MEET THE FOUNDER AND CEO OF WUKA
Most of us are already aware of the damaging effect that single use plastic continues to have on the environment, and period products are no exception. In recent years companies have been creating eco-friendly alternatives to the traditional disposable pads and tampons. One such company is WUKA, who are committed to spreading awareness about menstrual health and making period products accessible to all. In this Q&A we asked founder and CEO Ruby Raut what the driving force was behind her starting WUKA, and what their biggest success to date has been. Here’s what she had to say…
Tell us about your business.
In 2017, I founded WUKA, which stands for ‘Wake Up Kick Ass’, because we believe that nothing should hold you back when you’re on your period. We are on a mission to smash taboos and create the world’s most comfortable and sustainable menstrual products. We make period pants that completely replace disposable pads and tampons.
What was the driving force behind your business?
I grew up in Nepal, where shame about periods was widespread. Nachune is the Nepalese word for period which basically translates as ‘untouchable’. When I started my period, I experienced a form of Chapaudi, now illegal in Nepal. During menstruation, I was sent to my aunt’s house and wasn’t allowed to go out in the sun, look at men, or touch plants – as it was believed that I would kill them – just because I was having a period.
Like other girls, I was given old sari rags to use for the bleeding, which happened to be reusable and eco-friendly, but not hygienic. They weren’t leak-proof nor comfortable, and didn’t work for me when I played sports!
When I arrived in the UK, I remember being astonished by the wide range of menstrual products available on the shelves, but quickly realised that most of them were neither comfortable nor leak-proof, and they certainly were not eco-friendly. We can see the single-use plastic in tampon applicators, but most of us don’t realise that pads are usually made from 80% plastic.
A few years later when I was studying for my Environmental Science degree, I discovered that more than 200,000 tonnes of tampons and pads were sent to a UK landfill every year, contributing to the mounting tide of plastic pollution. This was my ‘light bulb’ moment, when I knew I had to do something to change the way we handled menstruation.
What are your core business values?
We believe that periods should not cost the earth. Equality, social and environmental responsibility is at the heart of everything we do. It is our mission to put an end to period poverty and to ensure sustainable periods are accessible to all.
How do you overcome setbacks?
I tend to find that setbacks spur me on and make me hungry to solve whatever issue may be in front of me. I find that collaborative thinking is the best way forward to overcome most setbacks that come my way – discussions with my team to get different insights and ideas, so together we can find the right solution.
If you had one piece of advice for students setting out their own business what would it be?
I think it’s important to find something you’re truly passionate about, as this will motivate you on even the most stressful of days, but it’s also essential to make sure you do your research. Does your product or service solve a problem? Is there a gap in the market or the demand for your business?
Are there any other brands within your sector that you are following at the moment?
We’re huge fans of all brands who are helping to reduce the amount of disposable period products from going to landfill or polluting our oceans. We’re inspired by a much wider range of brands, however, and most importantly by our own customers – our customers are always sharing new ideas with us!
What has been your biggest achievement so far?
Launching into supermarkets this year was a real highlight for me, as my mission is for sustainable period products to be accessible to everyone, and supermarkets are a great way to reach more people. I would love for WUKA to be a household name one day, where everyone uses WUKA Period Pants, instead of plastic-riddled, single-use disposable period products.
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