Eat right. Stay away from caffeine. Get enough sleep. Exercise. Repeat.
This cycle is the typical advice given to the 90 percent of women whose ovaries start reenacting scenes from Fight Club each month right before their periods, but sometimes premenstrual syndrome symptoms team up with junk food cravings that make it impossible to complete even the first task, let alone the rest.
A year ago, Bostonian Tania Green found a way to kick those kinds of cravings by concocting truffle-like chocolates containing organic, vegan ingredients and herbs such as dandelion root, Siberian ginseng, and chamomile that are known to help with bloating, cramping and other PMS symptoms.
But it wasn’t a secret she wanted to keep to herself. Green wanted to share it with the rest of the world, and to do so she used her entrepreneurial skills to develop a company that would aim to be more than just another independent confectioner. In February, she introduced her business, PMS Bites, to Kickstarter, where freelance funders pledged $5,400 out of Green’s $5,000 goal in under 12 hours.
“For me, this has always been bigger than the bites,” she said. “Do I love my product and believe in it? Yes, absolutely. But I think products and business are a gateway to changing the world.”
Green didn’t just stop at developing three types of chocolates—Plain Crazy, Coco-Nutty and All Kinds of Nuts—to satisfy her monthly cravings. She also created a subscription program that delivers bites to her customers when they need them most.
“We’re always on the go, always taught to be strong, confident women to the point where we’re not acknowledging that some days we might feel a little sad or a little crampy,” she said. “We’re taught to suck it up. But acknowledging it and taking steps to overcome it is the best solution.”
But sitting down to a bag of Ghirardelli squares isn’t going to help in the long run, which is why Green makes sure her snacks don’t sacrifice nutrition for crave-reduction. Vegan and organic ingredients such as almond butter and coconut oil cuts down on unhealthy fat. Dates, pecans and oats help deliver a punch of energy.
Although Green said that making the bites is the biggest challenge of her business so far, she has baking in her blood. Her great-grandmother, whom she used to call Nonni Cakey, used to make sweat treats from scratch—so well, Green said that she could have easily opened her own bakery.
Now Green is taking up the mantle by rolling up her sleeves. As much as the product inspired the company itself, the process of making it a reality took more than the energy found in a handful of her own baked goods.
Green made the decision to go into business in August, and between then and the Kickstarter launch, made decisions, connections and sacrifices to secure her entrepreneurial dream. Because of her day job, nights were filled with seeking out meet-ups where she would pick the brains of those who had come before her and seek the help she needed.
“What I realized was that people, once they see you’re passionate about what you’re doing, are willing to help,” Green said. “My favorite question that I’ve been asking and that has been asked of me is ‘How can I help?’ And that’s what intentionally putting yourself out there does.”
Green learned that putting herself at the mercy of like-minded people resulted in getting tidbits of advice she likely wouldn’t receive otherwise. Not only did she have to humble herself to look for help, but also consciously decide to surround herself with those who would support her.
Some friendships had to fall by the wayside, while others had to be put on hold temporarily. “Sometimes you can’t answer a text right away or celebrate a birthday the same way because you have a 7 a.m. meeting the next day,” she said.
These sacrifices are just the beginning for a budding entrepreneur. Deborah Attewell, president of the El Paso chapter of business network Femfessionals, said many of the struggles women face when starting their own business relate to stereotypes surrounding the entire gender.
Everything associated with “professional”—stoicism, for example—is also considered distinctly masculine. Meanwhile, women are considered overly emotional, catty and hyper-competitive, three traits that aren’t welcome in the boardroom or investor’s meetings.
To overcome these stereotypes, sometimes women have to forfeit their femininity entirely. Attewell said depending on her audience, she has to dress in more gender-neutral clothing, keep a serious tone and hold back her smiles to keep from seeming overly emotional—a trait that’s been relegated as disadvantageous in business.
“Sometimes it feels as though when I show that (feminine) side of myself people think, ‘Oh look at how cute she is, trying to run a business,’” Attewell said. “In my mind I’m screaming, “No! I have a degree and experience, and I am no different than the man who spoke before me who is trying to do the exact same thing!’”
That’s why Attewell said one of the best things a female entrepreneur can do is to seek out other professional women from all backgrounds and at all levels of their careers for support.
Not only did Green do this between the inception and production of her company, but she has already started to return the favor, even before the bites start rolling out of the kitchen and into subscribers’ mailboxes. Other women have already reached out to her about their own dreams of creating organic and gluten free products.
“I say ‘Go do it. What’s stopping you?’” she said. “To help women take the risk and step outside of their comfort zone—I’m not the only one doing it, but if I can be a living example of it, great. Mission accomplished.”
-Written by Kate Everson
See more from Lydia Magazine’s Summer 2015 issue below!