At 31 years old, Cora founder Molly Hayward knows precisely where she is headed and what tools she needs to get there.
In 2015 she launched Cora, a subscription-based company that develops and sells organic tampons, pads, and other feminine products. “I am a problem-solver,” says Hayward, “and with Cora, I intended to create a brand that will serve women.”
The seed of the company was planted during a volunteer experience in Kenya that Hayward got involved in through a friend. One day, a young girl approached Hayward and said she was home from school because she had her period and had no pads; without them, she was afraid she would leak through her uniform, so she had to stay home. “It was one of those lightbulb moments,” Hayward recalls. “My first instinct was to write a cheque to the organization so they could buy pads for these girls. On second thought, I realized that in the world, there were so many girls like her who needed pads and tampons. In the US, we take them for granted, forgetting that they are essential items for women. So I wondered, ‘Is there a way to solve this problem in the world?’” Instead of waiting for someone else to answer the question, she decided to do it herself.
The essence of that life-changing moment is still visible now, both in her eyes and in the atmosphere she has created in her downtown San Francisco headquarters. The white couches, carpets, Safari-inspired decor items, oak desks, and bookshelves are a reflection of her experience, of the natural landscape that transformed her soul. “I wanted to create a brand that stood for design, sustainability, innovation, health,” she says, “and most of all, that had a big social impact.”
Generosity and intentional aid are two of the main pillars of Cora. Since its inception, the company has included a giving program in which it donates a month’s supply of products to women in underserved countries for every month’s supply sold. The plan was possible thanks to a partnership with two non-profit organizations: Aakar Innovations in India and ZanaAfrica Foundation in Kenya. In 2018 alone, Cora was able to donate eight million pads. But “we don’t provide just pads,” Hayward explains. “We are trying to offer these young women a health curriculum—an education that includes biology and anatomy of the body, sex, birth control methods, differences between a good touch and a bad touch, and what to do in those circumstances.” It’s a more well-rounded approach to philanthropy, providing girls with the tools not only to survive but to thrive.
Growing up in a challenging neighbourhood in Philadelphia, Hayward was taught the importance of giving back to the community from her parents. During her childhood, her mother and father provided food for the homeless, as well as dinners for children who were living in difficult family situations. “I think my parents’ passion for the community shaped my career choices,” she reflects. “I have to have something that has a deeper meaning, a deeper purpose—otherwise I feel like I’m wasting my time. I truly believe that one of the greatest satisfactions is helping someone else. This is what Cora does: serve women in need.”
These thoughtful actions that are now expanding into new directions. Hayward is launching the Circle, a series of spiritual gatherings for women; it will be a monthly event open to Cora’s members, offering yoga classes, meditation sessions, self-care workshops, and more. “I want to create a sacred space for women to be together, to engage in some level of self-care and healing,” Hayward says. It’s all part of a meaningful journey aimed at nurturing the complexities of womanhood, and Hayward is primed to be its honourable leader.