Erica Duffy ’21 (Design Leadership MBA/MA) said the idea for TamPal actually came in her own bathroom.
“I had an apartment bathroom where there was a toilet and bathtub shower, and I didn't have anywhere to place my tampons or pads when I needed to use them. My options were to put them on the floor or on the edge of the tub, which always ended up with a product in the tub and me awkwardly stretching to grab them. It led me to wonder why it is that we don't have storage or holders for these products when we do for toilet paper,” she explained.
From there, Duffy began thinking about public spaces and realized quickly there was a lack of options in public restrooms when users need more products.
“I thought there must be an upgraded version of the old archaic, quarter operated tampon/pad dispensers that I sometimes see, but have never found to be functional when I needed one. I looked, and I found that while there are some that have features like, free vend, they really haven't come very far from the patents that I saw for some of the original ones in 1991, the year I was born,” she said.
Her research led her to create TamPal, which seeks to make it easy for users to access tampons and pads in public restrooms, while also making it streamlined for those that stock them so that dispensers stay stocked and operational. TamPal’s dispensers will connect to a backend tracking system so that those stocking the dispenser are alerted when supplies are running low. An automated reorder system will ensure that product is always available to stock in the machine. In its first phase, TamPal will be launched in schools where users will be able to scan their student ID and a product will vend for free.
Duffy hopes that UP/Start funding will assist her to further launch the business, from pursuing trademarks, to creating a marketing prototype and continued research, design, and development for the in-market product.
“Being in the UP/Start cohort has been an enriching experience,” Duffy said. “It has been really interesting to learn from the guest speakers that come in to speak on their areas of business expertise. It has also been great to learn from others starting up their businesses and seeing the amount of creativity and drive that exist in our MICA community.”
“I want to make tampons and pads as ubiquitous as toilet paper in bathrooms. In a year we plan to be in pilot schools trialing our product with real users. There are five states in the U.S. that require period products to be supplied in middle schools and highschools,” Duffy said, adding, “At TamPal we believe that tampons and pads should be as accessible as toilet paper in bathrooms. Period.”