Susan Barnes – The Startup Story Of A Social Entrepreneur Providing South African Girls With Dignity And Education

By Duchess Magazine

The Subz Pants and Pads – Project Dignity social entrepreneurship venture was born out of one woman’s desire to address a major problem amongst young rural girls in South Africa – the lack of access to sanitary pads, meaning loss of education and dignity. Susan Barnes is addressing this challenge head-on through her company, Subz Pants and Pads, manufacturing and distributing packs of sustainable, reusable panties and pads to girls.


As part of this month’s focus on Social Entrepreneurship, we spoke to the inspirational Susan Barnes about her life-changing work.

What does your company do?

Subz Pants and Pads manufactures and distributes packs of sustainable, washable panties and pads to rural girls in South Africa. We raise funds to have the Subz packs made. Schools are identified and the packs are distributed to the girls with a full education process on puberty, menstruation, personal hygiene and how to care for their packs.

What inspired you to start your company?

When I found out there are approximately 7 000 000 girls in South Africa that do not have access to sanitary pads and are missing a week of school education every month, I had to do something to help these girls. I designed, developed and patented the Subz packs and now work with rural girls, uplifting them. Education and dignity is our focus for a better South Africa for all. Educate the women and you educate the nation.

Why should anyone use your service or product?

The Subz pants and pads are sustainable, reusable and washable, and a 3 pack can last for up to 5 years. The pads contain no chemicals and gels and are therefore allergy free.
The pads attach to the panties with studs and are held in position to eliminate movement and accidents. Subz pads are eco friendly as they are not disposed of and rather reused. They are also saving the land fills. The pads come in different sizes for different flow and absorbency. There is also a range of pads for incontinence for the elderly.

Tell us a little about your team

Liza Adlem is the Cape Town manager and looks after the sporting events and fundraisers.
Jenny Lane is the co-ordinator.
Minky Geel is the fundraiser and works from Durban.

Share a little about your entrepreneurial journey. And, do you come from an entrepreneurial background?

The project started out by me wanting to help girls in 3 schools where I found out about the problem of girls missing school as they do not have access to sanitary pads. From there the project grew as there is such a huge demand for sustainable sanitary pads. The Subz Pads have been so successful as they have many advantageous features. To date we have distributed over 45 000 packs to girls in South Africa and a great business has developed.

What are your future plans and aspirations for your company?

We would like to continue distributing as many packs as we can to as many girls as we can in South Africa and across the borders. We want to help educate the girls of South Africa and give them the dignity they deserve.

What gives you the most satisfaction being an entrepreneur?

Seeing how many girls’ lives we can change by providing a basic necessity. Helping girls to be proud they are women. Uplifting girls and helping them to get their education.

What’s the biggest piece of advice you can give to other women looking to start-up?

Hold onto your dream. It’s your dream, you can achieve it.


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