Menstrual Cups and Impact Investments – The Experiences of a Social Entrepreneur

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The SOCAP – conference works as a annual meeting for investors and social entrepreneurs from all over the world. Coming together and listening to examples from both worlds is a great start to understand and co-create solid business models with a positive social and environmental impact. I was excited to explore how it is to come to an event like this as a social entrepreneur prepared to get funding? I grabbed Veronica D’Souza after a panel session to get an answer to my question. D’Souza represents the start-up Ruby Cup, a venture selling menstrual cups to women in developing countries. She left her co-founders Maxie Matthiessen and Julie Weigaard Kjær in Nairobi, Kenya, to come and pitch their idea at SOCAP.

What is your biggest take-away from this conference?
SOCAP has turned out very valuable for me and our business. I have learned to understand the mind-set of investors much better and have found that there are great similarities of how decisions are made between investors and entrepreneurs. Even through I do think investors speak a foreign language, I know the most important things for them are the team, passion, and idea. Another thing I’ve learned over these days is that the investment market is not a beggar’s market. There is a demand to supply that I wasn’t aware of before. Investors come in many different shapes, and I believe that finding smart capital, where investors can also contribute with knowledge and network, can be a much better deal for an entrepreneur, than getting just a lot of money.

Have the last couple of days changed your strategic focus for your venture?
No. But I did have the privilege to pitch to the audience, which has given me at least ten pages with good advice and ideas – anything from good partners to new marketing strategies. I have not yet had time to digest it, but it’s a treasure that I will take with me to Kenya when I go back. Furthermore, when you put yourself out there and are honest about the things that you still don’t know, you will have honest and constructive responses. For that I would like to thank all the entrepreneurs here.

You have received a lot of positive feedback here, but how is the business perceived in Kenya?
The product is really well-received in Kenya! The women are of course a little skeptic in the beginning. How do I use it? Is it too big? Does it hurt? And so on. But interestingly also the men are easily convinced by this idea. They can see the problem with girls in school staying home because of their period, and moreover, they count on all the money they can save on sanitary pads! Another interesting thing is that the cultural barriers that we believed would be there to just talk about these issues have not been so prevalent as we expected. It is for sure a taboo topic, but we believe that the government has helped preparing the ground for us as; there have been advertisements and campaigns about the issue of girls not going to school.

So what is the status right now for Ruby Cup?
We are expecting the first commercial shipment of 10’000 Ruby Cups to arrive in a couple of weeks. Thereafter, the Ruby Cup will be launched within a couple of months in the urban areas of Nairobi. It is of course very exciting to test our business model on the market. A model that we have built from an inclusive business approach where Kenyan women have participated in creating the best marketing and distribution system for a product like this. They understand the local conditions and what would work the most. This has led us to a franchise system where women will be selling to women. Saleswomen will walk around in the slums in an easy-recognizable t-shirt, a cap and an official ID to prove that they are certified Ruby Cup sellers. We have learned so much from these women and our business model has been co-creating with them.

Thank you for your time and good luck in the future!

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