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Episode 024: This is L., B-Corps, & Business for Good with Pam Geist

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Pam Geist is the brand director of This is L.: a mission-driven period care brand dedicated to making exceptional menstrual products accessible for all. L. offers a wide range of beautiful, sustainable, body-friendly tampons, pads, liners and wipes at an affordable cost – while also working with non-profits like Days for Girls to support menstrual equity projects around the world. As one of our biggest impact partners, their generosity has allowed us to serve thousands of vulnerable menstruators in need.

In this interview, Pam dives into the founding, mission and model of This is L.; how their two-prong business approach is making a difference for menstruators in the U.S. and abroad; and her thoughts on our economy’s shift toward “businesses as forces for good.”

Highlights

  • How This is L. is making period care accessible for menstruators around the world.
  • Why L.’s unique balance of affordability and sustainability speaks to consumers.
  • L.’s origin story: how founder Talia Frankel, a former photojournalist, was inspired to increase period care accessibility after capturing the humanitarian impact of menstrual taboo, AIDS and lack of education opportunities for girls in Africa and India.
  • All about L.’s solidarity model: how they’re making a global impact by supporting local leaders and strategically-selected nonprofits like DfG.
  • What it means to be a B Corp. Certified company with a “give back” business model

Connect

Bio

Pam Geist is the brand director of This is L.: a B Corp. Certified, mission-driven personal and period care brand. This is L. offers tampons, pads, liners and wipes made with organic cotton, without the organic price. And they recently launched a pH balanced intimate wash designed for intimate skin, free of fragrance and full of skin-loving ingredients like essential oils and vitamin E. Pam attained her MBA from the Wharton School and her BA and MA in English at Stanford University, graduating Phi Beta Kappa. Born and raised in New York, Pam currently resides in Cincinnati, enjoying the tremendous cost-of -living downward adjustment. In her spare time she volunteers with the Ohio Justice and Policy Center as well as with Cincinnati Therapeutic Riding and Horsemanship. This is L. is an impact partner at Days for Girls, funding a variety of different projects around the world.

Support the show (http://bit.ly/donatetodfg)

Transcript

Jessica Williams  1:18

Today’s episode is with Pam Geist. Pam is the brand director of This is L: a B Corp. Certified, mission-driven personal and period care brand. This is L. offers tampons, pads, liners and wipes made with organic cotton, without the organic price. And they recently launched a pH balanced intimate wash designed for intimate skin, free of fragrance and full of skin-loving ingredients like essential oils and vitamin E. Pam attained her MBA from the Wharton School and her BA and MA in English at Stanford University, graduating Phi Beta Kappa. Born and raised in New York, Pam currently resides in Cincinnati, enjoying the tremendous cost-of-living downward adjustment. In her spare time, she volunteers with the Ohio Justice and Policy Center, as well as with Cincinnati Therapeutic Riding and Horsemanship. This is L. is an impact partner at Days for Girls, funding a variety of different projects around the world. So I just love this conversation and can’t wait to share it with you. Now let’s go on to the show.

Pam, welcome to the show! I am so excited to have you on the Days for Girls Podcast. This is L. is one of our incredible supporters and partners. And we are so grateful for all of the support that you’ve given us through the years. Where are you dialing in from today?

Pam Geist  2:38

I’m actually dialing in from Cleveland, Ohio. I usually work out of Cincinnati. But since we’re still work from anywhere, I am enjoying Northeast Ohio.

Jessica Williams  2:52

Ohio is where I met my husband, so I have a I have a soft place in my heart for Ohio. So one of the reasons I’m excited to have you on the show is because you’re the brand director for This is L. And as I mentioned, you’re an impact partner funding vital Days for Girls work. So for those people who aren’t familiar with this, can you tell us more about the brand and what you love about this brand? Because it is a really great brand. I just think it’s awesome.

