Student social enterprise "Lilypads" chosen for global showcase

Lilypads - a student social enterprise that developed a reusable sanitary pad - have been chosen for the RISE Showcase 2019-20, giving them expert support and international exposure to upscale their project.

Lilypads logo

Lilypads - a social enterprise started by MA Economics alumna Alison Wood - tackles period poverty and the shortage of sanitary products in Kenya by empowering women in rural communities to sell environmentally friendly sanitary pads, while providing education on sustainable change.

In November 2019, Lilypads was chosen as part of the Universitas 21 RISE Showcase 2019-20, which highlights student-led projects across the globe in the areas of sustainable development, social enterprise and non-profit innovation. The showcase gives participants the change to share their project globally in order to attract "pledges" of practical support from interested individuals, such as mentoring, networking or collaborations.

Lilypads: creating a sustainable product with a socially responsible mission

Edinburgh Innovation's client Alison Wood
Lilypad founder Alison Wood

Alison volunteered with a charity in Kenya during her Economics degree, during which she realised that many girls in rural communities were not taught about menstruation in school, and had little access to sanitary products. Girls often missed school during their period, or were offered sanitary goods by men in exchange for sex. Seeing the educational inequality and exploitation this created, she wanted to help, and decided that creating a low-cost sanitary product that could be made and sold locally in conjunction with menstrual education was a solution worth trying.

Alison developed a reusable sanitary pad made from scrap fabric that was lower cost and more environmentally friendly than many other sanitary pads, which can be made of up to 90% plastic. The pads are manufactured in Nairobi and then distributed to "Lily Ladies" in rural Kenyan communities who are trained in both menstrual health education and entrepreneurial skills. Lily Ladies teach menstruation education in local schools and sell the reusable pads to local girls and women, reducing period poverty, missed school days, and instances of sexual exploitation. 

Read Alison's entrepreneurial story 

University support

Alion received lots of support from the University while developing her idea, including a Student Project Grant of £500 in 2017-18 and various startup programmes from Edinburgh Innovations totalling £8000. As part of the student society Enactus Edinburgh, she won the Entrepreneurial Achiever Award in 2018, and Lilypads won the Social and Environment Award at Inspire Launch Grow 2019

RISE Showcase 2019-20

The RISE Showcase is a global exposure initiative from Universitas 21, itself a collaborative programme that empowers students and staff from 28 world-class universities to share excellence, collaborate across borders and nurture international knowledge exchange. Lilypads produced a video about their social enterprise which will be shared by RISE across the globe in an effort to increase awareness of the start-up and encourage individuals to pledge offers of practical support to help Lilypads grow in scale and make a greater positive impact.

Pledge practical support for Lilypads

Lilypads is one of 16 projects to be featured in the Showcase. Each project will also be entered into the RISE Awards for Impact, Innovation, and Potential, offering three winning teams a bespoke package of acceleration and professional development opportunities with a minimum value of $2000 per team.

We wish Lilypads the best of luck!

Find out more

Edinburgh Innovations: Enterprise services for students

Apply for a Student Project Grant worth £500 - deadline Wednesday 4th December 2019