Vanessa Siverls is the developer of BUP Smart Pad, a smart sanitary pad which will detect, monitor and indicate menstrual information. She’s one of those designers who creates from experience.
In April of 2015, doctors removed 22 fibroids from Siverls’ uterus which caused unpredictable and unmanageable periods for 10 years of her life.
“It affected my work, my job and ultimately my marriage. It was during recovery I started to draw apparel sketches with tech functions that I thought would help other women manage their periods more effectively. I believe the use of technology gives us the opportunity to actively listen and learn from each other so we can solve problems more effectively,” says Siverls.
BU Period founder Vanessa Siverls
The New Republic writer Emily Atkin writes in an article “Why Do Americans Refuse to Ditch Tampons?” that “though a monthly normalcy for around two billion people worldwide, menstruation rarely appears in American popular culture. When it does, it’s often treated as a source of embarrassment and shame, whether for comedic or dramatic purposes; sometimes it’s even a source of evil.”
Today at Make It In Brooklyn’s Female Founders Pitch Contest Siverls will pitch The BUP Smart Menstrual Pad created not only to help women manage heavy flow better, but combined with IoT, will inform them of issues related to their overall uterine health so they can take their lives back.
The First BUP Smartpad idea Siverls prototyped was intended to showcase how to detect chemicals (iron and hormonal levels) and new ways to manage menstrual flows but had too many wires and limited R&D resources which proved it was time to pivot the idea. She says getting to the next phase has involved utilizing friends and other resources for data but also hacking her own design.
“I pretty much hacked myself. I go to Hardware Hacker on Wednesdays at Thoughtworks and was learning some Arduino which came in handy when my engineer used it to build our test model for saturation. I went to an amazing workshop on the Cannabis industry at Electrospective hosted by D.K. Smith, the Managing Director of the Brooklyn Innovation Center, and it was then I realized I should be exploring opportunities where there is funding and support for processing and manufacturing that will get me to my goals quicker.”
Though the first ideation of The BUPSmart Pad was what she calls “the R2D2 version,” Siverls says she quickly realized that there are resources that are available right now that address immediate pain points of security and comfort first. I haven’t given up on R2D2, I just believe there are smarter and leaner ways to test user needs.
With 100 years of politics for menstrual health products instead of normalizing it and working with it, Siverls says she’s now on a mission to disrupt the industry.
“Menstrual ‘hygiene’ products were never designed for menstrual health management, but to mask and pass as if periods don’t exist. They do. So let’s manage effectively and equally,” she says.
Although cotton has been the traditional preference of material for menstrual pads since 1888, Siverls is now investigating the benefits of hemp fibers which she says has multitudes of benefits that are equal to if not greater than cotton.
According to ny.gov, the state of New York is cultivating the industrial hemp market and supporting new opportunities to grow this multi-million dollar crop, which is used in the manufacture of an estimated 25,000+ products—from clothing and food to building materials and pharmaceuticals. Governor Andrew M. Cuomo announced in April that more than 60 new farms and businesses have received research permits under the State’s Industrial Hemp Agricultural Research Pilot program.
“We are currently testing absorbency and give. New York State is looking to be more innovative with the crop and I want BUPeriod to be on the leading edge of this innovation.”
BU Period came to the BF+DA through a partnership with Futureworks Shops.
Futureworks Shops provides New Yorkers with prototyping and production credits, access to coworking opportunities, studio time, mentorship, and events across the city. At each of the Shops, you’ll find advanced manufacturing machinery, an engaged, supportive community, and expert leaders. No more wondering where you can create the next great product or iterate on your existing one. It’s all right here. Futureworks Shops is part of NYCEDC’s Futureworks NYC initiative and is spearheaded by SecondMuse.
Futureworks NYC is a key component of the City’s Industrial Action Plan to help emerging and existing manufacturers promote, adopt, and create advanced technologies and increase local production. To ensure these technologies are made accessible to all New Yorkers, New York City Economic Development Corporation (NYCEDC) created Futureworks NYC as a platform of shared resources from educational programming to access to equipment and space, and connections within the growing community. Get to know the community, and join them at @futureworksnyc.