When you think of a group of entrepreneurial dads, the last thing that might come to mind is menstruation.
But the taboo associated with periods and the hushed way the topic is talked about – or avoided – is what led Hopkinton’s Peter Thomas and his wife, Amy, along with the backing of some local dads, to create a product to both educate girls and open up a dialogue with her parents.
The idea came about after Amy took her daughter, Carmen, to a puberty class, looking for a way to have a frank and open conversation with her tween about the natural process of growing up. After discussing it with other parents, she found that many were anxious about having ‘the talk’ with their daughter.
“Maybe they put the conversation off and the next thing you know she starts her period in class and doesn’t know what to do,” said Amy. “We started thinking a lot about it – how could we help parents have a comfortable conversation? How could we help normalize this discussion?”
Their answer is Penny Pack, a personalized guide to a girl’s first period that launched in May. It’s made to help moms, dads and caregivers introduce the topic of periods in an easy, age-appropriate way.
Along with a lightweight clutch stocked with organic cotton tampons and pads, the kit comes with two books. The first, "A Girl’s Guide," was written by the Thomas’s 14-year-old daughter (and edited by a pediatrician), covering practical questions and offering real-life advice. The other, "There’s Something New About You," is a coming-of-age book written by two physicians. It tackles the challenges of puberty with honest, useful information.
The books are in contrast to much of the medical literature pre-teen girls receive from a health class or the pamphlet published by the American Academy of Pediatrics, said Peter. “A lot of that information is really technical. This, on the other hand, is very accessibly to a girl.”
Each kit comes with access to the Penny Pack app, which has ongoing period-related information and educational tools, and includes a personalized, handwritten note with a special message from mom or dad.
“There are other first period kits out there, but almost every one has a product to sell. In our case, we include products, but only as an adjunct to teaching,” said Peter. “The idea is this is a gift. This is a big deal for girl. It should be positive and not something that is feared and not talked about.”
Penny Pack is meant to be given to girls before they start their period – around 8 or 9 years old. The kit is $25, and available at thepennypack.com.
“The response we’ve received from our friends, family and focus groups about the Penny Pack has been overwhelming and certainly validates our thought that the period talk should be easier,” said Peter. “What do a bunch of dads know about periods? We know that talking about periods makes most everyone feel awkward and that our girls deserve better than what we could find readily available to help teach them about their first period.”