Can you tell us a bit about yourself and your journey to starting Flo Code?
My name is Lamanda Ballard and I am the Founder and Executive Director of Flo Code. I’ve always had a passion for philanthropy and giving back to the community since I was a child. When I moved to Austin 2 years ago I started volunteering at the homeless shelter downtown. I realized the shelters are not only dominated by men, but there were limited resources for women when it comes to our specific needs. I started doing research on different nonprofits who shared similar initiatives, started my own chapter, and eventually branched out to become my own 501©(3) nonprofit organization.
I read that the work began with being a chapter of The Homeless Period Project. What inspired the decision to branch out to create a separate non-profit?
The Homeless Period Project was a great opportunity for me to learn what basis of what it takes to run a nonprofit. Our chapter in Austin grew so fast in such a short period of time that we realized it was hard to be apart of an org that may not be able to manage us in the same capacity as they manage their own chapter. After the work my Austin chapter of HPP did for Hurricane Harvey and Maria, I knew that I could use this as an opportunity to create something that the city could call our own and do things our way. Many things that were off the table with HPP are no longer off the table with Flo Code because we want to be receptive to what the community is willing to offer. From menstrual cups to underwear donations, we want to ensure that we are serving women in all aspects and that we are offering them options they may not have had before due to limited resources at local shelters. Flo Code wasn’t our way of starting over, but rather a chance to become sisters with other organizations who share similar missions.
How does Flo Code work and how can others get involved?
Flo Code focuses on educating our community on different women’s health issues and hosting various service projects that volunteers can participate in to give back. Our favorite service project is the Flo Party. This event is an opportunity for us to take the donations we’ve received and create Flo Packs. Each Flo Pack contains 5 pads, 5 tampons, and 5 panty liners. We’ve had over 400 volunteers participate in creating Flo Pack for underserved women and girls in our community. We have multiple drop off locations throughout the city of Austin. If anyone is interested in getting involved, we encourage them to attend a Flo Party, host a Flo Party, or send us a message to see how we can collaborate. Our contact information is listed on our website and social media channels. flocode.org or @flocodexo (Facebook, Twitter, Instagram)
What are some challenges you’ve encountered, and what’s your approach (in general) to solving issues as they arise?
The biggest challenge I’ve encountered while running Flo Code is ensuring that I create a sustainable space for us in the city of Austin. We love having our volunteers attend Flo Parties and we want to ensure that we can continue to do so for many years to come. It was critical for me to have a Fundraiser Coordinator on our team. With the help of our Vice President and newly appointed Fundraiser Coordinator, Brooke Harrison, we will have multiple fundraisers through the year that will not only drive monetary donations, but product donations so that we can continue to bring these awesome Flo Parties to ATX.
What are your goals for Flo Code this year, and how would you like to see it grow?
My biggest goal for Flo Code this year is to donate 2.5x more donations than we did in 2017 and join Amplify ATX. Last year we donated around 40,000 Flo Packs to different shelters, organizations, businesses, schools, and disaster relief victims. For us to join Amplify ATX, we would need to fundraise at least $25,000. The list of places we could donate over 100,000 Flo Packs to in Austin and surrounding areas would be endless. That’s how heavy I want our imprint to be.
I know your work entails having a busy schedule. Do you have any tools/skills you’ve developed to manage your time/make time for yourself outside of Flo Code and your job?
Flo Code has certainly taught me the importance of nonprofit management, team building and everything under the sun when it comes to entrepreneurship. The most important “skill” I’ve learned is to set boundaries. Boundaries don’t only apply when it comes to relationships, they are vital when it comes to work, organizations, friendships, etc. I make it a point to set boundaries in all aspects of my life so that I may enjoy my downtime even if it’s limited. For example, I do not conduct any business after 10PM and before 7AM. I’m involved in so many different things and it can easily become overwhelming. Every weekend I am entitled to doing at least 1 thing socially outside of the work I do. Having boundaries are important when it comes to self-care. Always make time for you even when your tasks list puts you last. You are the most important deadline.
What’s your favorite spot/activity in Austin? Your hidden gem?
Austin is surrounded by water and I love it! What better way to get a peace of mind than being surrounded by water, good drinks and great people. I’ve discovered The Oasis on Lake Travis and I sneak over there at least once a month. Even if I’m not eating at the restaurant, just being in the area is beautiful especially around sunset hours. I could spend hours here alone or with friends. It’s never too busy unless there’s an event and it’s located far enough north to keep it from being infiltrated with tourists. Just kidding.