Tracy, 27, Portland OR, USA GladRags
GladRags cloth pads and menstrual cups are better for your body, your budget, and the environment. Our products are sold online to women around the world and in stores across the USA.
What was your first job, or first step in your career? What did you do?
My first real jobs were all direct service positions: caring for children, supporting adults with developmental disabilities, etc. I had planned to become a social worker, then later a nurse. Eventually, I became frustrated with the system and felt like my actions weren’t making enough of a difference in the lives of the people I wanted to help. I started working at GladRags and realized that this was a place where I could do great work and create positive change in people’s lives.
What were the advantages or disadvantages of being a woman in a corporate environment? Did you ever feel like you hit a glass ceiling or work with others who did?
Because GladRags has always been both a small and woman-owned company, I didn’t hit a glass ceiling here. When I purchased the company from the founder in 2011 (at the ripe old age of 24!), I actually found that being a woman was a great asset. Brenda, the founder, and I collaborated on the sale of the business. Our lawyers hated it, but we were both really trying to nurture each other through the transition and make sure we each were taken care of. And it worked–we’re still friends, and we meet up for cocktails on our “anniversary” each year without fail!
When did you first realize that working for yourself may be a good idea, and was there a certain event that made you finally take the plunge?
My mom always speculated that I would own my own business when I grew up. I, of course, thought she was full of it (sorry Mom, you were totally right). I honestly never saw myself as a boss lady until the opportunity presented itself: GladRags was going to be sold, and I hated the idea of potentially losing my job or the company changing hands and not staying true to its eco-feminist roots. I had been so involved in the operations that I felt like I knew enough to keep the business going while I figured out everything else I needed to know. Just over a month after wondering, “what if I bought GladRags?” (and some epic brainstorming to put some money where my mouth was), I was a business owner. It was nuts.
Do you feel that women who own their own businesses are faced with the same women- related issues as those in the corporate environment? If so, how do you overcome it?
I think there’s lots of differences, but also lots of similarities. Especially as a young woman, I find that men with more years of experience than me will talk down to me pretty hard. It’s awful. I’m always willing to learn and appreciate friendly guidance, but I can’t stand being condescended to. I think this can happen in almost any work environment. I’ve never had the guts to stand up to someone about it, but my favorite advice for dealing with a rude person comes from my friend Linda, who says, “bask in the bliss that you only had to talk to him briefly, but he has to live with himself forever.” My hope is to one day be a bad ass older lady who’s seen it all and can mentor the next generation of women in business.
What advice do you have for those who want to start their own business?
You have no idea what you don’t know. Let me say it again, because I cannot stress it enough: you have NO idea what you don’t know. And that’s totally okay! Surround yourself with people who do know, and ask them to teach you. Help out with other people’s projects to gain experience in areas where you’re weak, stay positive, and take full advantage of any resources available to you. Particularly in larger cities, there are often tons of free services available to female small business owners.
Only do something if you love it and the responsibilities that come with owning a business. If you adore making floral arrangements but can’t stomach the idea of ever managing a team or dealing with finances, then maybe owning a business isn’t your thing. And that’s cool, too.
What would you like Feminist Wednesday readers to know about your business?
*The average woman will use 12,000 to 16,000 disposable pads and tampons in her lifetime. *These products can take up to 550 years to break down in the landfill.
*Plastic tampon applicators are so prevalent on U.S. shorelines that they’ve earned their own nickname: “beach whistles.”
*The CEOs of top disposable menstrual products companies in the United States are predominantly male.
*The FDA does not require disposable pad companies to disclose the ingredients in their products, which typically include wood pulp and chemical gels.
Does that piss you off? Because it pisses me off! Cloth pads and menstrual cups are a better way and can even lead you to a greater understanding and appreciation of your awesome body. It’s super important to me that every woman has all of the information about her options for menstrual protection so she can make the choices that are right for her! You can learn more about your options at www.gladrags.com