Rachael Hertogs nee O’Neill (1990 Leaver) – Running My Own Business
My Business- Moon Times by Rachael Hertogs
I left Merchant Taylors in 1988 straight after my GCSE’s, I’d had enough of school and was eager to get out in to the real world! Well it turned out the ‘real world’ was tougher than I imagined; I had a go at a few jobs and left a couple of college courses and tried a ‘grown up’ relationship. Four years later I was a single mum of 2 children but I had the seed of a business idea that would take many years to blossom!
Since being a child I had loved nature and cared about animals and the planet. I became vegetarian at 12 and urged my parents to think about recycling and reusing before it became the norm! One of my favourite books I read at school was Anne Frank- and this quote always stayed with me “Whenever I have my period, I have the feeling that in spite of all the pain, discomfort and mess, I’m carrying around a sweet secret. So even though it’s a nuisance, in a certain way I’m always looking forward to the time when I’ll feel that secret inside me once again.” Anne Frank The fascination I had with womens relationships to their periods started young!
It was totally natural to me to use cloth nappies for my children and chemical free products for their skin, but it took a while for me to think about the products I used for myself- especially sanitary products! Remember the 80’s advertising? It was all about tampons, roller blading, taking pain killers and blue dye on pads! The message was clear- shove in a tampon, take a pill and get on with life- but my body told me to rest, regenerate and reflect at that time of the month.
One day as I was flushing a tampon down the toilet I wondered if there was such a thing as reusable menstrual products? Well this was before Google, so I did some research, found a few menstrual health books that had addresses of companies that made cloth pads- in the USA and Australia, nothing in the UK at all. I sent off for a set and received a pack of lovely soft cloth pads that were very bulky and fastened with a belt- I was a bit disappointed as they looked very old fashioned, but they worked well and I enjoyed the freedom of not spending money on products each month!
After a few months I decided to have a go at making my own, something sleeker, with wings, and with only my basic sewing skills learned at school and choosing pretty coloured and patterned cotton flannelette I made my own pads They felt more like attractive underwear than a huge wad of fabric! Then I began making pads just for friends and family and the first inkling of my business began. After experimenting with various designs over the years I have created (what I think is) the perfect pad that has wings for extra security, fastens easily and quickly with press studs and comes with a variety of ‘inserts’ for different flows! I named my business Moon Times, and hoped that through using cloth pads women would become more connected to their own ‘Moon Time’.
I left Crosby and moved to Bristol where I connected with the local Women’s Environmental Network group and Friends of the Earth, both great places to meet ‘green minded’ women who might be interested in my cloth pads. I also met a like minded mum at school and set up a ‘Healthy Cycles’ course, teaching women ways to connect to their cycle and enjoy it rather than see it as a ‘curse’ that needs to be suppressed with painkillers and pills. Women from these groups were my first customers and I began to have more confidence in attempting to sell to the public. I made little mail order flyers that went in to health food shops and advertised in a couple of small magazines and I was content with a few orders a year, sewn in my kitchen on my grandmothers old hand machine!
Looking back I am happy to say the resistance women had when I first started mentioning the idea of reusable sanitary wear has changed a lot over the years. My mother was horrified-it reminded her of the ‘rags’ of her youth, and many women would say “oh, how disgusting” , to which I would answer “whats more disgusting than a pile of landfill filled with thousands* of ‘disposable’ sanitary products that may take 500 years to decompose?”
Reusables have become more mainstream, most women having heard of the Mooncup and many more mums using cloth nappies, and most of us are happy to find products that save us money, and even better if they have the health benefits of no chemicals, irritants or bleaches.
When my daughter grew into a menstruating young woman- I gave her a gift of a set of Moon Times pads- at first she was unsure, having been given the free packs and the information (from a certain tampon company) at school and the slight brainwashing of ‘periods are dirty, blood should be hidden away’, but of course she had grown up with me as her mum and soon embraced her Moon pads- she even took them to a sleepover and soon her friends were asking me to make them!
I still sew some of the pads myself but also outsource and have some students and single parents working for me. I was a single mum when I began the business and so it feels really good to support lone mums in this way. Work is flexible and they are able to work from home making the pads in their own time.
While I was in Bristol I visited a few schools, giving talks to girls about my products and the different ways they could celebrate their first period. The feedback was fantastic- they loved the pads saying how pretty they were and so much more attractive than the ‘huge sticking plaster pads’ their mums had shown them! Last year I published a book to help young women and their mums celebrate their first period- Menarche, A Journey into Womanhood is available on my website and Amazon.
I now have a baby & a toddler so I only work part time, I keep my work to the day time in school hours where possible and try to keep weekends as ‘family time’. I have learned to say ‘no’ to work when I know life will become to busy and stressful- if I want to keep myself de-stressed, I need to keep a healthy balance of home and work life!
I am enthusiastic about all aspects of my business; I also teach workshops (menstrual health and mum and daughter days) and Reiki. I run a women’s moon lodge and red tent. I love being able to encourage and empower people to make positive changes in their lives. Expanding my sales of Moon Times products to include panty liners, moon sponges and cups, books, moon charts and other products helps me to encourage women to make a small difference environmentally and raise awareness around taking steps to be more eco-friendly- which is a cause I have been passionate about all my life! And yes, I still use my own pads! I have happily used my cotton pads since 1989, for me washing them helps me ground and connect to my cyclic nature.
Moon Times Mission Statement:
At Moon Times: We empower women in body appreciation, environmental awareness and self-respect through the use of eco menstrual products.
We believe a healthy appreciation of our bodies and ourselves as women can be learnt through menstruation.
We believe when women are aware of the benefits of a sustainable, healthy, economically viable and comfortable alternative, they appreciate the contribution they can make by choosing alternative menstrual products.
We also believe women deeply appreciate learning about alternative and positive ways to think about their bodies.
* The Women’s Environmental Network estimate each women uses between 12-15,000 sanitary products in their life time, this figure is rising due to daily use of incontinence products and panty liners. Plastic backed pads take up to 500 years to decompose, a tampon takes 6 months.
Rachael now lives in the Wilds of West Wales with her husband and two youngest children, bees, chickens and ducks!
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