IN January 2018, when Celia Hodson launched Hey Girls, a social enterprise that aims to eradicate period poverty with buy-one-give-one sanitary products, she thought the enterprise might sell one 20-foot container’s worth of products in its lifetime.

Today, Hey Girls sells two containers a month – equivalent to 700,000 sanitary pads – and it has donated over five million sanitary products to date.

The products are created “by girls for girls”, says Ms Hodson. With their ground-breaking packaging, which eschews pink flowers and suchlike in favour of black and white photographs of real women and girls, they have struck a chord with consumers and the press. Swedish radio and France 24 are among those who have covered Hey Girls, and the enterprise has attracted “a phenomenal amount of pro bono support”.

Hey Girls received two weeks of free peak-time TV adverts on STV, which it used to run a campaign called pads for dads, after Ms Hodson won an STV/Deloitte Scottish social entrepreneur of the year award. The campaign was fronted by Michael Sheen, who encouraged dads to talk to their daughters about periods.

This refreshingly open approach to the topic of menstruation is part of the Hey Girls brand. The enterprise, which wants to break down the stigma around periods, has created educational resource packs for teachers in primary and secondary schools, and Ms Hodson encourages women to be open about menstruation.

“Get your tampons out,” she says.

Of course, you can only do that if you are lucky enough to have tampons. Another pro bono advertising campaign in Metro gave Hey Girls a two-page space to highlight period poverty. Based around a cutout sanitary pad, the campaign, which was created by the advertising agency adam&eveDDB, made the point that there are no viable alternatives for women who cannot afford sanitary protection.

According to Plan International, as many as one in ten women and girls in the UK are in that position, rising to one in five in Scotland. They may then miss school or work, which creates a vicious circle.

Often, women dip in and out of period poverty. It was personal experience of that as a single parent of three kids on benefits that drove Ms Hodson to set up Hey Girls, which then scaled up with a £150,000 loan from Big Issue Invest.

“It wasn’t called period poverty back in those days, but it was certainly something that I experienced,” she says.

Based in Dunbar, Hey Girls operates UK-wide. For the first six months of its existence, it sold online, but its products are now listed in Asda, Waitrose and the Co-op. It has several public-sector contracts and over 200 donations points.

With its donations, the enterprise emphasises community. If a product is sold in Edinburgh, the donation is to a food bank or charity in Edinburgh.

“You buy it for you knowing that someone in your community will receive exactly the same product,” says Ms Hodson, who receives entrepreneurial support from RBS.

In line with its additional goal of providing environmentally conscious sanitary protection, the company’s products are made with biodegradable bamboo and cornstarch. It provides a full range of products, including tampons, applicator tampons, menstrual cups and reusable pads.

Reusable pads? Yes, indeed.

“They are just like a normal sanipad, but instead of throwing them in the bin, you throw them in the washing machine,” says Ms Hodson.

Hey Girls has grown so fast in the past 18 months, it’s hard to predict the future, and as a social enterprise, it doesn’t have financial goals. But “the grand goal” for the future, says Ms Hodson, is to make sure anyone who needs sanitary products can get them.