Pam Geist  3:23

Yeah, absolutely. I love this brand, too. Obviously, I’m a bit biased. But it is this small but mighty brand that is on a mission to make exceptional period care accessible for all. And exceptional period care for us really comes to life in a couple of ways. We believe we have exceptional ingredients. Our tampons and pads are made with organic cotton. Our washes and wipes are free from fragrances or synthetic dyes and pesticides. But what really makes it exceptional is the fact that we can offer it as a great value, we really want to make sure that people can have access to these premium organic products, without having to pay the premium price you typically expect for high quality ingredients. And finally, we don’t want to just care for our consumers. We want to perpetuate good from all the growth that we are experiencing from the sales of our products. Every year, I was committed to donating to organizations like Days for Girls, one of our very favorite partners, to make sure that exceptional period care is accessible to people beyond the United States. And so we partner with organizations like Days for Girls to provide monetary grants to communities around the world. We’re working hard to increase access to period care products, menstrual health, education, employment opportunities. So really it’s a holistic package that we’re trying to bring forward to market.

Jessica Williams  4:55

I love it, and we so appreciate the incredible model that you have, where you are committed to giving back and making a difference in the world. I’m curious – as a consumer of disposable period products myself – I’m curious why your customers love the L. brand. What do they say about it?

Pam Geist  5:17

You know, for them, what they really appreciate and love is… I kind of view it as, we all have these aspirations of how we ideally would love to live. We would all love to live these very clean, organic, natural lifestyles. But sometimes it’s really difficult for us to make that trade-off between, like, saving our budget or spending on our families. Like, should we really take this, buy this expensive product? We feel it’s better for us. But I don’t know if it makes sense from an affordability standpoint. And again, the fact that L. is unlocking that tension, and enabling people to buy the products they desire without having to be concerned about the budget impact necessarily. And to me…I love seeing the rising belief that self-care isn’t selfish. And how can we continue to enable people to make the choices they want, with the products in their home they feel are better for them, without having to stress about the impact to their overall budget.

Jessica Williams  6:20

For the longest time, I feel like when you went to the aisle for period products, there were maybe two or three brands – and still today in a lot of places, it’s that way. And brands like L. did not exist. And so can you tell us a little bit about how This is L. was founded and kind of that backstory?

Pam Geist  6:44

Yeah, I would love to, it’s really an incredible story. So this brand was founded by an incredible business woman named Talia Frankel, who was actually a photo journalist who did work for the UN and the Red Cross, capturing the humanitarian crises in different countries – in Africa and India, particularly as it relates to AIDS and menstrual taboos. And she saw that one of the biggest barriers to keeping girls in school or accessing education opportunity is the lack of access of period care products. And so for her it was never, hey the world needs another tampon brand. It was, how can I make a business that’s a force for good and give this high quality product that people are seeking, but have barriers to within the U.S. because of the price point? Unlock that kind of product for U.S. consumers, while also enabling access to high quality period care products around the world. And so she really started This is L. from this give-back model and philosophy that the more we grow, the more we can give. And that we can take demand that we’re generating behind high quality, beautiful tampons, pads, liners, washes and wipes to continue the work of access.

Jessica Williams  8:13

So can you tell us more about This is L.’s solidarity model? Because I know that’s really important as well.

Pam Geist  8:21

Absolutely. So again, the more we grow, the more we give is the model that we are operating against – and the given philosophy that Talia instilled in the brand, and we hold very core to our mission. And our purpose today is that we don’t necessarily just want to give away product. It’s fabulous that there are some businesses and companies who can do that. But it’s a fact that that’s not sustainable. That was a big concern for Talia. She wants to make sure that the impact can be lasting, and that it’s tailored for the particular communities, right. There’s no one-size-fits-all solution to the plethora of issues of stigma and education and product and access, that are facing people who menstruate. And so the model she set up, and the model that we continue is, as opposed to just giving out product, we take a portion of our revenue every year and establish these monetary grants, partnering with organizations like Days for Girls who are true experts in this field. And they help us identify where there’s the need, and also help us guide how those dollars can best be used. So we don’t have – again, there’s only one way that you can use the donation. It’s a community raising a hand saying hey, we have a problem and a solution. We will require this amount of funds and this is the impact we believe we would have. And the impact typically comes through setting up a pad-making machine that is a community-based enterprise, employing local community members to make and distribute reusable pad kits that can represent three to five years of use for a single individual. It can be holding menstrual education workshops that include both menstruators and non-menstruators to help eradicate the mental health taboo. It could be job skills training. It’s really broad and flexible. And for me, that’s super important. Because I never want to assume that I know better how to deploy those funds than the people in the communities facing these challenges directly.

