Craig Hatkoff, Chief Curator of the Tribeca Disruptive Innovation Awards, spoke at the Forbes Women’s Summit about the ideas that have come out of disruptive innovation. The whole theory behind disruptive innovation is that a product or service takes root at the bottom of the market, and then relentlessly moves up. Over and over the thought was repeated that the product could be cheaper, or lower quality, but all that matters is that it does the job and shakes up the way the market works. Wikipedia was an example, as was the mp3. As part of the discussion, Craig Hatkoff and Perri Peltz brought on some current disruptive innovators, Miki Agrawal and Radha Agrawal, twin sisters who co-founded THINX along with their friend Antonia Dunbar.

When I first heard of THINX from Antonia, I was interested, but unsure what exactly made them disruptive. Their product, leak & stain resistant underwear for women, is certainly a phenomenal innovation – they figured out a problem that women were having, and went out and solved it. But the truly disruptive element of the business is their work with AFRIpads, a company that produces washable, reusable cloth sanitary pads for women in developing nations. The three girls have traveled around the world, and they discovered that women in these countries do not have access to the same sanitary products as women in developed nations. As a consequence, as many as 67 million girls and women in Africa alone suffer from what they call “the week of shame” in which they stay home from school or work because they don’t have the resources they need to manage their periods. AFRIpads aims to fix that – they hire local women to make the cloth pads, and sell them at a price point of $2 which is affordable for the women they are trying to help. These pads come in a pack of 7, one for each day of the week, are washable and reusable, and will last for at least 12 months. THINX has partnered with AFRIpads to help spread their product to the women who need it, and disrupt the cycle of shame associated with a natural phenomenon. For every pair of THINX underwear purchased, they fund the production of a pack of 7 AFRIpads for a girl or woman in Africa. Their partnership has allowed AFRIpads to expand their business, and has enabled 100,000 girls and women to break the taboo and continue their lives without disruption.

I’m proud to be an investor in THINX – they are an astounding company that is making a good product and changing the world in the process. Read their story and learn about the power of your purchasing: