Product is touted as cheaper, more comfortable and less wasteful
Inspired by their work with a nonprofit that provides menstrual products for homeless women, a Clemson student and recent graduate took home first place in this year’s Spark Challenge, sponsored by the College of Engineering, Computing and Applied Sciences. Their product, a reusable tampon applicator, is touted as cheaper and more comfortable to use than its competitors and results in less waste going to landfills.
Claudia Sisk, a senior bioengineering major, and Marissa Jansen, who graduated in May with a health science degree, won $2,500 for their product, Nature’s Gift, which is designed to include an insertion sheath and rod made of hygienic material. It would cost $25 and come in two sizes to accommodate cotton inserts with various levels of absorbency, ranging from light to ultra.
About 7 billion tampons and their applicators are thrown out every year in the United States, and Nature’s Gift would aim to help reduce waste, Sisk and Jansen said. Each device would last about two years, bringing its average monthly cost to about $1.04. The cotton inserts, sold separately, would run another $3.50 a month.
Nature’s Gift customers could expect to spend a grand total of $4.54 a month on menstrual health products, compared to the average monthly cost of $13.25, Sisk and Jansen said. The team is targeting anyone who menstruates, especially young women who are concerned about their ecological footprint.
In the annual Spark Challenge, student teams work with mentors to develop a product and then build a business plan to bring it to market. Each team selected for the competition gets $500 in seed money. Teams pitch their ideas to a panel of judges.
The idea for Nature’s Gift came out of the Homeless Period Project, a national nonprofit that provides menstrual products. Jansen was a co-founder, and Sisk was a member. Their adviser on Nature’s Gift was professor of bioengineering Sarah Harcum.
Next steps include developing a prototype and applying for a provisional patent, Jansen said. “If we can get it through that hurdle, I think we’ll have a really good shot at taking it further.”