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Health Scares And A Hostage Experience Led Gaynete Jones To Lean Into Entrepreneurship

The founder of Best, Periodt used the power of survival to fuel her motivation.

BOSS UP

Gaynete Jones's story leading up to her venture into entrepreneurship almost plays out like a good Nollywood flick you'd find on Netflix, except hers is very, well, real, is much more poised, and is set in paradises of the Caribbean.

Jones, founder of Best, Periodt, a femcare brand making major waves both on drugstore shelves and social media, has had to push through more than a few traumatic and dramatically life-changing events to get to the point of investing nearly $100,000 to start her business.

Courtesy of Gaynete Jones

"I go hard for everything. I think that's just in my innate makeup," Jones says. "Truly, it's the hardships that have helped me be able to prioritize what's important in my life and what I need to focus on going forward. So any hardships that [I've faced with] Best Periodt—like manufacturer delays with COVID happening and all of that—I stepped back, [and was] like, 'If I could handle all those things I've already been through, I can handle anything.' "

Anything, indeed. The Bermuda native, author, and host of Freedom Slay Podcast survived the removal of a tumor on her windpipe at 14, a specialized surgery, by her recollection, that had a very low survival rate. "There were only three people that had the surgery before me, and two of them didn't survive," she recalls. "So I knew going in, even at 14, that I had a one-in-three chance of surviving, and that just put a little perspective shift where you're like, man, life's finite."

At 18, she'd be held at gunpoint in a robbery. In her account of things, the day seemed just like any typical one would for a rotary exchange student in Venezuela: an exploration of sights in the streets of Maracaibo, a summer BBQ with the host family, and the online sharing of memories with the folks back home. Then normal turned dangerous when a group of what Jones says were "cops" crashed the party and instructed everyone to lay on the ground while they collected electronics, passports, keys, money, jewelry, and the family's car. Though no one was physically harmed, the mental damage had definitely been done.

"Again, things get put in perspective because the whole— everything was robbed. I didn't have anything at that point. I remember my host family coming up to me and they're like, 'But you have your life.' So again, it's just those little moments that are like perspective shifts."

Jones would finish out her time in Venezuela despite the incident and says she still holds a love for her host family, the culture, and the overall experience. From there, she returned to Bermuda, with plans to work in law only to find out she was pregnant. "I was 19 when I had my baby, which made me a teen mom, and I didn't want to be a statistic. So I did what success looked like to me or what I thought success was, which was climbing the corporate ladder."

While working as a trust and estate practitioner, she found out that her dad had fallen ill from complications of a tumor on one of his kidneys.

"I remember asking at my job for the time off, and that was an issue. They were giving me trouble to get off from work and I'm like, 'Listen, I'm here all this time. This is my time.' Like, why do I have to ask for time off? It just used to frustrate me."

Another family emergency would lead her back to a hospital again when her mother got sick and had to have major surgery in 2015. "That's when I actually started writing my book. Again, [I had the] same issue trying to get off from the employer and they were giving me push-back. And I really, at that point, knew I had to figure out a way out of this." Jones adds that though her job paid a decent wage, she was living paycheck to paycheck, so the funds to make a clean break and travel to be there for her mom were also scarce.

"I remember my mom was going to Johns Hopkins. She was in Baltimore getting her surgery, and I had the issue where I didn't have enough money to pay for the two bags [to get on the plane]. I asked my [now] mother-in-law for the $50 to cover it. I wrote myself an email while I was on the plane [which] was just a message to myself like, 'You're not going to let this happen again. For your sake and for your daughter's sake, you have to figure this out.'

"I didn't know where it was going from there, but I knew that I had to do something different from what I was doing at the moment. I had been taking online classes with the University of London [to get a] finance degree, and I dropped out. I paid for a writing course, I put my book, The Lucky Code: A Guide to Winning at Life, out in May 2015, and it became an Amazon bestseller in a few different categories."

That same moment of truth also led to her decision to up her presence in teaching people to self-publish and building a brand from that. She's also hosted webinars and masterclasses covering lessons on subjects including how to create passive income. "I've been able to create a business teaching people how to start their own businesses and things like that. And from there I just had a bunch of courses and things I was selling on the side. I was able to triple my income before I left in 2019."

Jones's community has grown to more than 28,000 followers across her social platforms and her podcast has had some of your favorite highly successful women entrepreneurs including New York Times best-selling author Luvvie Ajayi, Schmidt's Naturals founder Jamie Schmidt, and Black Girl Sunscreen founder Shontay Lundy. It's what served as the springboard for launching Best Periodt. "I bring on six- to nine-figure business owners that really help the listeners to just figure out what they need to grow their business. I had someone on one day, and she had an Amazon business that she grew from bonnets—yes, bonnets.

