Viv for your V CEO Katie Diasti ’19, right, with COO Izzy Sarrafzadeh.

Sarah Shutt

Menstrual Care with a Conscience

Katie Diasti ’19 is creating earth-friendly and toxin-free pads and tampons.

Over her lifetime, the average woman uses between 250 and 300 pounds of pads, tampons, and applicators—plastic waste that ends up languishing in landfills for decades or even longer. In fact, it’s been estimated that a single pad can take up to 800 years to break down.

Such stats floored Katie Diasti ’19 when, in the fall of her senior year, she began researching business ideas for the class Entrepreneurial Marketing in a Digital World. “It creates so much waste,” she recalled thinking. “There has to be an alternative.” Sensing an opportunity, Diasti set out to design biodegradable period-care products with plastic-free packaging.

One of her first calls was to Associate Professor of Biology Laura Hake to discuss natural fibers that could be used in place of plastic. Diasti settled on organic bamboo—a sustainable option, as it doesn’t need much space or water to grow. She then hosted focus groups in the Mods and conducted market research. “I frankly started ignoring some of my other classes because I was so fascinated with what we were doing,” she said.

Diasti named her venture Viv for your V—“I think of Viv as an older sister, a mentor, or as someone you look up to,” she explained. In the spring of 2019, she participated in the University’s Edmund Shea Jr. Center for Entrepreneurship’s accelerator program, and then in the SSC Venture Partners accelerator program, both of which provided business contacts and some funds to help Viv get off the ground.

Diasti had a full-time merchandising job at a big e-commerce company lined up after graduation, but she pushed back the start date and eventually turned down the opportunity so she could continue working on Viv. “For a long time, it was just me at a desk in an office space in Boston,” Diasti said. “But having a BC alumni startup network was crucial to getting through the early days and figuring out little problems.”

Over time, she navigated the FDA approval process for her products, signed people up for preorders at markets around Boston, and packed boxes once the inventory arrived at her apartment. The company officially launched in January 2020, and Diasti has since hired both a COO and a CFO, Catherine Mak ’19, whom Diasti worked alongside in the Residence Hall Association at Boston College. She has also taken on BC student interns.

Today, customers buy products and subscriptions directly from the Viv website, with current offerings including toxin-free pads, panty liners, and menstrual cups. This March, the company is set to unveil organic cotton tampons, complete with sugar-cane applicators. “What’s so exciting is that we have the chance to rewrite how people experience a monthly cycle,” Diasti said. “We’ve gotten reviews and comments saying, oddly enough, This is the first time I’ve looked forward to my period because my Viv box is coming in the mail.”

Advocacy is also baked into the business model. Last March, Diasti ran a “Periods Don’t Stop for a Pandemic” promotion on social media, with Viv donating one pad to homeless shelters for each share of the Instagram post (they’ve given away 4,000 so far). “One of the basics of being a member of the period-care community is understanding menstrual equity and period poverty,” said Diasti, who volunteers with Mass NOW, the local chapter of the National Organization for Women, to help make free menstrual products available in schools, prisons, and shelters. “When choosing a product, we vote with our dollars,” she said. “So, our motivation every day is to create a product that’s better for you, better for the earth, and better for your wallet.”