This little menstrual cup makes a whole world of difference. Many call them the life-changing Ruby Cup, as it’s a healthier, more sustainable and cost-effective alternative to pads and tampons. But then, for each cup sold, you are helping promote the much-needed menstrual health in developing countries
We interview Julie, co-founder of Ruby Cup, a social enterprise with a buy one give one model in place for each menstrual cup. The brand is on a mission to address taboos while letting girls accessing a healthy solution for their periods. Without further ado, hope you enjoy this conversation as much as we did!
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Hi Julie, would love to hear a bit more about your background and what led you to start the menstrual Ruby Cup brand?
One of my co-founders was already using a menstrual cup and introduced it to me. I didn’t know about its existence and had always used tampons – and never thought that there might be other solutions out there. The menstrual cup was a life-changer for me, it made me feel so much better and healthier when on my period.
This was when we were in university, nerding how to create social change through business. The menstrual cup led us to research more on menstruation and we discovered how ignorant we were to the significant obstacles menstruation poses for girls and women in low-income communities across the world. Millions do not have access to menstrual products or cannot afford to buy disposable products every month.
What are the social problems that the communities also experience?
Well, on top of that menstruation is a taboo topic and many girls experience starting their period having no idea what’s happening to them. Imagine the fear and the shame associated with leaking and staining your clothes. Without access to menstrual health education and products, the solution is often to try and hide it and staying home from school. It’s a significant obstacle to gender equality because girls miss out on education and just participating in society in general – because of something as natural and important for the human race as menstruation.
Creating Ruby Cup was a no-brainer for us! It’s healthy, reusable and coupled with menstrual health education and support, it can give a girl a dignified and sustainable way to handle her period.
What is the mission of the brand, what’s the type of positive change you are seeking to create?
We want to enable all people to live their periods with dignity regardless of their income. Ruby Cup is a sustainable product lasting for years and coupled with education and ongoing support, it is life-changer.
What is your menstrual Ruby Cup made of and what makes your brand different?
Ruby Cup is made from 100% medical-grade soft silicone and is free from plastics, latex, toxins and bleaches. It’s rated highest amongst our users for being a fantastic beginner cup – it’s in the goldilocks zone – not too hard, not too soft, it pops open easily and has a helpful stem design for easy removal.
Apart from a great cup design, we were the very first menstrual cup brand to incorporate a social mission into the business model and pioneers of the Buy One Give One program for menstrual cups. Every cup sold is matched with a donation.
Tell us more about your education programs associated with each donated cup!
The woman receiving the donation is also provided with comprehensive menstrual health education in the form of a workshop and sustained support to help her succeed with her Ruby Cup. This sustained support is provided by trained mentors who follow up regularly helping us achieve an 80% adoption rate.
Let’s go more in-depth on how do you distribute the menstrual cups to girls in Africa?
The Ruby Cups we donate are allocated to our team of trainers and selected partners in one of our programme countries around the world.
We have been working with our own team and partners since 2012 in creating robust distribution programmes. We actually have a policy of declining to donate unless education and ongoing support is in place, which is a direct result of our own and our partners’ learnings over time.
It’s about quality for us, not quantity – counting cup donations says nothing about the actual impact, so any distribution and initial menstrual health workshop are followed up with group sessions or questionnaires asking how many still use it, what challenges and what changes they’ve experienced after participating in a programme.
Have you received feedback from women and girls who have been helped through Ruby cup? What was the most memorable?
The most recent memorable feedback was from a programme in a refugee camp in Uganda that we did in collaboration with CARE international and Womena, our Ugandan based partner. The report showed a 40% decrease in rapes. The reason was that the women no longer had to go to the communal toilet at night to change their pads, because Ruby Cup has a much higher capacity and can be worn up to 12 hours. It would be wrong to say that the cup is a solution to gender-based violence but we were speechless at how it can have indirect impacts like this one.
If you want to take a closer look at our impact report more information in detail.
We think menstrual cups are the best invention for periods, as it’s comfortable, clean, affordable, healthy and eco-friendly! For people who are considering Ruby Cup, but haven’t used a similar product before, what are the biggest things you’d want them to know? What is a misconception you’d like to clear up about how a menstrual cup work?
I thought it was a bit complicated and weird when I started but after a few months of trying it out, that all changed so rule number one: Don’t give up if it doesn’t work the first time – persevere and you might discover a life-changing way to manage your periods.
The biggest misconception in my experience is the thought that the cup is gross because you have to rinse and handle it more than a tampon. Instead, you end up feeling much healthier and cleaner with a cup than a tampon. It doesn’t dry you out, it’s just there with you always – you never “run out”, and the capacity is 3 times a super tampon meaning less toilet trip interferences during your day.
At Ruby Cup we have a money-back guarantee in place, so all our customers have 120 days to switch size or get a refund no questions asked. We have this because we believe in our product and to remove the risk to our users.
What is your vision in terms of women in Africa accessing long term solutions for their periods?
800 million people menstruate in the world at any given time and a big part of them cannot participate in society on par with everyone else because of their period.
I would like to see all women and people with periods, not only African, to have access to quality information, education and products – sustainable ones – available to them, both in terms of access and affordability.
What have been your challenges as a social enterprise working in countries that have a totally different culture?
All startups face many challenges regardless of where they are based. For us there were many challenges associated with introducing a new product (menstrual cups) in a market where the product is so unknown and related to a little spoken about issue, menstruation is still a taboo topic in many areas. We also had to learn how all the business processes work in each country, such as how to import, how to approach schools, who can do what.
Interestingly some things that we imagined would be difficult turned out not to be. For example we feared that a product for insertion into the vagina would be a big obstacle in Kenya in the beginning but it actually turned out to be a minor challenge.
Is there any advice you’d like to give to other small businesses trying to make a difference?
If you have an idea, make an imperfect start-up plan and then get out and test it. You won’t know if it works until you try. In my experience, many skilled and experienced people out there are willing to help and give advice, so don’t be shy to reach out to people, even those you might think are too important or out of reach.
If you want to use business to make social change, make sure you put a heavy weight on the business part of the idea. You won’t make any impact without money.
And what has been the greatest success of the brand so far?
It’s very hard to pick one but in the past year our team has doubled in size and it’s the best team ever – if we could sell passion and drive, we would be rich!
If you could write a message on a big wall that the entire world could read, what would it say?
WITHOUT PERIODS, NO HUMAN RACE – TREAT THEM WITH RESPECT!
Finally, where can we find you? Shop, online, worldwide…?
You can buy a Ruby Cup on our website rubycup.com or use our store locator to find the nearest selling point to you.
Have you ever tried a menstrual cup before? Share with us your experience in the comments below, let’s talk period!
Disclosure: This post was sponsored by Ruby Cup. Ourgoodbrands only features brands and contents that are aligned with ethical, sustainable, eco-conscious world, which means we have carefully researched and written the contents in this article, and specific product information is checked with the business. For the interviews, any opinions expressed are the writer’s own, generally being the founder of the brand. Images supplied and approved by the brand featured, or credited accordingly otherwise. For more information about our policies, click here.
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