"And at that point, just talking to her and listening to the process, I got really intrigued about creating a physical product. So I didn't know at the time what it was going to be or anything like that, but I knew I wanted to create something. I went to sleep that night, and I woke up, and my period had started. It seemed like divine intervention at that point because when I went to go grab one of the [menstrual] cups I was using, [I realized] it just didn't have enough capacity for heavy flow days."

Talk about a light-bulb moment. Jones knew then what problem she had to solve and through research, she found a female-led manufacturer to create a menstrual cup prototype. "I wanted them to be US-based and [the product to be] FDA-registered. It was just so many things I had on the checklist that I wanted with this cup," Jones said of the process to get started. "Once I found a manufacturer that ticked all the boxes—they had done cups before, they haven't had any issues with them, and all of that kind of stuff—I sketched what I wanted mine to look like."

"I worked with the engineer they had on their team to create a mock up, and then we got a 3-D model printed. And from that model, we actually had to get samples created from their sample. Something that I thought was going to take just a couple of months ended up being close to a year [because] it was a lot of headaches, especially because it started at the beginning of COVID last year."

Jones didn't want to go the white-label route, where she basically took something already made and added her branding to it to sell. She wanted to be sure she was offering something unique that would really make an impact on the market and serve women's needs. Best Periodt offers cups that are made with medical-grade silicone, are vegan and environmentally-friendly, and come in two sizes (one of which holds the capacity of up to eight regular tampons). They are also OBGYN-tested and cost-effective, considering they can last for up to 10 years.

Another bonus: They come in a convenient (and cute!) hygienic case. "I try to make it as relatable as possible, even the instruction manual. I've never seen an instruction manual in my entire life with Brown bodies, so of course I wanted to include that in this one. It's so important to have representation, right?"

The cups are sold in drugstores in Bermuda and online, and according to Jones, they'll be on U.S. shelves soon. She has even more plans for her brand's expansion, which points back to her persistent drive to achieve her wildest dreams and push limits. "I know for certain, our next product is not in the femcare aisle, but it all ties together with having a better period experience. This is the genesis of a mega brand."

Find out more about Best Periodt products via their website and more about Gaynete Jones via her Instagram.

Featured image courtesy of Gaynete Jones

ACLU By ACLUSponsored

Over the past four years, we grew accustomed to a regular barrage of blatant, segregationist-style racism from the White House. Donald Trump tweeted that “the Squad," four Democratic Congresswomen who are Black, Latinx, and South Asian, should “go back" to the “corrupt" countries they came from; that same year, he called Elizabeth Warren “Pocahontas," mocking her belief that she might be descended from Native American ancestors.

But as outrageous as the racist comments Trump regularly spewed were, the racially unjust governmental actions his administration took and, in the case of COVID-19, didn't take, impacted millions more — especially Black and Brown people.

To begin to heal and move toward real racial justice, we must address not only the harms of the past four years, but also the harms tracing back to this country's origins. Racism has played an active role in the creation of our systems of education, health care, ownership, and employment, and virtually every other facet of life since this nation's founding.

Our history has shown us that it's not enough to take racist policies off the books if we are going to achieve true justice. Those past policies have structured our society and created deeply-rooted patterns and practices that can only be disrupted and reformed with new policies of similar strength and efficacy. In short, a systemic problem requires a systemic solution. To combat systemic racism, we must pursue systemic equality.

What is Systemic Racism?

A system is a collection of elements that are organized for a common purpose. Racism in America is a system that combines economic, political, and social components. That system specifically disempowers and disenfranchises Black people, while maintaining and expanding implicit and explicit advantages for white people, leading to better opportunities in jobs, education, and housing, and discrimination in the criminal legal system. For example, the country's voting systems empower white voters at the expense of voters of color, resulting in an unequal system of governance in which those communities have little voice and representation, even in policies that directly impact them.

Systemic Equality is a Systemic Solution

In the years ahead, the ACLU will pursue administrative and legislative campaigns targeting the Biden-Harris administration and Congress. We will leverage legal advocacy to dismantle systemic barriers, and will work with our affiliates to change policies nearer to the communities most harmed by these legacies. The goal is to build a nation where every person can achieve their highest potential, unhampered by structural and institutional racism.

To begin, in 2021, we believe the Biden administration and Congress should take the following crucial steps to advance systemic equality:

Voting Rights

The administration must issue an executive order creating a Justice Department lead staff position on voting rights violations in every U.S. Attorney office. We are seeing a flood of unlawful restrictions on voting across the country, and at every level of state and local government. This nationwide problem requires nationwide investigatory and enforcement resources. Even if it requires new training and approval protocols, a new voting rights enforcement program with the participation of all 93 U.S. Attorney offices is the best way to help ensure nationwide enforcement of voting rights laws.

These assistant U.S. attorneys should begin by ensuring that every American in the custody of the Bureau of Prisons who is eligible to vote can vote, and monitor the Census and redistricting process to fight the dilution of voting power in communities of color.

