“Everyone You Hire Will Be Older Than You” The 5 Lessons I Learned Being a 20-Something Founder

I had the pleasure of interviewing Claire Coder. The 21-year-old founder and CEO of Aunt Flow. Claire started her first business at 16, has designed a bag for Vera Bradley, starred on TLC’s Girl Starter Season 1, and is the youngest recipient of Ohio’s 40Under40 award.

Jean: Thank you so much for doing this with us! What is your “backstory” of how you become a founder?

At age 7 I started my first lemonade stand without the knowledge of my nanny. I noticed construction workers down the street; they reminded me of my dad. I had never seen my dad drink lemonade, but I did watch him drink beer. Thus, I raided my dad’s beer fridge and sold beer for $5/can. I made my first $25.

Following this “business,” I was hooked on entrepreneurship. By 16 I started my first company- There’s a Badge for That. I would design and sell buttons, magnets, and compact mirrors online and to my friends. Over the two years of building this company while in high school, I had brought in thousands of dollars in sales. By the time I was 18, I was heading to The Ohio State University for college. Quite honestly, I never thought that college was for me — Why spend thousands of dollars to get a piece of paper to show others, when I knew I was always going to employ myself?

Months after starting college, I dropped out to found what it now known as Aunt Flow.

Jean: What do you think makes your company stand out? Can you share a story?

Aunt Flow is committed to ensuring EVERYONE has access to menstrual products. To achieve this, we sell our 100% organic cotton tampons and pads to businesses and schools, so they can offer them for free in the bathrooms for employees and guests. While other companies sell direct to consumers, we sell to businesses.

We are working to ensure no one is forced to leave a business meeting or class because of an unexpected visit from “Aunt Flow.”

Jean: Are you working on any exciting projects now?

I would say that Aunt Flow is wildly exciting. Not often do people drop out of college to commit their lives to talking about menstruation. The conversations that I have the opportunity to have with the male janitors are EXHILARATING.

Jean: Do you have a favorite book that made a deep impact on your life? Can you share a story?

Considering I am dyslexic, I do not find myself devouring books, rather podcasts. That being said, Soulpancake by Ryan Wilson is my absolute favorite “book.” Soulpancake is a journey of art, questions, and philosophy.

Jean: What are your “5 Lessons I Learned as a Twentysomething Founder” and why? Please share a story or example for each.

5 Lessons I have Learned

1. If you are under 21, it is really hard to “grab a drink.” In business settings, people want to connect over drinks. At age 16, I got my first fake ID to get into 18+ networking meetings. I hated the taste of alcohol, so I would find myself ordering muddled water, so it looked like I was drinking a cocktail, but it was really just water and crushed fruit.

2. You cannot rent a car until you are 25. During business trips, my employees are always responsible for renting a car. In fact, I am sitting in Orlando right now with a rental car under the name of Aunt Flow’s Director of Sales.

3. Getting a credit card is nearly impossible. After 10 failed attempts to get a business credit card at age 16, I finally nailed the Discover Student Card with a $500 credit limit.

4. Someone is going to ask if you are around for an internship. I was in the elevator on the way to a meeting to close a $40,000 deal and one of the employees leaned over to ask if I was applying for an internship. I turned and politely shared that I was the founder of Aunt Flow. Clearly, the man knew the company because he shut up real quick.

5. Everyone you hire will be older than you. I am a subscriber of the philosophy “only hire those that are smarter than you.” Often, it is hard to find committed, experienced people that are younger than me. Thus, my entire team is older, which creates for a unique internal dynamic.

Jean: Some of the biggest names in Business, VC funding, Sports, and Entertainment read this column. Is there a person in the world, or in the US whom you would love to have a private breakfast or lunch with, and why? He or she might see this. :-)

What a fun question! I would love to have a personal, sit down meeting with the founder of Drybar, Alli Webb.

— Published on June 27, 2018