As part of its third anniversary celebrations and the ongoing evolution of its sanitary pads business model, Happy Days is proud to announce it is relaunching the company as Mimi (Swahili for ‘I Am’).
As South Africa’s only black- and female owned sanitary towel producing and distribution company, Happy Days’ previous distribution model was primarily reliant on Corporate Social Investment donations by businesses, which grew exponentially on this basis. With a strong emphasis on empowering women by creating sustainable jobs through direct-selling opportunities, which keeps girls in school through affordable sanitary towels, and by branching into new for-profit business areas, the decision was made to adopt the new brand: Mimi. The brand name is reflective of the wider aspiration of the evolving company.
Mimi is the brainchild of Ramona Kasavan, a social entrepreneur and media personality who is strongly outspoken about women empowerment. She previously worked as a DJ on both Highveld Stereo and East Coast Radio, and was an Eastern Mosaic presenter. Then, as a member of the media, she was shocked to discover the plight of millions of South African girls whose education and futures were endangered by the lack of an everyday commodity many girls are fortunate enough to take for granted – sanitary pads.With the new brand comes an entirely new business model, says Kasavan. Mimi’s strategy includes appointing female entrepreneurs from around the country as ‘area leaders’ of five defined sectors, which in turn will each be headed by a woman entrepreneur, who will distribute affordable, quality sanitary pads to schools and other businesses within her sector. In addition to an allocated geographical area to service, the ‘franchisee’ will acquire a delivery scooter, five vending machines and an incinerator. The vending machines stocked with Mimi pads, will be strategically placed in schools or high-traffic communal areas. Serviced by three-wheeler tuk-tucks, the drivers will regularly stock the vending machines and will also collect the sanitary waste from schools’ sanibins for the safe disposal of sanitary pads, which will be burned using an eco-friendly incinerator.
“Mimi recognises there is a viable market for affordable, quality sanitary pads in South Africa, while simultaneously creates sustainable job opportunities. By employing women as direct-sellers and franchisees, we are giving women the opportunity to achieve their financial goals and to change their lives. As more entrepreneurs are recruited, the network will grow and we will become the brand known for women’s economic empowerment and keeping girls in school. As Mimi pads cost as little as R1-20 each, girls can afford to stay in school and not drop out because of the current unaffordability of sanitary pads,” says Kasavan.
The new brand reflects its purpose, which is to uplift and enable women in underprivileged communities. “We aim to grow far beyond providing affordable sanitary pads and creating job opportunities, to being a vehicle for the self-affirmation of African women. The biggest aspect of what we do is teaching and training schoolgirls and entrepreneurs, by addressing the stereotypes often engendered by media as to what a girl should be or look like. This often leaves them feeling inadequate when they realise that they cannot live up to that image. We aim to empower women to be happy with what they have and who they are, and to understand that they are enough. This philosophy fits in perfectly with Mimi, which means I am… For instance, I am a woman, I am enough,” continues Kasavan.
The education delivered by Mimi, as well as its entire value system, is based on breaking down stereotypes by enabling girls to see that their periods do not define who they are.
“It can take a woman a long time to discover who she is, and we start the process by breaking down the period-taboo. Making this process all the more difficult is the fact that a high number of African women are abused when young, and through male violence and domineering behaviour, they really struggle to come to terms with their femininity. Becoming a woman is a constant process of accepting yourself, building self-esteem, and realising that you don’t need the admiration or acceptance of others. We teach young girls and women that “I am…enough,” says Kasavan.
The schools’ training is structured so as to put the youth at ease from the outset. It starts with dancing and song, and the use of theatre to break down the taboo subject of menstruation. Demonstrating the use of sanitary pads is also performed in a highly graphic manner, to leave no room for misunderstandings.
“It’s a highly disruptive technique but it has to be to get this vital message across,” explains Kasavan.
The business is a proudly South African company. In fact, it is the country’s first and only black-owned sanitary pad company. It is a young, vibrant female-owned business that understands South African women, their challenges and aspirations. “We have identified our target market as the 500 million women of the African continent, hence the adoption of Mimi, a Swahili name from East Africa,” continues Kasavan.
To date the business, trading up till now as Happy Days, has distributed more than 650,000 sanitary pads across seven provinces of South Africa, and exported to three African countries. The business concept has succeeded to a point where it has partnered with beer giant SAB Miller under the wing of its Corporate Social Investment (CSI) arm to take the concept a stage further. They jointly established an initiative ‘Pads & Cents’, which trains unemployed young women in all elements of business and marketing to become Mimi sales agents and brand ambassadors.
“With this total business strategy in place, Mimi’s objective is to move women from poverty to empowerment, and to keep girls in schools through affordable sanitary pads,” concludes Kasavan.