We are also calling on Congress to pass the John Lewis Voting Rights Advancement Act to finally create a fair and equal national voting system, the cause for which John Lewis devoted his life.

Student Debt

Black borrowers pay more than other students for the same degrees, and graduate with an average of $7,400 more in debt than their white peers. In the years following graduation, the debt gap more than triples. Nearly half of Black borrowers will default within 12 years. In other words, for Black Americans, the American dream costs more. Last week, Majority Leader Chuck Schumer and Sen. Elizabeth Warren, along with House Reps. Ayanna Pressley, Maxine Waters, and others, called on President Biden to cancel up to $50,000 in federal student loan debt per borrower.

We couldn't agree more. By forgiving $50,000 of student debt, President Biden can unleash pent up economic potential in Black communities, while relieving them of a burden that forestalls so many hopes and dreams. Black women in particular will benefit from this executive action, as they are proportionately the most indebted group of all Americans.

Postal Banking

In both low and high income majority-Black communities, traditional bank branches are 50 percent more likely to close than in white communities. The result is that nearly 50 percent of Black Americans are unbanked or underbanked, and many pay more than $2,000 in fees associated with subprime financial institutions. Over their lifetime, those fees can add up to as much as two years of annual income for the average Black family.

The U.S. Postal Service can and should meet this crisis by providing competitive, low-cost financial services to help advance economic equality. We call on President Biden to appoint new members to the Postal Board of Governors so that the Post Office can do the work of providing essential services to every American.

Fair Housing

Across the country, millions of people are living in communities of concentrated poverty, including 26 percent of all Black children. The Biden administration should again implement the 2015 Affirmatively Furthering Fair Housing rule, which required localities that receive federal funds for housing to investigate and address barriers to fair housing and patterns or practices that promote bias. In 1980, the average Black person lived in a neighborhood that was 62 percent Black and 31 percent white. By 2010, the average Black person's neighborhood was 48 percent Black and 34 percent white. Reinstating the Obama-era Fair Housing Rule will combat this ongoing segregation and set us on a path to true integration.

Congress should also pass the American Housing and Economic Mobility Act, or a similar measure, to finally redress the legacy of redlining and break down the walls of segregation once and for all.

Broadband Access

To realize broadband's potential to benefit our democracy and connect us to one another, all people in the United States must have equal access and broadband must be made affordable for the most vulnerable. Yet today, 15 percent of American households with school-age children do not have subscriptions to any form of broadband, including one-quarter of Black households (an additional 23 percent of African Americans are “smartphone-only" internet users, meaning they lack traditional home broadband service but do own a smartphone, which is insufficient to attend class, do homework, or apply for a job). The Biden administration, Federal Communications Commission, and Congress must develop and implement plans to increase funding for broadband to expand universal access.

Enhanced, Refundable Child Tax Credits

The United States faces a crisis of child poverty. Seventeen percent of all American children are impoverished — a rate higher than not just peer nations like Canada and the U.K., but Mexico and Russia as well. Currently, more than 50 percent of Black and Latinx children in the U.S. do not qualify for the full benefit, compared to 23 percent of white children, and nearly one in five Black children do not receive any credit at all.

To combat this crisis, President Biden and Congress should enhance the child tax credit and make it fully refundable. If we enhance the child tax credit, we can cut child poverty by 40 percent and instantly lift over 50 percent of Black children out of poverty.

Reparations

We cannot repair harms that we have not fully diagnosed. We must commit to a thorough examination of the impact of the legacy of chattel slavery on racial inequality today. In 2021, Congress must pass H.R. 40, which would establish a commission to study reparations and make recommendations for Black Americans.

The Long View

For the past century, the ACLU has fought for racial justice in legislatures and in courts, including through several landmark Supreme Court cases. While the court has not always ruled in favor of racial justice, incremental wins throughout history have helped to chip away at different forms of racism such as school segregation ( Brown v. Board), racial bias in the criminal legal system (Powell v. Alabama, i.e. the Scottsboro Boys), and marriage inequality (Loving v. Virginia). While these landmark victories initiated necessary reforms, they were only a starting point.

Systemic racism continues to pervade the lives of Black people through voter suppression, lack of financial services, housing discrimination, and other areas. More than anything, doing this work has taught the ACLU that we must fight on every front in order to overcome our country's legacies of racism. That is what our Systemic Equality agenda is all about.

In the weeks ahead, we will both expand on our views of why these campaigns are crucial to systemic equality and signal the path this country must take. We will also dive into our work to build organizing, advocacy, and legal power in the South — a region with a unique history of racial oppression and violence alongside a rich history of antiracist organizing and advocacy. We are committed to four principles throughout this campaign: reconciliation, access, prosperity, and empowerment. We hope that our actions can meet our ambition to, as Dr. King said, lead this nation to live out the true meaning of its creed.

What you can do:
Take the pledge: Systemic Equality Agenda
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Featured image by Shutterstock

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