do. Thanks so much for sharing your journey with us, Jasmine. It’s been an honor! Over and out!
Jasmine Burton is the co-founder of Period Futures. She is a designer, impact entrepreneur, and global health practitioner using design thinking, business acumen, and evidence-based research to build a more inclusive world. With five years of experience leading Wish for WASH and seven years of diverse global health and gender equity experiences, Jasmine is passionate about accelerating innovation in the water, sanitation, and hygiene sector because #everybodypoops and #menstruationmatters. (Nominated by FLUSH)
© 2021 Ladderworks LLC. Edited by Jill Landis Jha. Spiffy’s illustration by Shreyas Navare. Follow Spiffy’s stories of founders building a more equitable world at www.ladderworks.co/blogs/spiffys-blog