‘Education is key, and the younger you do it – it’s not even education by the end, it’s just the norm. Normalise, normalise, normalise, normalise, normalise. It’s kind of a no brainer.’
Tasha Lawton, filmmaker, entrepreneur, and Sunshine Beach local, could be referring to just about anything – and in the future, she will be. But for now, she’s talking about periods - and turning her conversations into business success.
Her goal is for attitudes about menstruation to reflect just how normal it is – after all, about half of our population has a period. So she created Period Talk:
‘Period Talk is basically a series of videos, animations, and activities that are supported by exceptionally comprehensive teachers notes and PowerPoint presentations, that videos are embedded into, for teachers to be able to use in class to teach their kids about menstruation. The videos are presented by children, so its peer to peer based.
‘Kids learn better from their peers.’
Several years ago when Tasha started making a documentary about women and their relationships with their periods, she figured it would also find a home in the classroom as an educational tool. But she quickly realised that a conventional documentary format wouldn’t be appropriate and, in fact, she’d be just as guilty of giving lip service to the issue as the other messages she had seen. She needed an innovative approach.
‘It was more about how the kids are being taught the topic. Which is why then I went and parked the doco, and just focussed on doing the actual education piece and making that completely relevant and specific in order for it to actually make change,’ she says.
Period Talk is an excellent example of how important it is for to know your problem inside and out. Tasha knew there was a need for de-stigmatising periods, she knew what content to include, and she knew how to make videos. She was ready to pair her creative skills with a truly fresh and innovative solution.
But she was missing a couple of key things – how to make her videos effective in the classroom, and how to sell her product to schools. Collaboration was the answer.
By teaming up with Health and Physical Education teacher Janice Atkins, she was able to ensure that the content met the Australian National Curriculum, as well as tap into a network of HPE teachers to get feedback throughout the creative process.
After she made the content – the easy bit! - the real challenge of selling Period Talk began. Not only did she need to jump through all the usual hoops a startup faces, she needed to break into schools.
Tasha made the most of the Sunshine Coast startup ecosystem by participating in Startup OnRamp (funded by SCRIPT) and collaborating with other local businesses and creatives – an approach she would encourage others to take.
‘I’m a lot more aware now of what that ecosystem is and what opportunities there are, and there are lots once you know. I don’t have to be in the city, I can do it all from here.’
Crucial as well have been relationships with organisations and brands, such as Share the Dignity, Modibodi, and sexual education providers. These partnerships raise awareness of Period Talk, improve sales by implementing discounts and increase legitimacy.
Tasha’s biggest challenge has been approaching schools. She says: ‘It’s a very painful process selling to schools, because the decision maker is different in every school.’
But that hasn’t slowed this local powerhouse down - PeriodTalk is making a real impact in 65 schools so far, and the feedback has been overwhelmingly positive. As well as getting it into more and more schools, Tasha’s future goals are towards expansion, with an eye to covering more topics such as Drug Talk, Sex Talk, and Suicide Talk. She’s also working towards taking advantage of emerging technologies like augmented and virtual reality.
‘I just like the fact that I have the opportunity. I feel grateful and honoured that I, as not a teacher, not an expert, potentially have an opportunity to affect change through using various methods that exist. That I can turn my vision into an actual physical thing because of other people and other things that exist in the world.’
Click here to find out more about Period Talk.