Eastern Cape entrepreneur Candy Androliakos has developed a novel range of disposable sanitary products after she was asked by an elderly resident at the old age home where she works to come up with a cost-effective, dignified solution. Since then, she has expanded her range to children’s nappies and women’s sanitary solutions, adding clever design features along the way. Earlier this month Candy’s business, Leafline Washable Sanitary Wear, was awarded R1.3m in prize money at the SAB Disability Empowerment Awards where she took first place. The awards are aimed at promoting social innovations that improve the quality of life for people with disabilities through assistive devices, training or employment. Leafline employs people living with disabilities to manufacture affordable and biodegradable sanitary products, nappies, chair and bed protectors made from natural fibre. – Jackie Cameron

Candy Androliakos on Leafline Washable Sanitary Wear:

Leafline manufactures washable sanitary wear. The inner part of the product is made from pineapple leaf fibre. The fibre comes from the leaf of the pineapple and it’s processed in a cotton wool substance. Many people will think you can’t put pineapple into continence wear – but it’s a very soft substance that comes from the leaf. Once processed, we put it into the inner liners of all our products. It is for adults and children.

On the inspiration behind the idea:

I work in a retirement home, and most of the old people were complaining about the cost of nappies. One of the old ladies actually asked me to make her something that was washable. This is where it all started. I had to look for an absorbent inner – other than cotton wool because it’s not biodegradable.

We have large pineapple farms in this area. We were looking around and there was a billboard with processed leaf fibre on it. I then managed to find the man who had made this and spoke to him. He had been doing this project for a while, trying to find a use for the fibre of the pineapple leaf. He made me a bag of it, processed, and I took it and experimented with it. That’s basically where it all started.

On job creation:

I utilise a special needs centre –  which is for the mentally disabled. Indirectly, I employ six ladies. I’ve trained them to sew the product. Basically, they sew for me on a part-time basis. With the award funding, we’re hoping to open my own mini-factory/workshop and employ them directly.

On expanding the product line:

While I was working on nappies for the elderly, I noticed how many were leaving the retirement home on a daily basis. Then we started looking at the landfill issues. In 2018, I entered my product into the GAP Green Award at the Innovation Hub in Pretoria, and won that competition. After winning that, I thought of extending the range to children’s wear and sanitary towels.

On where she gets her inspiration from:

I was looking for a solution for the old people, really. It sort of developed from there. It was just trying to help them and save them cost. I think that’s where it all started. Pineapple fibre was there, so I tried it and managed to make it work for me and my product.

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