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June 20, 2021 7 min read

On the blog this week, we are so excited to introduce Linda!

Linda is co-founder of Joni, a Canadian company based in Victoria, BC that produces organic and biodegradable pads for everybody. Joni has the softest organic pads that are chlorine-free, anti-bacterial, fragrance-free, hypo-allergenic and come in various forms, from liners to overnight. Joni also works with organizations to donate period products to communities and people in need to help fight for period equity. Linda is also a mom to 2 daughters.

We spent some time chatting with Linda to get to know her story, both as an entrepreneur and mama.

1. What inspired you to start Joni? Can you tell us a little about the company and how have things changed for your business since the pandemic? 
When I met my co-founder, Jayesh Vekariya, he had already done a significant amount of research into the industry and some of that information shocked me. The fact that 1 in 3 people in Canada under the age of 25 are unable to afford period care. How antiquated the period care industry is, especially in Canada, where innovation has lagged for years. The innovation we are seeing in this industry even to this day, contributes to the stigma around periods (i.e. discrete wrappers so people won’t know you are on your period) and people who menstruate deserve more than that. I realized that there wasn’t one brand out there that I resonated with as a consumer and knowing that my two daughters were going to start that phase in their life, I wanted to drive change. Jayesh and I partnered because we have different skillsets that are complimentary and we were both passionate about making an impact to period equity in Canada through innovative, sustainable and accessible products.

The pandemic has changed people’s buying habits and because of that, a lot more people are purchasing essential products online. We launched in March of 2020, the month we all went into lock down. Before March people would have likely asked “why would I buy period care online?”, but since COVID the question has really become “where can I buy period care online?”. COVID has also unearthed many social issues and inequalities that always existed, but became front and center through the pandemic – one of which being period poverty. When customers find out they can order organic and innovative period care that is good for their bodies, with a one-for-one giveback model for their communities with free-shipping to avoid the hassle of the grocery store, they either purchase one time to try us out or start a subscription. Either way, the response has been amazing and our community has grown significantly. I think the big driver to that is that people are demanding more from the products they use - it’s not just about a product that works anymore. It’s about the company values, the mission, the impact as well as having a quality product that customers love.

2. As a mama and an entrepreneur, juggling home and work life can be difficult. How is it parenting in a pandemic? How do you balance between the two?
The pandemic has most definitely impacted women disproportionality and that’s really frustrating to witness gender equality go backwards in many ways. According to a McKinsey study, women’s jobs were 1.8 times more vulnerable to the pandemic than men’s jobs and women make up 39% of global employment but account for 54% of overall job losses. That’s staggering in many ways. If you’re looking at it from an economic standpoint, that’s almost a $1 Trillion dollar loss to the GDP.

As an entrepreneur and employer, I wanted to create and support a company culture that allows the team to have flexibility so we have a work from home policy for our small team. We have several team members who are parents as well, so we provide the flexibility needed to navigate all the logistic that come with parenthood. I need that in my life and I want our team to feel that they have that freedom as well.

Parenting is hard. Pandemics, I’ve now learned, are also hard. So doing both together is just extra hard and we need to learn to be gentle on ourselves and our expectations. I don’t really believe in the idea of “balance” because it implies that there is a sweet spot that you have to stay within in order for pieces of our lives not to fall apart. That’s too much pressure. I’ve learned to see it as a daily, weekly, monthly energy offering. What and who do I want to put my energy into today, this week, this month and how does that line up to my values and goals? I don’t always get it right but knowing that it’s a constant re-evaluation and re-alignment makes this concept feel more authentic to me.

3. Do you experience ‘mom guilt’? What do you like to do to take care of yourself?
I had my first daughter at 30 and I always knew I wanted to go back to work. Part of this stemmed from the fact that my mother stayed home and my step-father would always hold money over her head so I vowed to never allow myself to be in that situation. Yet our strengths are also our weaknesses sometimes. When I met my partner and we wanted to have kids, I eventually learned how to let go of some of that fierce independence - it really does take a village. There were many times when I felt guilty about not being with my family while at work and guilty about not working when I was with my family. It took me a long time to realize that a lot of that mindset comes from a patriarchal system that was not built to support a more holistic approach to life. Our culture rewards the hustle and the grind without rewarding the rest and reflection which is a problem that we can see manifest in the burnout and health issues we are seeing with so many people. For a long time, I thought rest was getting a few hours without the kids and going grocery shopping or catching up on work. “Push through at all costs” was my survival strategy developed by years of conditioning that my worth was based on my productivity and successes. 

This last year took me, and most of us, off auto pilot and had us reexamining our days - what filled them and who we filled them with. I was also diagnosed with an auto immune illness that forced me to stop and reevaluate the “all or nothing” approach which was clearly no longer serving me. I’m now learning to look at things differently to help me step outside of a very colonial approach to living – which has come from the decolonizing learning I’ve been a part of, a reconnection to my Mexican heritage and reflecting on what is really most important to me.

I want to be the model for my girls to show them that they can be unapologetic with asking for what they need, even when the system pressures them otherwise. So now I place more value on the downtime and the offline time, and see it as a way to fuel the best of me.

4. Can you please share with us your (breast)feeding journey?
I had so many people warn me about breastfeeding and the pain. I was really afraid and unsure whether I would be able to do it long-term. I decided to work with a doula and she was the most magical person. I would not have felt as empowered and things would have gone very differently without her.

My first daughter’s labour was 34 hours long and ended with her in the intensive care unit for several days. While she was there, I had to advocate, with my doula’s support, to pump and feed her every few hours vs having the NICU nurses feed her formula only. The first few days of nursing is so important as the colostrum has so many benefits but I remember struggling and pumping alone in my room and getting just drops but my doula would say that each drop is valuable and would help me save it and get it all into a bottle so I could feed what seemed to me a pointless amount of milk to my daughter. I did this for 3 days and I’m so thankful I did as, looking back, it was a very empowering experience. For my second daughter I had the same doula thankfully because I totally forgot how to nurse only 2 years after having my first! The latching is so important and having her there to remind me was exactly what I needed to feel supported. Both my daughters nursed for about 14 months when it seemed, for us, a natural transition to stop.

For both my daughters I had several bouts of blocked ducts that were so painful but I was lucky to never develop mastitis. I personally loved breastfeeding my daughters (I kind of miss it to some extent!) and felt really empowered by it but I believe in a parent’s right to choose what works best for them as we all have different circumstances.

5. If you could go back in time before you had kids and offer yourself advice about motherhood, what would you say?
I would say that everything you expect will go out the window, nothing stays the same yet it will still be great. Trust yourself. Be gentle. Be patient. The days can be oh so long but the years are so short. Also, you can still do it all, just not all at the same time. Rest."

6. And finally, what is your favourite part of being a mama?
Watching these two humans that I created run through life with their own thoughts, ideas, talents, fears, joys, wishes, dreams is everything to me. I love laughing with them. Learning with them. Exploring with them. Growing with them. I am who I am today because my daughters are in my life, and I’m so thankful for that. Motherhood is the hardest and most empowering thing I have done and will ever do in my life.                                       

Thank you, Linda, for talking to us and taking the time to answer our questions on work life, motherhood and breastfeeding experience. Linda’s sentiments about doing it all, just not all at the same time was a very powerful takeaway. Being a working mom is certainly not easy and finding time to rest is so important. We also loved hearing about the inspiration for Joni and can’t wait to see Joni grow!

If you would like to learn more about Linda and Joni, please visit their website here or on Instagram here.