Entrepreneur of the Year 2017: Special Citation

The annual Ernst & Young list of B.C.'s brightest business visionaries finds a fresh crop of leaders building empires in everything from renewable energy to venture capital to social enterprise

Suzanne Siemens + Madeleine Shaw
CEO + Creative Director, Lunapads International Products Ltd. (Special Citation – Social Entrepreneur)

Every enterprise wants to do well. Lunapads International Products also wants to do good. In 1993, Madeleine Shaw began making washable menstrual pads for her own use, later manufacturing and retailing them in Vancouver’s Yaletown. Seven years later, she took on a business partner, chartered professional accountant Suzanne Siemens. They incorporated the company, with Siemens as CEO and Shaw as creative director, and shifted its business model to e-commerce and digital marketing. This year, Lunapads has sold almost 100,000 reusable menstrual and bladder leakage items, which the company estimates results in some 20 million disposable products diverted from landfills annually.

Lunapads products are still made in Vancouver from mostly natural or organic fabrics, but Shaw and Siemens also look for innovative market-based solutions to problems faced by women worldwide. Nine years ago, they helped launch Afripads, based in Uganda and modelled on Lunapads, which has since supplied more than a million girls with menstrual products and employs about 150 people. In 2012, Lunapads and Afripads co-founded One4Her, a buy-one-give-one menstrual health partnership. That year, Siemens and Shaw also worked with Transformation Textiles in Egypt to recycle its leftover factory textiles into menstrual underwear for sale and to donate to groups including Lunapads’ Pads4Girls program, which has given pads to more than 20,000 females in 17 countries since 2000. “We’re always looking for those types of opportunities to reduce waste and increase social impacts,” says Shaw, who applauds the City of Vancouver’s plan to implement a waste ban on textiles.

One of Lunapads’ latest products is a sport short that is a comfortable alternative to pads or panty liners and can be worn for most sports, including brief dips in the pool. The company also collaborated with Coquitlam-based Snugabell Mom & Baby Gear Ltd. on the design of postpartum underwear expected to be available this fall. “We have gradually built our business to a point of success that we can start going beyond our base,” Siemens says.

What’s one thing that people would be surprised to learn about you?
I can speak, read and write passable Hebrew –Madeleine Shaw
My son was born in my bedroom –Suzanne Siemens