Tuesday, June 26, 2007

Toyna Chin on Growing Up

Chances are, you've heard your share of the usual set of horror stories on growing up (embarassing periods! untimely acne! killer mood swings!) Toyna Chin has heard them, too--and she's out to make them a thing of the past. Toyna, now 38, is on a mission she began at age 19, when she first decided she had to do something about the way that companies sold women feminine hygiene products (no choices! bulky boxes! uncomfortable pads!) Best of all, she wants to make sure girls enter puberty armed--with knowledge, that is.

In college, Toyna pitched her ideas to top companies, only to receive stacks of rejection letters. But she never gave up. Three years ago, she launched Hygeia, a new company offering girl's kits called Petite Amie. Five different Cycle Kits, designed with a chic sense of style (no more ugly plastic packages!), offer girls both tips on their period and the tools they need for it--a range of tampons, pads, pantyliners, and other products, depending on the kit.
Petite Amie is still new on the market, but it's already received great feedback--from girls relieved to find something that makes growing up a little more fun, from moms who wish they'd had Petite Amie kits when they were growing up, and from educators who care about girls' health. Gloria Feldt, the former President of Planned Parenthood, has called them "a blessing." And Sylvie Lemaire, the President of the leading Canadian feminine care brand, declared of Petite Amie, "It's brilliant!"
New Moon caught up with Toyna yesterday to chat about her life, work, and why it's important to make girls' experiences in puberty more positive.
New Moon: What's a typical day on the job like?
Toyna Chin: We're a small company, so each day is different. I usually go through emails, check orders, and work with interns and staff. Everything else really depends on what comes up--I work with retailers, manufacturers, marketers, distributors, and lots of other people.
NM: What would you tell girls interested in starting their own business?
TC: I would remind them to really look at what they're interested in, and to pursue that. I tell girls: Go into whatever you're doing with passion; don't go in it for the money. That way, if the money doesn't happen, you're still doing what you love.
NM: What is the biggest success you've had in your work?
TC: Definitely bringing Petite Amie on the market--I've been working on this since I was 19! It's been a long journey.
NM: How does Petite Amie empower girls (one of your company's goals)?
TC: Through giving them the knowledge they need to understand the issues they're facing (each kit includes a Q & A booklet), and by encouraging them to embrace different cultural beliefs, whether or not they believe in them. For example, we make different kits tailored to girls of different cultures. Asian and Hispanic girls are less likely to use tampons, so we make special kits for them that mainly include pads. However, we still encourage girls to use the products that are most practical.
NM: What do you think is most challenging for teen girls in puberty?
TC: The embarrassment about what they're going through--it's hard for them to be confident and see that what they're going through is normal.
NM: What's your advice for girls entering puberty?
TC: It's going to feel very confusing; at times, it might feel like you're the only one in the world experiencing the things you're experiencing, but it's something we all go through. Embrace the experience, and ask questions of whomever you can--parents, nurses, teachers, friends. We even offer an "Ask the Expert" section on our website, where you can submit a question about puberty to receive a private, emailed response within 24 hours.
Now here are a few question for our readers: Have you used Petite Amie's products? Or have you seen their website?
Do you think there's a need for a new approach to getting your period and going through puberty? If you could change an aspect of going through puberty, what would you change? What do you think the world needs to know about puberty and periods? Leave us a comment and tell us what you think!

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