When Fifty Shades of Gray was adapted into a movie, one specific sex scene was deemed too risqué for the big screen because of one teeny, tiny object: a tampon. For decades, women were taught to be ashamed of their periods, and the world’s feminine products were made to fit this narrative by the very people who supported it: men.
That’s why Molly Hayward started Cora—a brand that advocates for women’s health and offers thoughtful women’s wellness products (including period care, body care, pre- and post-natal care, and products for light bladder leaks) made with natural and organic ingredients. With every Cora purchase, Molly donates period products and health education to women and girls in need. She also launched Cora’s educational arm, aptly titled Blood + Milk, to provide reliable information that de-stigmatizes the female body and empowers women to feel confident in their own skin.
If we were to create a list of inspirational leaders ahead of their time who relentlessly fight for what’s right in the world, Molly would be up there next to RBG and Megan Rapinoe. That’s why we’re so excited to hear what’s going on inside that brilliant head of hers.
Tell us a little more about yourself—who you are, where you’re from, and how you normally spend a Sunday.
Well first off, I am an Aries, and a classic one at that, so if you’re familiar with astrology you’ll know what that means! I’m a recovering East-Coast workaholic, originally from Pennsylvania, but I now call California home and am trying to cultivate a life of balance, depth, and meaning.
Sundays always hold a little anxiety for me…the last day of full-day freedom to do whatever I want–whether that’s quality time with my partner Devon, a hike, a home project, or just taking an indulgent midday nap. Recently I’ve been spending almost every weekend at Devon’s farm in Sonoma, which is completely magical. Between work in the orchard, planting the veggie garden, taking care of the newly arrived baby chickens, or playing with horses, there’s very little that doesn’t feed the soul. Most Sundays we wake up slowly, put the kettle on, carve out time for sipping our coffee while doing some reading in front of the fire, and then throwing on our boots and getting outside. It’s definitely hard to leave come Monday morning!
Let’s start with your career. After you graduated from Connecticut College in 2010, you worked at two companies before founding Cora in 2014. Did you always know you wanted to start your own company or did it just naturally pan out that way?
I realized I wanted to start my own company when I realized I didn’t love working for other people, because I had all of these ideas of my own that I wanted to work on. Fortunately, I was good at finding scrappy ways of solving problems and making things happen, so even though I made a ton of mistakes along the way, I was able to get my own ideas off the ground. It was definitely not something I consciously planned when I was getting my education or thinking about what I wanted to be when I grew up though!
On a trip with a friend to Kenya, you met a young girl who had to stay at home from school because she was on her period and didn’t have a tampon or pad to keep her from bleeding through her school uniform. You’ve said before that this was your “lightbulb moment.” Did you dream up Cora right then and there or did you have to mull it over, brainstorm with other people in your life, etc., before committing to the idea?
That was the moment for me when I committed to pursuing a solution to her problem, but it took a lot of brainstorming, mulling, and trial and error over the course of two years to nail down the business model, set things up, find our giving partners, and actually launch the brand.
What advice do you have for other women with their own “lightbulb moment?”
Don’t ignore it! I sincerely believe in the power of our instincts and the intelligence of life. If an idea comes and it lights you up and gets you excited, it’s like falling in love. Are you really going to just ignore that or let it pass you by? Yes, it might seem risky, or challenging. But you can do it. If I can do it, anyone can do it. I love that quote by Howard Thurman that says, “Don’t ask yourself what the world needs. Ask yourself what makes you come alive, and go do that, because what the world needs is people who have come alive.” I think you can replace the word “world” with “your spouse” or “your kids”. I have found that from a place of aliveness, everything else flows towards joy and contentment.
On the heels of the #metoo movement, we’re just beginning to uncover the everyday struggles that women have dealt with for decades. When it comes to period products, those challenges span the gamut from the young girls that Cora supports to incarcerated women who are not provided the right amount of sanitary products. Can you speak to the issue(s) that keep you up at night and we should all know about?
You’ve named the immediate issues we face and that I think about–with a lot of pain in my heart–on a regular basis. What really keeps me up at night is the need for every person on this planet to remember and become conscious of the inherent value of women. We have become profoundly disconnected from the truth of that, and I think it impacts everything from the way women are treated in the workplace, to the way we value the natural environment and our connection to it. Without a consciousness shift that reconnects us all to the wisdom of the feminine, I don’t know if our species can or will survive.
At Molly Jones, we’re big on finding a balance in life that works for you. Now that you run a highly successful venture-backed company, what does a “balanced life” mean to you? What do you do to strive for it?
Balance for me is simply feeling in control of my day, and not getting pulled into the insane current of all that is going on. That might mean that I actually allow myself the 30 minutes in the morning to meditate instead of jumping right into emails, or getting to the office a little later so I can go to a yoga class or get outside for a hike before heading into the city. Balance to me is a mindset. Things can be fast-paced and days can be full, as long as I’ve consciously said yes to it all.
What’s your favorite part of your job?
Seeing the impact we make in the lives of women and girls here in the U.S. as a result of offering cleaner products, and in Kenya and India by providing access to sanitary pads and health education. We take those things for granted, but it’s incredibly meaningful and precious in most of the world and it’s immensely gratifying to help change the experience of womanhood for someone by creating a pathway to a feeling of dignity and confidence when it comes to their bodies.
If you were writing a book about your life, what might your 2019 chapter be called?
(Self) Love is All You Need
Looking forward, what does being a woman in 2020 mean to you?
It means finding your voice, and speaking your truth. Because speaking your truth is part of the whole of women being heard in 2020.
What’s the most resonant piece of advice you’ve heard recently?
Follow the feeling.
Are there any other women-owned businesses you love that we should know and support?
Cleban and Daughters, Vitruvi, Wildfang, Ozma
Here at Molly Jones, we’re big believers in cannabis as a healthy alternative to taking the edge off and finding a more balanced lifestyle. Do you have a relationship with cannabis? If yes, when and what do you use it for?
I have a very deep and evolving relationship with cannabis. I’m a recovering rule-follower and so before it was legal I was always a bit wary of it, but when it became recreationally legal I started to experiment and use it. I use CBD daily for anxiety and insomnia, and THC for insomnia, stress relief, and just plain having fun. I feel so much better the next morning than I do drinking alcohol. I’ve also utilized cannabis in conjunction with other plant medicines for the purpose of spiritual exploration and it added immense depth to the experience.
Which cannabis products are you enjoying right now?
Molly Jones 50mg CBD gummies during the (stressful) day time, Equilibria CBD drops at night, and KinSlips CloudBusters for an all around good time.
Lastly, our favorite game, Quick Fire:
- CBD or THC? THC
- Instagram or Twitter? Instagram
- AOC or RBG? AOC for our generation, RBG for paving the way!
- Megan Rapinoe or Serena Williams? Megan Rapinoe! I love the way she’s using her voice to fight for equality.
- Hawaii or Mexico? Do I really have to choose?!
- Beatles or Rolling Stones? Beatles…shoutout to my dad for keeping their vinyls on the record player non stop while I was a kid.
- Oprah or Ellen? Oprah! A badass with soul…
- In the car: music or podcasts? Music, all day.
- Bikinis or one-pieces? Bikini. The body is a beautiful thing to behold…