The 2021 Women of the Year Awards: Entrepreneurial Leader – Runner-up

Co-founder of reusable period product maker Aisle, Madeleine Shaw is now launching Nestworks Workplace Society.

Entrepreneurial Leader: Runner-up
Madeleine Shaw
Co-founder and director of partnership and impact, Aisle; founder and chief community officer, Nestworks Workplace Society

When Madeleine Shaw and her business partner, Suzanne Siemens, had children in the early 2000s, they weren’t eligible for maternity leave. “So we brought our kids to work with us, which at the time was a very radical act,” Shaw says of their five-year solution. “It showed me that there was this false dichotomy between work and family.”

The two kept building what’s now called Aisle, a Vancouver-based maker of reusable period products that Shaw launched in 1993. The B Corporation, which sells in 40 countries, employs 12 people in its hometown. Compared to a disposable, each Aisle product diverts 99 percent of waste from the landfill. The company has donated its pads, cups and underwear to 30,000 girls in 17 nations.

Shaw and Siemens also mentored Afripads, a Uganda-based startup inspired by Aisle whose products have reached 3.5 million girls. After both businesses collaborated on a booklet about menstrual health, it became a full curriculum that NGOs have used to educate more than 110,000 girls and women.

Nestworks, Shaw’s new venture, plans to open family-friendly spaces throughout the Lower Mainland that offer flexible child care and somewhere outside the home to work. “Our business case is so much sharper now,” says the Vancouver native, whose team is preparing to pitch investors. “We’ve got an entire she-cession to address, and people are finally paying attention to the child-care crisis.”