In 2012, Shallan Ramsey recognized a gaping hole in the feminine hygiene market. With a teenage daughter at home, Shallan was struck by the realization that no discreet, easy method for women to dispose their used feminine hygiene products existed. She quickly developed an idea for the company which would soon become MaskIT.
“I started by searching through patents that existed,” Shallan says. “I didn’t find anything even close to what my idea was.”
After thorough research, Shallan learned some haunting statistics regarding the impacts of feminine hygiene products on the environment.
Approximately 20 billion tampons and pads are sent to landfills in North America annually. Women commonly wrap their used feminine products in toilet paper. If just 10% of the nearly 85 million menstruating women in the United States use toilet paper to dispose their tampons, more than 140,000 trees are used on the toilet paper alone.
“I wouldn’t bring my idea to life if it wasn’t truly earth-friendly,” says Shallan. So, she sought out a sustainable material and found certified compostable biofilm made by a company called BioBag.
The biofilm is made of plant starches, vegetable oils and compostable polymers. It is a material that can be consumed by earth’s soil, as opposed to plastic, which takes hundreds of years to biodegrade.
“It is so sustainable and we have the opportunity to save a lot of trees,” Shallan says. The biofilm also blocks odors and does not leak — two properties that were must-haves for the MaskIT founder.
Shallan willed to find a manufacturer in the United States. “100 companies told me no,” says Shallan. “All I needed was one yes.” MaskIT eventually found two factories — one in California and one in Illinois.
A Pensive Invention
Shallan recognized her daughters had no simple way to dispose of their used products, and millions of other girls were probably in the same position.
“We’re taught how to use [tampons and pads] but we’re not taught what to do with them after,” says Shallan.
That time of the month can be daunting for young girls. It can be embarrassing. Shallan hoped her product would make things a little easier than they were for her as a girl.
She describes how it works: “You insert your hand into the MaskIT and it creates a puppet/pocket feature allowing you to grab onto any soiled items with no problem. You’ll take the MaskIT and invert it up and over everything. You’ll remove the adhesive liner, fold it over and press and seal.”
The MaskIT is strategically ivory in color, so it looks like anything else found in a bathroom garbage can.
Many women try to hide their items with toilet paper or even flush them down a toilet to avoid embarrassment. These actions can lead to sanitation issues as well as plumbing problems.
MaskIT LLC has also created a dispenser for MaskITs to be used in public restrooms. Shallan has 45 preorders for the dispenser in her local community of Ashland, Oregon, where the company is headquartered.
Business owners have discovered their “Please Don’t Flush” signs don’t always do the trick. “For the same price, they can provide MaskITs for a year rather than calling a plumber one time,” Shallan says. She hopes the dispensers will encourage women to use a MaskIT instead of flushing.
“It is so much more than just a product to me,” Shallan says. “I really want to make a difference.”
Short-term plans for MaskIT include increasing its puberty education initiative. The company offers free student sample kits and provides puberty education courses to fifth graders. It works with schools in Colorado, California and Oregon, and plans to expand to all 50 states.
MaskIT is available online at Amazon.com and at different retailers across the country, including all Sportsman’s Warehouse locations. The product is also entering REI nationally.
Shallan says it’s been a hit with sporting goods retailers since the product is so helpful to the female adventurer. In August, MaskIT won Pitchfest, the Outdoor Industries Women’s Coalition Inaugural Event for Female-Led Companies.
MaskIT is moving into Raley’s Supermarkets in February and in talks with CVS.
MaskIT also aims to move into the commercial space and has gained the interest of Sysco Corporation, Shallan says.
The company is seeking an investor and partner. “There are a lot of things we want to do,” says Shallan. “We need working capital for operating costs and marketing and advertising.”
MaskIT has a pending patent, and with it, the company has potential for product line expansion. “We could expand to adult incontinence products and baby diapers. Anything people don’t want to touch, see, or smell, MaskIT would be great for.”