Meet Lauren Mellor, Founder of Mabel
In this interview series, our aim is to feature incredible business women who are company founders. Our goal is to share experiences and insights so we can all learn from each other, and be inspired to take action toward building the businesses of our dreams.
Hello Lauren —
We’re so thrilled that you’re taking part, thank you!
Firstly, tell us a bit about you.
Hiya, I’m a born and bred South African girl who has always been passionate about travel and conservation. I’ve been very fortunate in my 16 years of modelling to have seen the world and live in different, exciting countries. I melt every-time I see a chocolate lab and have prism reading glasses.
I’m the founder of Mabel, and the co-founder of a content production company called Something Ventured.
And tell us about your business.
Mabel is a sustainable feminine hygiene initiative (the first women I ever taught how to sew the kits is named Mabel). I teach girls and women in rural communities how to sew their own reusable period kits and teach menstrual lessons in rural schools. The kits can last up to three years which not only helps many low-income families financially but also reduces waste in landfills.
With many girls and women in developing countries having little to no access to period products, Mabel is taking steps towards sourcing all materials for the kits locally and helping to turn sewing groups into sustainable micro-enterprises and stock rural schools with feminine hygiene kits.
What inspired you to start Mabel?
Three years ago I volunteered for a month with Game Rangers International in Kafue National Park, Zambia. During that time I worked in community conservation, teaching at local schools and working closely with womens’ groups. Due to the taboo that is still strongly attached to menstruation in many African cultures, there is a huge gap in feminine hygiene education. Period products are expensive and many communities have no access to pads or tampons. This has resulted in girls and women using old rags, grass and sometimes the stuffing of mattresses to manage their periods. Some girls and women stay at home, therefore missing out on days at school or work and falling behind.
Women shouldn’t have to decide between buying food for their families or period products.
How has the founder experience been for you?
All the Mabel projects I’ve done to date have been completely different. But I am always inspired by the girls and women who work so hard to sew the kits and also by the NGO’s (Non-Governmental Organisations) who I collaborate with. The days are long, hard and hot, but that sense of truly purposeful work makes it an exciting adventure which I’m so grateful to experience.
What have you found the most challenging?
Working with foot pedalled sewing machines! And the language barrier has often been challenging.
What has been your best investment?
Doing a menstrual teacher training course with Binti International.
Have you made any mistakes or faux pas? If so, can you share with us?
I still don’t know how to properly use a foot pedalled sewing machine. Anyone got one?
Have you had an role models or mentors along the way?
Sweet Marion, my mom. She’s a fashion designer and seamstress who has helped me countless times source fabrics and taught me how to sew the kits.
What’s been your greatest lesson you’ve learnt since starting your own business?
To be patient.
What does success mean to you?
What books or podcasts would you recommend?
I really enjoy Simplify on Pocket Casts.
What advice would you give anyone about to start a business?
Don’t overthink it. Sometimes you just have to start. You’ll be surprised how much falls into place.
Finally, how can readers get in touch with you?
— Lara & Frankie
*as described by a subscriber. Yup, really.
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