Clemson University entrepreneurial partners Claudia Sisk and Marissa Jansen are looking to create a reusable tampon applicator they say will be cheaper and more environmentally-friendly than similar products.
The duo’s product, Nature’s Gift, won first place and $2,500 at the College of Engineering, Computing and Applied Sciences’ Spark Challenge back in March, which is an annual competition similar to a college-level Shark Tank with judges that include Clemson professors and local business people.
John DesJardins, professor of bioengineering, CECAS faculty director for entrepreneurship at Clemson and organizer of the challenge, said judges were looking for the right combination of innovation and commercial novelty. “[Sisk and Jansen’s] project kind of tapped into all of that, and they gave a clear vision for their product as well as for their company,” he said.
Jansen graduated earlier this month with a degree in health science, and Sisk is a rising senior majoring in bioengineering. The recent graduate said she and Sisk, both 22, met while working with the collegiate chapter of the nonprofit organization the Homeless Period Project, a group that supports women’s health, which Jansen co-founded a couple of years ago at Clemson.
“I think there’s just a lot of historic considerations that have been left out when it comes to designing products for women,” Jansen explained. She added that when thinking of a product to submit for the competition, improving menstruation was the first thing to come to mind.
While Jansen studied the market for their product, Sisk brainstormed the design.
Sisk’s courses in bioengineering helped conceptualize a safe product. “Two main criteria going into making a ‘comfortable applicator’ is flexibility and hygiene,” said Sisk. She said that one of her courses, Biomaterials, helped her learn how different materials interact with the human body.
Nature’s Gift would cost about $25 and would include an insertion sheath and a rod, according to a statement from Clemson University. The product would come in two sizes to fit cotton inserts that range from low to high absorbency. Since it would last about two years, when broken down, it’s a monthly cost of about $1. The inserts would be another $3.50.
Sisk and Jansen said the average woman now spends around $160 a year on menstrual health products.
Not only would the product save money, but it would also offset the billions of menstrual products trashed every year.
Sisk and Jansen are now looking to build on their success and are looking for more pitch competitions to fund building the prototype. They’re looking to raise about $45,000 to beginning manufacturing and patenting the product.