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Monica Williams and Dana Roberts: “To empower every girl. From the inside out”

Monica: RedDrop’s mission is “To empower every girl. From the inside out.” We do this through our pads that are made for girls who are just starting their period, and through the free seven-part course about puberty for families to prepare their daughters directly (consume the info and start the conversation themselves) or indirectly (give […]

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Monica: RedDrop’s mission is “To empower every girl. From the inside out.” We do this through our pads that are made for girls who are just starting their period, and through the free seven-part course about puberty for families to prepare their daughters directly (consume the info and start the conversation themselves) or indirectly (give their daughter the info and videos). We make it easy during this time when parents are already the math teacher, IT guy and the cafeteria lady; we take this important task off their plate. We are striving to serve 51% of the middle schoolers in America…talk about social impact!

Dana: My goal is simply to change the narrative of periods for girls and empower them to own this journey for their daughters and granddaughters.


As part of my series about “individuals and organizations making an important social impact”, I had the pleasure of interviewing Monica Williams and Dana Roberts

Dana Roberts is the Co-Founder of RedDrop and has been an educator in the Georgia school system for the past 20 years. She has seen firsthand how uncertain and scary the experience of getting a first period can be for young girls, as she has had dozens of students begin their periods while she was their teacher. She noticed her students displaying patterns of fear and shame about their changing bodies when they didn’t have proper education or weren’t prepared with the right products. Dana saw this as an opportunity to support young girls have a more positive experience with their first period by providing fun and simple products and education to demystify menstrual health. RedDrop was born in 2019 with the help of Co-founders Monica Williams and Mike Davis.

Monica Williams is an experienced physician, entrepreneur, and Co-Founder of RedDrop. After receiving her doctorate degree from Harry Medical College in Nashville, Monica explored the field of entrepreneurship and medicine through developing a line of pacifiers, called Pacimals, which are innovative pacifiers that combine a medical-grade silicone pacifier with a soft light stuffed toy. This invention came at the arrival of her daughter, which was around the same time that her family friend, Dana Roberts, began creating period kits for her students. 10 years later, Monica and Dana set out on a journey to challenge the stigmatization of periods through providing products and information that generate a positive association around periods for their daughters, students, and generations of girls to come.


Thank you so much for doing this with us! Can you tell us a story about what brought you to this specific career path?

Dana: As a career educator, I started to see the needs of girls early. Starting as a classroom teacher, I was able to understand the foundational gaps in understanding with girls and their bodies, specifically their periods. I also recognized that most parents were unprepared to have this conversation with the girl in their lives, which left them vulnerable to have a traumatic experience with this life transition and unfortunately embed a sense of low self-esteem. I knew I wanted to change that through education and now through RedDrop products.

Monica: Entrepreneurship goes back for generations in my family. So, while I prepared myself for a traditional career, it never really fit. During medical school I started my first business, a sunless tanning business where I was the applicator via a manual airbrush machine. It was a little before its time, so it didn’t work out. I was working on another startup business venture at the time that Dana first suggested creating readiness packs for girl’s periods, which is when RedDrop was born!

Can you share the most interesting story that happened to you since you began leading your company or organization?

Dana: The most interesting thing that I’ve learned personally is that women have been conditioned to work through their trauma. So many women share their personal stories with me regarding their period. The most impactful story was when an adult woman cried at the memory of how she was unprepared for her first period and how it traumatized her. It inspired me to want to change the narrative for all girls and women.

Can you share a story about the funniest mistake you made when you were first starting? Can you tell us what lesson you learned from that?

Dana: Some mistakes I now see in hindsight aren’t as funny as they are a learning experience. I would have to say that learning that “my passion” is not enough: While it is important, it is not what moves the business forward. Monica has been essential in the startup process for me, learning about all facets of the business. I’m the emotional partner, while Monica keeps me grounded and keeps the business pushing forward.

Monica: To be honest, when you’re bootstrapping, there aren’t many funny mistakes! One mistake that I continue to learn through is finding the best partners with whom to work. Since funding is such a tremendous challenge for women-led startups and for those led by people of color, I have not had the opportunity to be “funded” like you usually hear startups talk about on podcasts. So to get started, I have had to find others who were willing to work with me without pay. It does ensure that they’re passionate about the project, but it also generally means that they have a full-time job…which can pose a challenge, time and resource-wise.

Can you describe how you or your organization is making a significant social impact?

Dana: I saw the impact immediately from the first “First Purse Kit” I created 10 years ago for my middle school class, which contained all the products a girl starting her first period needed to have. Having one student tell me, “I know what to do Ms. Roberts, thank you” are the best words you can hear as she starts her journey. I feel that ensuring girls have positive period experiences will impact generations in their own families, which will then positively affect generations to come. My goal is simply to change the narrative of periods for girls and empower them to own this journey for their daughters and granddaughters.

