Real Life

Shante Cameron is taking the pain out of periods

This father-daughter duo are making menstruation easier for teens and adults

While coaching her little sister’s netball team, Shante Cameron saw the youngsters struggle to manage their menstrual cycles while playing the sport they loved. Remembering how challenging her own experiences had been as a teen, Shante desperately wanted to help.

“While we were away for a tournament, I realised they were all getting their periods, and they were so awkward and uncomfortable. I thought, ‘I can do something about this and make it easier for them,'” shares the 25-year-old Aucklander.

The idea was simple – reusable period underwear designed to empower young wāhine. And while it was an unconventional choice, Shante knew her dad Carlos was the perfect person to partner with.

The solo father-of-five was initially a little surprised by the business proposal, but it didn’t take him long to agree.

“When Shante first mentioned period underwear, I didn’t have a clue what it was,” recalls Carlos, 45, who is also dad to Kyan, 16, Logan, 12, Tia, eight, and Tre, seven. “But she’s very passionate and if she has an idea, I already know it’s good. When she actually explained what it is and I got my head wrapped around the concept, I thought, ‘Wow, this is something that will actually help people.'”

Nonetheless, it’s been an interesting career move to explain to his friends, who are used to seeing Carlos on stage as a professional musician.

“Once I talked to my friends about it and their daughters have been able to try the products, they got how much easier it is,” says Carlos. “Dads don’t have to go to the shops any more searching the aisles for tampons and pads.”

Right: The family – (back row, from left) Shante’s husband Michael, Carlos, Shante, Kyan and Logan, plus Tia and Tre (front) – can discuss periods without embarrassment.

Since launching Petal & Flo, the first-time business owners say there has been a lot to learn, but thinking about her own youth, Shante believes it’s all worth it.

“I remember wearing a tampon, two pads, two pairs of undies and bike shorts to netball,” she shares. “It cut off your blood circulation and was so uncomfortable.

“Another time, I got my period on the day of the swimming sports final. Mum was outside the bathroom door trying to explain how to use a tampon and we were both crying because all I wanted to do was swim.”

On the ball: Seeing the young girls she mentors in the Howick Pakuranga Netball team struggle with their periods, Shante wanted to help.

For Carlos, it was a stage in Shante’s life where he was completely out of his comfort zone and didn’t know how to help. But he’s determined it will be different with his youngest daughter Tia.

“She’s already quite educated and she knows when her times comes, it will be easy and she won’t be surprised,” says Carlos, adding an unexpected benefit has been passing on the new knowledge to his sons, too.

“The education side of it has been so good. Shante told my teen boys to throw some of the underwear in their school bags, so if there are any girls in need, they have them there to offer help.

“Before this, from a male’s perspective, it was something I never thought or talked about. But the older boys have just taken it on board and are not uncomfortable at all. It’s so important because one day they’re going to have partners and maybe daughters too.”

Shante, who left a career in sales and customer service to pursue this dream, adds, “It’s been such a positive benefit and we hope this will become the new normal.”

While it’s had a remarkable impact on their own family’s lives, the pair are dreaming big, wanting to help many throughout Aotearoa and maybe one day the world.

Shante is proud to be a Māori businesswoman, working to improve the quality of life for wāhine, while also being a role model to her younger siblings.

She explains women use an estimated 11,000 to 17,000 sanitary products on average over a 40-year time span, which could cost more than $13,000 per person. Research also shows around 95,000 or one in 12 students have missed school due to lack of access to period products.

With this in mind, they designed the teen range of underwear with the same absorbency as four tampons or pads in the hope girls won’t have to change them while at school.

They’ve also partnered with charity The Period Place, and sponsor multiple local netball teams by donating products and providing education.

“Our hope is that periods are no longer a barrier to participating in life,” says Shante proudly.

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