Every woman knows that monthly pain, frustration or just inconvenience: menstruation.
Having to deal with paralysing cramps and a hurricane of emotions is no walk in the park; however, the worst part is when you start getting itchy down there and can't even attend to it.
This is what Yeelin Chong had to endure every time she put on a disposable pad, until the rashes became too unbearable. She then decided to switch to a cloth pad as an alternative.
Although the cloth pads helped with the itching, the 37-year-old mother of two felt that they were too bulky and not the right size for her liking.
Having picked up a passion for sewing, she used it to experiment with different materials, sizes, and shapes to create the perfect pad.
After months of trial and development, she expanded into different products ranging from wet bags and custom-made pads for light or heavy flow, and Cotton Mermaid was born.
IMPROVING THE MENSTRUAL EXPERIENCE
On the official website, customers can browse through the products, and proudly featured are the two key stars: the Mermaid's Collection and Moonlight's Collection.
On average, a single cloth pad from Cotton Mermaid can cost upwards of RM24.90, and a starter pack with four different sizes is priced at RM118.90.
The two key points of a cloth pad are that it should be comfortable and absorbent.
"I design my products based on customers' and testers' feedback on how it can be improved," Yeelin said.
"I've always wanted to start a business of my own when I became a stay-at-home mom," she added. "Having worked for many years in the IT sector before, I set aside a capital of RM60k for this business from my own savings and spent 6 to 8 months of research before officially launching."
Just launched 2 months ago, Yeelin manages the entire startup herself from building the website, making the prototypes, marketing, taking orders, handling the photo shoot and liaising with customers or vendors.
"The list doesn't even end there," she quipped. "To say I work full-time is an understatement, as I work over-time often."
These days, she no longer hand-sews the products, outsourcing them because she can't cope with the amount of pads needed. However, she still designs, makes samples & prototypes, and sources for fabrics herself.
She is also keenly aware that business-wise, making products are reusable and durable will also stagnate growth in the long run. "I need to constantly challenge myself with new product ideas that are in-line with our business value," said Yee Lin.
Furthermore, she also plans to include menstrual cups and panty liners to the Cotton Mermaid line and expand into charity work by helping underprivileged girls in the country that do not have access to proper pads.
"Cotton Mermaid is not just a menstrual pads or menstrual cups business, it is a business to improve women's menstrual experience in every possible way," she said.
A MONTHLY FLOW THAT DOESNT WRECK THE EARTH
By switching to cloth pads, Yeelin has found that she can reduce the number of pads that are disposed, therefore making it more sustainable and eco-friendly.
Disposable pads are actually made from polyacrylate-super absorbent gels derived from petroleum-which is why they are getting thinner and slimmer. Super absorbent polymer gels (SAP) are tiny crystals that are sprinkled inside the layers of the pad.
Known for their incredible ability to absorb and trap fluids, they have been the key ingredient for diapers and pads over the years.
Although cloth pads have proven to be more comfortable and sustainable for daily use, many people still view it as a "taboo" in society as it is frowned upon as disgusting and unclean.
Yeelin affirmed that cloth pads can last for at least a 100 washes and are very easy to clean.
"To wash a soiled pad, rinse it with soap under running water and squeeze it until the water is clear. Then, soak in soap water for 4 hours or leave it overnight before hanging it to dry," she explained.
Yeelin admitted that she only became an environmentally-friendly user after discovering reusable materials where she learned about sustainable living and zero waste.
"The satisfaction that comes with creating one pad less is the drive that keeps me going," she concluded. "Therefore, we can save the Earth, one pad at a time."
Cotton Mermaid is currently based in Malaysia, but ships to Australia and Singapore.