Proptech for periods? Meet Aunt Flow. 

black woman using a free vend period products dispenser

Roughly half of the global population menstruates or will at some point in their lives. Most people who menstruate (86%, per some studies) have had their periods arrive quickly and unexpectedly at least once. When the moment comes, they may not have period supplies on hand. Instead, they’ll have to rely on the generosity of co-workers or hope their building management offers coin-operated tampon and pad dispensers in the restrooms.

This dispenser dilemma is not a small one. There are an estimated 10 million women’s bathrooms in buildings outside of the home. Many—but by no means all—are equipped with pad/tampon vending machines. But why aren’t these personal sanitary items free? Toilet paper is freely available in restrooms outside the home. Period products should be, too.

In fact, the justification for charging for period products doesn’t hold up under scrutiny. If tampons are sold at $0.25 each, a tampon dispenser costing $250 (the least expensive machine on the market currently) can only hold enough products to make a maximum profit of $5. Assuming it takes a custodian making $15 per hour just 10 minutes to restock the machine, profits are cut in half. Not only are the coin-operated dispensers obsolete, they’re expensive to maintain.

Katie Smiley, a design researcher, conducted a study on the cost impact of the pad/tampon vending machine. Her research found that the machines break often and that the cost of repairs exceeded the revenue generated. Other sites in the study discontinued the machines due to vandalism and theft.

“If these paid dispensers are expensive to buy and maintain, if they yield no profit, and if their temperamental design wastes staff time and resources … why are we still charging for period products?” asked Smiley.

Founded in 2018, proptech startup Period.

Aunt Flow, backed by proptech leaders including JLL Spark, has created a patented free-vend tampon and pad dispensing system that replaces the archaic, high-maintenance, coin-operated dispensers. More than 500 companies—including Google, Netflix, and brick-and-mortar Apple Stores—chose Aunt Flow to improve the workplace experience for their employees.

While some may not consider Aunt Flow to be typical “proptech,” this woman-owned company and its patented technology deliver key benefits for real estate owners and operators as well as tenants. 

  • Attract and retain tenants: Top employers are offering new mother rooms, parental leave, and childcare services. Offering free pads/tampons is now standard for employee care among the Fortune 500—many stipulate free period products in their leases.
  • Reach sustainability goals Aunt Flow products use 25% less water during manufacturing, are biodegradable, and create 25% less waste than most period products. Not only does this help your sustainability initiatives, it means fewer overflowing trash bins and clogged toilets for your facilities management and janitorial teams to deal with.
  • Comply with accessibility guidelines: Many coin-operated dispensers have a twist-knob that requires wrist dexterity. The Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) guidelines mandate a push-button mechanism, like the ones featured on all Aunt Flow machines.
  • Meet the WELL Building Standard®: Free, accessible period products directly affect human health and well-being, a key part of this people-first building standard.

On a mission to make the world better for half the human population, Aunt Flow is transforming real estate and the workplace experience, one “cycle” at a time.