How to take a billion dollar idea and turn it into a reality with Cora founder Molly Hayward

Updated: Sep 1

Imagine not being able to go to school or work because you don’t have the products you need during your period.

Imagine having to use dirty rags instead of tampons or pads and being forced to drop out of school in elementary - all because of your period. For millions of women and girls around the world - this is a reality. Enter Cora.

Cora is a purpose driven fem-care brand that’s on a mission to build a better future for all women, all around the world, founded by Molly Hayward. Molly is one of those sparkly women I felt like I could chat to for hours about her mission over the last decade and what she’s managed to build with Cora. An elevated period brand for the modern woman, with a major social 1 for 1 give back scheme to girls in need.

Since 2016, Cora has donated well over 10 million pads and has helped provide reproductive health education to roughly 15,000 girls in Kenya and India. This is one of the most inspiring women I’ve had the pleasure of interviewing and I hope you love the episode.

Please note, this transcript has been copy pasted without the lovely touch of a human editor. Please expect some typos!

Cora started for me out of a place of real confusion and personal, sort of,

I think.

Crisis, almost, so I was actually coming out of the first company that I had co-founded, so I started a sustainable clothing company way

Back for about

10 years ago, and I was really interested in ethical fashion and sustainable fashion and actually lived in London for a time that was really the hub of ethical fashion at that time. And I really was so interested in the opportunity to contribute to that industry being more environmentally sustainable, more ethically sort of aligned, I think.

And you

Dove right into that and after a couple of years really realized it was going to take me so long in that particular industry to make the impact that I really wanted to


And I think as a I was so young, I think as a twenty two year old, I was like super impatient and I just couldn't really see the forest for the trees. And so I kind of made the choice


Sell my share back to my business partner and just move on because I was like, I need something that I can really sink my teeth into and start to feel some really real results. But I didn't know what that was. And prior to that, I had been involved in a couple of other startups. And really I loved the idea of the the way that business could be used for social good. And so that was my

Whole sort of driving

Level of interest for a driving force in my interest in business was not necessarily business persay, but being able to use that as a vehicle for doing doing good in the world, creating some sort of change. And so I was really at this crossroads. Like I moved back from London.

I was back in the US.

I had no idea what I was going to do or what my next project or venture was going to be. And a friend sort of called me out of the blue and was like, hey, I know you have always had a really specific interest in women and girls and economic development. That's what I studied in college and said, I'm going on this volunteer trip with this organization to Kenya. They're focused on women's health and girls education, and they have one seat left on their plane, like, do you want to go? And it was like a month or something. And I was like, yes, sign me up. And so I went thinking just like I wanted

To kind of

Have a new experience, get back to a place of service and kind of honestly get out of my own head. And I got there and saw

All of

This amazing investment being made into girls education and women's health. So they were building schools and clinics, providing girls with uniforms and school supplies. And then as I got to know a lot of the girls in the community,

I was sitting with

One of them one day and she basically told me that she was home from school that day because she had her period but couldn't afford

To buy iPads.

And then and that was basically what she and all of the other girls in the village would do.

And I was sort

Of stunned,

Like my

Immediate reaction was like, OK, I'm here with this non-profit organization. Let me write a check to them. Like, I can make a contribution every month. They can earmark those funds for PAD's. The girls here in this village will have what they need each month.

And then,

Like the entrepreneurial lightbulb sort of kicked on. And I was like, hang on a minute. There are probably millions of girls all over the world like this girl and these girls.

And there are

Probably millions of women like me who would have that same sort of visceral, empathetic reaction to hearing that and feel like, you know

What, I can give

A small amount each

Month, like the

Cost of a cup of coffee or a latte every month to make sure that a girl has much needs during her period. I think, number one, because we've all just had that experience of like not having a tampon or pad when we needed it. And it's like you can't you can't continue with your day until you have addressed this issue. So we all know how essential those products are to our ability to just function out in the world.

But equally, it really

Struck me that there I think there is this growing consciousness that it is

The education

And empowerment of women and girls all over the world that is really going to ultimately begin to solve some of our greatest world problems. So taking kind of that feeling and that understanding and that instinct about the desire to connect

Women in need

With women in my own society, it more for me into this idea of creating a brand that really showcased and highlighted this issue and gave consumers a way of engaging with it. So. Product. Their products in the US, as they normally would, but we would use our profits to be helping to provide pads to girls in in places like Kenya and we now we have partner in India as well, and we also give here in the US. So it really evolved from there. So I came back to the US from Kenya and really started to build that brand and knew that I wanted to not just kind of have that social mission, but also create a line of products that with natural or organic, the brand. I wanted it to feel modern and design led. I wanted to kind of change the experience from one that felt kind of like neutral or negative that I think most experiences historically have made you just feel like you're a 13 year old girl over and over and over again. LABRA Totally. And I really wanted to elevate the experience and just create what I felt like was a brand that represented all the different values of the modern woman.

And I also

Feel like at that time there wouldn't have been many people doing that. Like I know now there are lots of brands in the period space and fem

Care that back

Then, like it really was like a disruptive, forward thinking new way that, you know, they were brands doing the social impact moment, like Toms did the shoes and they were people doing that

But was doing glasses.

Yep, exactly. But no one doing it in this space.

Totally. Yeah. We were definitely one of the first and that was both a really exciting opportunity and also really daunting. And it was challenging raising money because there was like this sort of lack of proof that

This industry was

Ripe for change from a customer perspective. And so, like a lot of the work that I had to do was convincing people that, like, no women are absolutely, like, hungry for this type of a

Shift in

Their own experience

In this

At this very personal and intimate aspect of their bodies that's really just been


And kind of dominated by like these huge corporations that kind of promote these outdated notions of womanhood like. And, yeah, that was kind of like the struggle at that time.