Seems like pretty much the whole world is ready to run for the hills of 2021, leaving 2020 to smolder in hindsight. It. Was. A. Year. That’s for sure. Not one that could have been anticipated. No business plans that could have forecasted toilet paper shortages and stay at home mandates. Far too few marketing plans that incorporated racial justice alongside diversity training. There was no guidebook for how to navigate the unexpected twists and turns of 2020, and … spoiler alert: There isn’t one for 2021, either. What there is, though, is this moment in which we can pause and reflect on the impact of the prior year, and how it will inform us as a company — and as individual humans — in our thoughts, words, and actions in the year that’s in front of us. In 2020, we learned. In 2021, we apply.
In the early months of 2020, pre-pandemic, we were thrilled to announce that GladRags cloth pads and XO Flo menstrual cups had become available in ALL New Seasons markets, the first-ever Certified B Corp grocery store. This is the heart of what we do: We make and distribute reusable menstrual products so that people can enjoy a more comfortable period without all the waste of single-use disposables. We love what we do, and we’re going to keep doing it in 2021! We hope to make our reusable products more accessible locally to those who want them, and are currently available at these retailers.
GladRags earned a matching grant from Prosper Portland to fund diversity and inclusion initiatives. With the grant funding, GladRags was able to hire a local, woman-owned Latinx firm to assist us in better serving the needs of the Latinx community in the Pacific Northwest region. Muchas gracías to the many Latinx individuals who shared their opinions with us throughout this project.
Our tiny team felt the impact of “We’re all in this together! Just, separately.” Only one person worked out of the office at a time, boxing up orders while following necessary COVID-19 safety protocol. Our meetings switched to online only. And while we worked mostly from our homes, we all felt the immense gratitude for being able to remain in business, helping people get the period products that they needed without having to go to the store. And because we were able to keep on keeping on, we were able to pivot the plans for the year, and be nimble in finding ways to learn, integrate, and share with our customers and community.
Working with what we had — product, people, platform — we were able to shift resources and sales strategies in order to help meet immediate needs that were rapidly unfolding in 2020. Our customers and community helped us be able to provide products for essential workers with a buy one, give one promotion. Plus, we were able to contribute funds directly to wildfire relief, to The Black Voters Matter Fund, and to the Black Resilience Fund. We could not have done this on our own, and we are immensely grateful to everyone who helped make these initiatives possible.
We know there is no return to “before”. We also know that what was “normal” was not actually working. It was just familiar, and perhaps, too comfortable. The phrase “Be the change you want to see in the world” is one we often hear, and one that we strive to echo and embody. We tout period positivity and leave-no-trace messaging, we encourage self love and inclusivity. And after what we’ve learned from in 2020, we know we have more work to do, and change is not comfortable.
Privilege: We are presently a team of identifying white women. We recognize the inherent societal privilege of who we are as individuals, how that informs the work we do, and we hold that privilege accountable to the improved equity of others.
Representation: We have a platform that can and should do far more than sell reusable period products. From imagery to language — ours and what we share from others — we will elevate our core values of curiosity, positivity, and inclusivity: We welcome points of view that differ from our own and can teach us something new. We reflect on our own perspectives and ask ourselves why we hold them. We listen. We assume the best in others. We do not shame ourselves or others for mistakes. We acknowledge when we fall short, and strive to do better next time. We see, respect, and celebrate what makes each individual unique. We make reusable products for all menstruators. We are dedicated to educating ourselves about anti-racism and being actively anti-racist in our work. We strive to not just include but elevate voices that have been historically marginalized or oppressed.
Amplification: One of the social media initiatives from 2020 for which we are grateful was the deliberate effort to mute our voices so that others may be amplified. Making space for listening, being unapologetic about seeking out the voices that have not been heard because they have been drowned out by the noise of the privileged, being humble, and giving credit where credit is truly due. We will continue this work to amplify under-heard voices, specifically from indigenous and communities of color, and we welcome feedback and invite ongoing learning so as not to become myopic.
GladRags didn’t materialize out of thin air. We are the culmination of ancestry, resourcefulness, creativity, entrepreneurship, and privilege. We recognize that GladRags occupies the traditional village sites of the Multnomah, Kathlamet, Clackamas, Tualatin Kalapuya, Molalla, Bands of the Chinook, and many other Tribes who made their homes along the Columbia River. We acknowledge and pay respect to the Native American communities of the Pacific Northwest of the past, present, and future.
We are grateful to those who came before us, who learned from their experiences and applied them to their lives so that they could do better, so that we can do better. Here’s to the year that was, and to the year that is yet to come! May we all do better, so that we all can be better.