|Yoon Tae-jun, the CEO of feminine care social venture Tieut, poses for a picture after an interview with The Korea Times, Monday, at a cafe in Gangnam-gu, Seoul. Korea Times photo by Lee Gyu-lee|
By Lee Gyu-lee
CEO of feminine care social venture Tieut, Yoon Tae-jun, hopes to help reduce the stress and increase the ease of access to hygienic menstrual products.
"Our mission is to 'enhance the quality of life for women through a small change,'" he said, Monday, in an interview with The Korea Times at a cafe in Gangnam-gu, Seoul.
The 32-year-old CEO started a feminine hygiene startup, specializing in reusable menstrual cups, in 2017 along with two of his high school buddies and his sister, after he learned about the problems that can arise around menstruation.
Yoon went to the United States to study Political Science and African Studies at Pennsylvania State University in 2013, hoping to work for the UN or related organizations.
"I've always had interests in human rights issues. I wanted to speak for the minorities facing inequality and their equal treatment," he said.
After graduating, he felt the need to get hands-on experience in a non-governmental organization. So, he joined the Ethiopian Women's Empowerment and Development Project as a research fellow in 2016 to work in Ethiopia for a year.
Researching women's welfare and carrying out gender equality initiatives there had a huge impact on him and directed his career path. "Period poverty there especially came as such a shock to me," he said.
"Some would use leaves as sanitary pads and in the worst case, some used mud," he continued. "But the problem doesn't just end there, it goes beyond to affect girls from getting an education. They miss school most of the time during their period, leading them to fall way behind the boys and eventually creating a greater gap between the genders."
This drew his attention to these issues and was the catalyst for the idea of starting this venture.
"I wanted to get into the field and into a position in which I can take action and have influence from the forefront, rather than being part of a large organization."
|An image of a Tieutcup. Courtesy of Yoon Tae-jun|
"Two or three female hygiene product companies monopolize the industry, allowing them to set the market price in Korea. But not everyone can afford this price" he said, adding that period poverty is a social issue in Korea as well.
He went on to explain that disposable products not only are costly but also cause an environmental issue. "There must be an enormous amount of pads being disposed of every year, but I couldn't find related data anywhere. So when I did the math, it roughly approximates to over 5 billion non-recyclable pads or tampons," he added as he hopes to help eliminate these issues with Tieutcups.
Yoon said the process of developing the cup took over 18 months. He referenced a variety of menstrual cups sold in the world to find the most efficient shape and texture, adjusting the design five times to get the shape it has now.
"I did have a hard time with no income and hurdles I faced along the way. But I never thought of quitting. Seeing things developing and working out little by little, I felt I was getting a step closer to my dream."
Now the company also sells feminine wash along with the cup and is developing additional products to cover a broader line of feminine care products.
Yoon said he also intends to contribute socially by raising people's perception of menstruation through campaigns and by establishing a women-friendly work environment at his company.