Who we are
Ruby Cup is a menstrual cup brand by Ruby Life Ltd. We began our journey as a social start-up and have over the years grown into an award-winning social business. It is made from premium-quality medical-grade silicone and is available in two sizes and many different colours.
Why are we social? Because for each Ruby Cup that is purchased, another one is donated to girls and women around the world who do not have access to menstrual care products.
Our social enterprise was founded in 2011 by Maxie, Julie and Veronica and our Buy One Give One has always been at the heart of our business.
Our values and what Ruby Cup stands for
Ruby Cup believes in things that last. We are a social business, taking each business decision with care, always having respect for others and our planet in mind.
We value long-lasting quality and long-term commitment. Not only for our products, but also for our partnerships. This includes our partnerships with local organisations distributing Ruby Cups, our resellers around the world, our collaborators, and our Ruby customers, users and community.
We want every Ruby Cup user to have worry-free, comfortable periods while being able to save money and the environment. That is why our menstrual cup can be used for up to 10 years.
We value communication and information. We are always happy to answer all of your questions; no question is too basic, especially not in a world where menstrual health education is still soaked in stigma.
We are constantly on a mission to provide and contribute to menstrual health research and the conversation around menstruation.
Just as much as we try to provide information, we are also grateful when we receive feedback from you.
Ruby Cup is about choice. We want every Ruby Cup user to be happy with their choice of a sustainable menstrual product. That’s why we established a money back guarantee. If you’re not happy with your menstrual cup, you can either switch size or get a full refund. Also during all donation distributions, each girl has the choice to choose to try a Ruby Cup.
We care. Making an impact also means caring for our planet. That’s why we’re continuously working on not only providing an eco-friendly menstrual care product, but also by having sustainability as a key feature for every aspect of our business.
We measure our company’s carbon footprint and are constantly trying to improve every aspect of our company. Transparency, accountability, and empowerment are some of our key values.
Find our Annual Impact Reports here.
About our products – always sustainable and eco-friendly
High quality and longevity of our menstrual cups were at the forefront of our minds while designing our menstrual cup.
All Ruby Cup and Ruby Clean products are registered with the vegan society.
We source our packaging and marketing materials from a trusted cradle-to-cradle certified supplier. We also use biodegradable plastic and organic cotton for all our orders and try to reduce excess packaging material as much as possible.
2018: Selected project partner of Vote100
2015: Winner of ‘ZDFs Kampf der Startups’
2013: ‘Wilhelm Loehe’ Prize for social entrepreneurship.
2013: Nominated for the ‘German Engagement Prize’
2012: ‘Future Impact Award’, prize for 2nd place in Switzerland.
2012: Winner of ‘Venture Cup’ Startup Competition, Copenhagen, Denmark, May
2012: Selected Semi-finalist at Ben & Jerry’s Social Entrepreneurship Competition, ‘Join Our Core’, London, UK
2012: Selected Sustainia100 solution
2012: Winner of the Grand Prize of the ‘Global Social Entrepreneurship Competition’ at the University of Washington in Seattle
2011: Winner of ‘Develop Prize’, for the best business plan for development at the Foreign Ministry of Denmark
How it all started
Julie, Maxie and Veronica, the three co-founders of Ruby Cup, met at business school in 2005. “Until Maxie came along and introduced Veronica and me to menstrual cups, 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,” says Julie.
“At first I thought it’s really weird. Menstrual cups do have a bit of a learning curve. But after a couple of months I was completely convinced and thought ‘Why have I never known about this product before?’”
Realising how the cup changed their periods for the better, the three social entrepreneurship students started with a vague idea of wanting to help more people hear about this incredible product.
Julie: “Studying sustainable business strategies and social entrepreneurship, we had a passion for starting a business focusing on making the world better. So the menstrual cup led us to more research on menstruation and we discovered how completely ignorant we were about the major obstacles menstruation poses for girls and women in low-income communities. Millions do not have access to menstrual products and can simply not afford to buy pads or tampons every month.”
The three of them were convinced about the menstrual cup’s potential to be a sustainable solution for people with lower income or no access to period products. Maxie: “It’s sustainable, it can last you up to ten years, so it’s a one-time investment and then you’re basically set. So we wanted to try and provide that product to girls in need and that’s how it all started.”
Starting a social start-up
While the whole project was still pretty much an idea only, they started to apply for funding and grants.
“Being shaped by business school, we set out to write the traditional business plan about our idea to present to potential networks and funders. This resulted in a prize from the Foreign Ministry of Denmark, though without money attached to it, which opened up a network that pushed us further. The kick-off point after that was a small grant from the Swedish International Development Agency and their program called ‘Innovations Against Poverty’. This meant the injection for us to pack our bags and set off to Kenya,” says Julie.
Moving to Kenya
Our first idea for a business model was to set up a direct sales model, very similar to the Tupperware model, employing local women as trusted community members to sell the product. This was confirmed by the first conversations we had with women in Kenya.
Maxie explains: “When we first arrived in Kenya, we visited a women’s group in Kibera, an enormous slum in Nairobi. After explaining everything about menstrual cups, we humbly asked the women for their know-how and expertise: ‘You know how to sell products here, we don’t, so please help us!’ we said. The women came up with the colors for the packaging (pink, pink, and pink is, and always will be, an all-time favorite!). They recommended direct sales through women. They even asked us to develop a sales video they could watch on their cellphones.”
The failure of our first business model
But this business model failed. We believed this model would make menstrual cups an income-generating product for women on top of being sustainable, it all sounded too good. But we failed to see the inherent conflict: A sustainable product also means a one-time sale, so the woman would lose a customer every time she sold one vs. selling soap or food that creates returning customers.
However, the epiphany of why this model failed became apparent when we heard feedback from the women and the customers they tried to reach. They would ask ‘what is this product?, who else is using it?, why should I try it?’. They were sceptical because the cup, at the time, was completely unknown and they didn’t trust it.
We would basically have to embark on a year-long journey to get this product into the market and accepted in order for it to be a sustainable sales model. Similar to what had been done for condoms, and we had no such resources available at the time.
We had to kill that strategy entirely and figure out another way to make Ruby Cup available. Many of the women we talked to who were mothers kept telling us that their daughters would use the product. They were the ones who really struggled and felt ashamed, because menstruation was (and still is) a taboo. They were also a population with little to no purchasing power, so that is when we decided on our new strategy: the Buy One Give One program, which launched in late 2012.
Pioneering a sustainable Buy One Give One Program for menstrual cups
Building up our Buy One Give Program, we knew that we wanted to make a positive, long-term impact for the girls who would receive the donations. We also quickly learned that knowledge about menstruation and reproductive health was lacking, and many of the girls didn’t know what menstruation was. So to address that, we started to work with some of the early adopters of Ruby Cup, local girls from the communities who became trainers and ambassadors. Someone the girls could identify with and communicate with in the local language.
Slowly, we started building a network with different schools and local organisations in Nairobi and elsewhere in Kenya. From there it has been an amazing journey of learning, improving, building upon our donation programmes with our partners that today take place in more than nine countries in Africa and Asia.
We are proud to be on this journey with so many amazing people and organisations dedicated to making a difference and as always, a big thank you to all Ruby Cup users, who help make the positive impact of Ruby Cup possible every day.