Jessica Williams  10:35

And Days for Girls 100% supports that local leadership model as well. I know that This is L. is a B Corp. And I know that certification can be hard to get. And it’s something that – it’s kind of like a badge of honor, for a social impact brand. And so for those who don’t know what a B Corp is, or have never heard about that certification, can you talk a little bit about what that means and how L. is using that status to make a difference in the world?

Pam Geist  11:09

Absolutely, I love to spread the good word of the Corp. So B Corp, B Corporation. This is L., our legal tax identity is actually a public benefit corporation. And to be identified as such, it means that you are not only committed but legally required to give back a portion of your revenues to further social good, for social causes. B Corp is a third party credentialing group. So think of them almost like the new generation Good Housekeeping Seal of Approval, where they have very rigorous criteria that investigates a business’s impact on the environment, on the people who work for them, on the products they create, and how they handle consumer relations. And they’re really trying to elevate and identify businesses as a force for good. And so you’re starting to see this B Corp Certification really pick up in a broad range of categories. I know that, I believe Ben and Jerry’s is a B Corp brand, Athleta is a B Corp brand, This is L. It really, really is a very wide gamut. And it’s meant to be a reassurance to consumers of hey, this company has been vetted by a third party, to say that holistically across our entire supply chain, their entire value chain, they’re dedicated and actually doing business as a force for good. And so you’re completely correct. It’s a very, very rigorous structure. But it’s important for us to work with the Corp to maintain and acquire certification, because again, it’s a third party verification that consumers can hopefully trust more than just the brand saying, we do good, believe us.

Jessica Williams  13:10

I know you got your MBA. And I’m curious if you are seeing a trend in business, since maybe you graduated from MBA school, towards more of this kind of hybrid model – of for-profit, but also doing social good in the world of business.

Pam Geist  13:31

A lot of people have good intent. But because I did come through a business school, I also believe in the power of economic incentives. Doing things just for altruistic sake, unfortunately, isn’t very sustainable. Because if you’re not generating incremental value for the business, as soon as a person who is super passionate about business as a force for good and community give back programs, you know, moves off the business…or changes jobs or whatever, those passion projects quickly evaporate. But if you can demonstrate why this actually enhances the value of a company, while increasing good in the community, that’s the win-win that makes these projects long-term sustainable. And what I believe we’re seeing in the broader business world is that this is no longer a pet passion, like, oh isn’t that nice, you do charity work on the side. It’s because of the consumer demand that businesses have values that they not only speak about, but act behind that match their own. That really is elevated and put into the center of many, many more industries. This idea of business growth as a force for good, you hear talked about as the triple bottom line: win for the company, win for the consumer, win for the community. But honestly even like social impact investing, and all these different investment vehicles that are very focused on environmental, social and governance impact groups, you’re seeing such a broad shift in the business world. Where business as a force for good has moved from a fringe, you know, side project that sometimes gets attention, to a very core tenet of how businesses are attracting consumers, keeping consumers and driving value for their shareholders.

Jessica Williams  15:36

It’s almost like these days, it’s expected. Because I know as a consumer, I’m constantly looking at the back of the bottle and thinking, well, how do they gave back? You know?

Pam Geist  15:46

Exactly, exactly. Yeah.

Jessica Williams  15:48

So I’m glad to hear that you see that trend becoming more and more popular. I remember when, you know, Tom’s shoes came out. And they were one of the first, right, that did this, and I think paved the way for a lot of this work going forward. So equally excited about that. Pam, I want to ask you a little bit more about the product itself, where can people purchase This is L products?

