In times when sustainable and eco-friendly are paramount, it was very timely that in September of 2011, three former classmates at the Copenhagen Business School moved to Kenya and ultimately created a social mission sustained by the Ruby Cup.
The company, Ruby Cup is a “Buy One Give One” program. It is also the only menstrual cup brand to include a donation to a girl in need for every cup sold. In countries like Kenya, this also includes education by the company’s trainers on female anatomy, reproductive health, the Ruby Cup usage and hygiene.
The cups are made of medical grade silicone, which is the healthiest menstrual product material on the market. Cups are re-usable for up to 10 years, making it a cost-saving, bio-friendly product.
The Chicago Moms was lucky enough to have co-founder, Julie Weigaard Kjær answer a few questions:
TCM: Initially, there were three founders. What brought the three of you (co-founders Maxine Matthiessen, Veronica D’Souza) together?
Julie: Our first encounter was at Copenhagen Business School studying a bachelor called Business, Language and Culture, which later expanded to include sustainable business strategies and social entrepreneurship during the master studies. Amongst all these new fellow students, we kind of gravitated towards each other and ended up working together on the majority of assignments and cases throughout all the university years. The finale, and what became Ruby Cup, was the 3 of us discussing what to do after university. We wanted to change the world in some way and use sustainable business to do so.
TCM: What sorts of menstrual products had you three used growing up and then as women?
Julie: We were part of the mainstream – all users of tampons and pads, mostly tampons as everyone else, but Maxie (cofounder) actually used – a menstrual cup, while we were in Uni together. Veronica and I never really thought about it, apart from that we knew that Maxie was using something else and I remember we thought, well… this is some weird alternative :). But looking back, we were really fortunate that Maxie was there to introduce us to a menstrual cup.
TCM: As a 49 year old women whose first menstrual kotex kit had us pinning diaper looking pads into our underwear at 9 years old! I JUST started using cups in my early 40’s! Where did the cup concept come from? Why did it take so long to become mainstream? Clearly they are most practical, hygienic, easy and affordable!
Julie: Yes, it’s absolutely ridiculous that cups have not been a part of the menstrual product portfolio for ages. There is not a lot of data to support this but what we have a theory of why it has taken so long:
The menstrual cup was invented in the 1930s (there are even traces dating back to the late 1800s) but it was never commercialized. In the 1950-60s disposable pads and tampons were introduced with a billion dollar industry behind them (obviously, millions of women need to buy this every month), so marketing budgets allowed for an entire generation of women to be educated and introduced to only these 2 products.
The cups lingered in the background and someone managed to introduce them to the market in the 80s but given that cups are a sustainable product, marketing budgets could not compete with the disposable industry. It remained an alternative only known by few and because it was reusable it was associated with a “hippie” product, read: has to be washed and reused – not nice and not associated with popular culture.
Then the internet happened and ‘going green’ went mainstream’. Suddenly, women could set up businesses without being a massive corporation, because the internet allowed for word of mouth as a stronger marketing tool and the “hippie” notion stopped being hippie. We started on this adventure in 2011, at that point it was still unknown but on the move and luckily we’re now in a place, 6 years after vs. decades, where we can see that word of mouth has won because the world is connected and women want to be informed and own their periods.
TCM: How do you see the Ruby Cup changing women’s lives?
Julie: The product itself is kind of no brainer once you get over the first hurdles of trying it. It makes your period easier to deal with – you can go longer, it doesn’t dry you out and you always have it there with you saving you money and no sudden surprises of having to run to the supermarket because your period came unexpectedly.
But it’s more than just the product. Using a cup gives you a better understanding of your body – how much you bleed, your anatomy, the location of your cervix.
For the girls receiving Ruby Cup, all of the above happens but since it’s a product that requires an understanding of the female anatomy, training and education is always involved. This makes it a conversation starter. It helps to overcome harmful myths or misguided knowledge they might have about their body. This knowledge is really what empowers them, it gives them control of their bodies and helps them to make informed decisions and live their periods with dignity, free of shame and fear.
TCM: What adversities were faced trying to get the product out?
Julie: The main challenges for us in the beginning was that it was so unknown. Women and girls were sceptic (which is actually a good thing) and the ‘gross’ factor was very prevalent – I have to wash it? Isn’t there blood everywhere? Can it get lost inside my body? is it safe to use? Can it give infections? In Kenya, we were also often asked if it would break virginity. Our way to overcome this has always been to inform and educate, never to impose. Make the knowledge available so women can make an informed choice.
THANK YOU, Julie!
Learn how you can help at Rubycup.com
Category: New Posts