Monica: RedDrop’s mission is “To empower every girl. From the inside out.” We do this through our pads that are made for girls who are just starting their period, and through the free seven-part course about puberty for families to prepare their daughters directly (consume the info and start the conversation themselves) or indirectly (give their daughter the info and videos). We make it easy during this time when parents are already the math teacher, IT guy and the cafeteria lady; we take this important task off their plate. We are striving to serve 51% of the middle schoolers in America…talk about social impact!

Can you tell us a story about a particular individual who was impacted or helped by your cause?

Dana: I had a third-grade girl in my class start her period at school; honestly, I was shocked as I had never had a student that young start their period while I was their teacher. She had no idea what was happening, she literally thought she was dying (blood is traumatic) so she cried and yelled. Immediately, I went into mama mode calming her down and working through my own emotions on how to make this a better experience for her. I finally got her calm and had to call her mother, who sobbed on the phone with me. I will never forget that cry. I knew right then my daughters would have a different, more positive experience and I challenged myself that every girl in my reach would as well. I feel good saying I’ve had an impact on hundreds of girls, but honestly, that is nowhere near enough.

Monica: I created RedDrop for my daughter. Dana had the idea for “The First Purse” when my daughter was 2, but I honestly didn’t see the importance until “the changes” started happening right in front of my eyes. Even as a physician, it was difficult, weird, and nearly impossible to start to have the kinds of conversations that I knew she needed. Through building RedDrop, I could create content and products for both of us that were authentic and useful. I also had so many more in-depth conversations through the creation process than I would’ve had otherwise.

Are there three things the community/society/politicians can do to help you address the root of the problem you are trying to solve?

Dana: First, our society and community as a whole can start having conversations that remove sexualization and the stigma associated with periods. Next, politicians can remove taxation of feminine hygiene products; they are essential products. Create legislation that sets aside funding for period supplies for girls and women in need. Finally, an honest and non-partisan educational curriculum that educates young people about their bodies is a huge first step.

Monica: From my perspective, the biggest way that society and politicians can help is to provide standardized education for girl’s puberty that normalizes maturation. Because education, like many other services, is decentralized in America; what girls learn in southern states is different from what they learn in the eastern, northern and western states. As a country and a society, we need to offer a functional system of education that serves children across the country equally.

How do you define “Leadership”? Can you explain what you mean or give an example?

Dana: Leadership is very simple for me. My motto is SERVE. LEAD. INSPIRE. I truly believe no good leader can lead without an example of service to mankind. Leaders lead with mind and heart, and inspire their team to be leaders by example and empower them to make decisions.

Monica: Leadership is a skill of influencing others to use their efforts to achieve a common goal. The most practical example is building and guiding a team of professionals to work, without pay, to create a solution for a problem that has not been widely identified with no guarantee of success.

What are your “5 things I wish someone told me when I first started” and why. Please share a story or example for each.

Dana:

  1. You have to be more than an idea.
  2. Take care of yourself in the process mentally and physically.
  3. Don’t discount your voice, it’s important. Use it, and stand firm in it.
  4. Remember it’s a business and protect your interest, I promise you everyone else will.
  5. For me, service for humanity is always at the forefront. Be a good person — you will win, I promise and don’t let anyone tell you that working for the good of people can’t make you financially successful. It will, it takes time.

You are a person of enormous influence. If you could inspire a movement that would bring the most amount of good to the most amount of people, what would that be? You never know what your idea can trigger. 🙂

Dana: If I could inspire a movement, I would want to inspire the normalization of maturation for girls and boys, taking away any sexual connotation associated with natural bodily growth and development. Let’s normalize positive, transparent, healthy conversations.

Can you please give us your favorite “Life Lesson Quote”? Can you share how that was relevant to you in your life?

Dana: “I’m no longer accepting the things I cannot change… I’m changing the things I cannot accept.” Angela Davis

It’s relevant to our mission. We are here to change what we can no longer accept for girls and women. It’s revolutionary.

Monica: “You get in life, what you have the courage to ask for.” Oprah Winfrey

The relevance of this quote is self-explanatory.

Is there a person in the world, or in the US with whom you would like to have a private breakfast or lunch, and why? He or she might just see this, especially if we tag them. 🙂

Dana: I would be honored to share a meal with Cicely Tyson. Iconic in her own right, I would love to sit and listen to any story she would be willing to share. Her wisdom is unmatched.

Monica: I would love to share time with Shonda Rhimes. Her epic rise in media is enviable, and it has come through an unstoppable work ethic. She’s my girl crush!

How can our readers follow you on social media?

Dana: Our readers can follow us at @reddrop on IG and on Facebook at RedDrop.

This was very meaningful, thank you so much. We wish you only continued success on your great work!


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