Pam Geist  16:18

Well, I’m very excited because we’ve been increasing distribution of This is L. in retailers across the country. Because again, if we’re all about increasing access, we have to be accessible no matter where you shop. And you can find us in your typical big box retailers, your drugstores, your dollar stores, your grocery stores. If you want to make sure that you see L. and know that you’re picking up L., our tampons are on these really cool canisters with this copper, rose gold lid and our pads are in these beautiful pouches. And so if you see anything that looks unusual, beautiful, catches your eye, chances are that it’s This is L. pads and tampons. And I would love for you guys to join in our movement to try to increase access to exceptional period care for all.

Jessica Williams  17:11

I agree the packaging is beautiful, and I feel like it creates a really nice customer experience as a menstruator.

Pam Geist  17:20

We’ve heard a lot from our consumers about how… it’s so funny, because we want to be bold and proud about periods and positive. There’s no shame or stigma here. But some people might have different levels of comfort. And so we hear from a lot of consumers that they love how beautiful and eye-catching the design is. But at the same time, it doesn’t scream period care, right? And so they’re able to put in their carts and not really kind of try to hide it or whatever. And hopefully at some point, we no longer feel the need to hide. We know that not everyone’s there yet. And we’ve alternatively also heard from consumers that their male-identified partners don’t feel as awkward picking up these products as well. So again, the ideal end state is that nobody feels uncomfortable in the menstruation aisle, because it’s just a natural process. But until we’re there, we’re hoping our beautiful design can bring people in and make the shopping experience just a little bit more comfortable.

Jessica Williams  18:16

And my final question is, for people who don’t live in the United States, can they purchase L. products? Like is L. an international product at this point?

Pam Geist  18:28

We are just starting Canadian sales. Our long-term vision is to bring L. to different markets around the world. But currently, we are primarily a U.S.-based company.

Jessica Williams  18:41

Pam, we really appreciate your time. And again, all of the support that you’ve given Days for Girls, we are incredibly grateful for that, and it’s just been wonderful to hear about the fantastic model that L. has, giving back to the world. So thank you.

Pam Geist  18:59

I want to give you thanks in return, because I don’t think I appreciate or fully understood the impact the Days for Girls can make and does make, continually, with these monetary efforts. You guys recently shared with us a recap report of one of our initial grants that we had given to you, to distribute different projects around the world. And there were two PDFs attached. And one was, you know, your typical sort of report on what, what, where and how much impact it had. And then there was another PDF attachment that said “recipients,” and I thought it was just going to be a list of all the different projects that you gave the money to, but instead I opened it up and it was a 97-page document of individual girls’ names who had received the reusable packets! And I still get chills thinking about it, even though it’s been a couple months. And I’ve opened this thing again and again and again. But to see on the individual human level, what you guys are doing every single day. I just want to send all the love and appreciation for the joy in humanity that you’re bringing back to our lives. And I couldn’t be more thrilled to be a partner with you guys.

Jessica Williams  20:22

Oh, thank you, Pam, that means a great deal. I really enjoyed talking to you today. And if people again want to connect with you and learn more about This is L., where can they go to find you?

Pam Geist  20:37

Yeah, so we have a website: thisisl.com. You can follow us on Instagram @thisislperiod. And I hope you guys keep up with us.

Jessica Williams  20:48

Awesome. Thank you, Pam. The Days for Girls Podcast is produced by Days for Girls International. For show notes and resources mentioned in this episode, visit daysforgirls.org/podcast. If you’d like to support the work we do on the show, leave a rating or a review wherever you listen. Subscribe to the show, and share episodes on social media or with your friends. To learn more about Days for Girls and to join our global movement, please visit daysforgirls.org. Thank you for listening. See you next time.

Jessica Williams
Jessica Williams is Chief Communications Officer of Days for Girls International. She is also the host of The Days for Girls Podcast. Jessica holds a Bachelor’s degree from Wake Forest University in Communications and a Master’s degree in Strategic Communications from The University of Oregon. She is also an adjunct instructor for the University of Portland’s Pamplin School of Business Nonprofit MBA program.