The Brightside: Bamboo Underwear
DELMARVA – One woman created an eco-friendly product that protects the planet and gives needed resources to the community; underwear made of bamboo!
It may sound strange, but it’s sustainable, biodegradable, and cost-effective, all while helping to break a stigma.
Patricia Kayanga, once was a girl living in Uganda and just at 11 years old, she moved to the States. It was a decision she says probably changed her life. “I’m now living that. It’s weird when I talk to my cousins in Uganda or even in Colorado, they’re like oh my gosh I can’t believe you did that.” Kayanga adds, “Different diversity in thoughts and people, people from different countries even if it’s within the states that have different walks of life. I moved here and thought, I need to do more.”
Kayanga years later is working in corporate America, and making a home and life for herself on the east coast. However, a trip to Bali with some girlfriends who experienced the “uh oh” moments of life such as period-related issues, helped spark Kayanga’s business venture idea. “It wasn’t until we were coming back from Bali that we all had a zip-lock bag of either dirty underwear or wet ones but we were like wait.”
After a conversation with her mom about her concerns about accidents happening while on the go, her mom had few but powerful words to say, “She simply just said, well create something that works for you.” That’s when “Ohhs” was born.
“Ohhs” is a seamless disposable undergarment made of eco-friendly and biodegradable bamboo, and creating this underwear further pushes the idea of successfully executing sustainability on all levels. “Talk about doing it with something more sustainable and bamboo does provide you that, it requires 0 irrigation for growth, no pesticides,” explains Kayanga. Underwear that she says is perfect for travel and any emergencies women typically face. “It comes from just having those conversations and being comfortable about them and unfortunately private parts aren’t always easy to talk about.”
Kayanga tells us it took a while to bring her idea to fruition. She received a lot of no’s until someone took a chance on her idea. An idea she says is also helping to break the stigma of talking about feminine hygiene. “Now I’m very unapologetic about it, I’m unapologetic about talking about periods, I’m unapologetically talking about my own life structure. Where as it used to be, these are some of the things we need to start to normalize,” she says.
Just a few years later, Kayanga’s work in the Maryland, Virginia area has received national attention. Shedding light on a bigger concern, availability of clean undergarments for those in third-world countries; and when you purchase a box of “Ohhs,” you’re helping a greater cause. “If you buy a box of these, I send these to those countries so people don’t have to have access to used underwear, that should not be a norm,” says Kayanga.
She also says, she could have been one of those children having to use secondhand underwear, but seeing her business thrive as a first-generation immigrant is giving her hope, and the motivation to help others just like her. “If I can do it, I think everybody can because I don’t come from a whole lot but if I can do it, the problem is making sure you don’t block yourself no matter how much you want to.”
Kayanga’s “Ohhs” companies were recently accepted into the Target Forward Founders Accelerator program, a program designed to help historically under-resourced founders be the next wave of wealth-building companies. She says she hopes to see them in places like hospitals, homeless shelters, and even spas. “Ohhs” can be found online but will soon be sold in select stores.
To learn more about her story or check out her products, visit her website.