Interviewing Co-Founder and CEO of Ruby Cup: Julie Weigaard Kjaer

Over the Easter Break, I had the amazing opportunity to interview the Co-Founder and CEO of the company, Ruby Cup- Julie Weigaard Kjaer. I took this opportunity to find out about her company and product!

To start, what is the Ruby Cup?

Its generic name is a menstrual cup and it’s a period product. It’s inserted like a tampon is, but it doesn’t absorb the menstrual flow, it collects it. So that means that, because it’s made of medical grade silicone, which is the same material that you use for catheters etc. it’s a very safe material and as it only collects the fluid, it doesn’t interfere with vagina’s little eco-system, like the pH- system or anything like that.

How do you apply the Ruby Cup?

It’s folded; you fold it to insert it and the inside of the cap pops up and it creates a seal, so it doesn’t leak. The cup can hold 3x the capacity of a super tampon so you can go for much longer depending on your flow but a maximum of up to 12 hours. You can go a whole day without having to change or empty it.

How do you reuse the cup?

When you’re on your periods you simply take it out and empty it, rinse it with a little bit of water. If you’re in a public bathroom where you don’t have a sink in the toilet, it’s completely fine to just wash your hands, go into the toilet, empty it and put it back in- because it’s only in contact with your clean hands. You can rinse it the next time you have the opportunity to do so. After your period is over, so once a month, you disinfect it by just putting boiling water over it.

So, what about the menstrual cup drew your interest?

Well one of the Co-Founders of the Ruby Cup, Maxie, was using a cup when we were in University, and she introduced me to it. I was like most people in the beginning, I thought ‘it’s really weird’. It’s a bit of a learning curve but after a couple of months I was completely like ‘why have I never known about this product before in my life!’  

Ruby Cup was founded because we were three girls in business school and we wanted to do something together. We were using the menstrual cup product and we started getting more and more interested in this company. We started researching and then this whole new world opened up.

We found out how much a problem menstruation is where women can’t afford products. It’s a global issue, I mean there have been articles even in the UK about it. We started Ruby Cup because we saw that it was better. 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’s all started.

Are there any other advantages of the Ruby Cup, compared to the more conventional tampons or pads?

One of the main things for me was the feeling, when you insert it, it’s like its completely gone, you don’t feel it- so you have this extreme freedom, there’s not even a string. But you also save loads of money, it’s hard to make an average as every woman is different, but from our calculations it seems that the cup can potentially save you around £1000. You also don’t create any waste which is a big positive. Environmentally, disposable products are a huge issue. It’s good for the environment and it’s good when you’re somewhere that doesn’t have a trash can, you know you don’t need to dispose of anything so that’s going to make it a lot easier.

Also when you buy one you donate one to a girl in need, that’s a model we’ve been using from the beginning and it works really well, there’s no one doing the buy one, give one directly as we do.

How exactly does the buy one, give one to a girl in need work?

We started it ourselves, we basically moved to Kenya because we did a lot of research and found a tiny report done from a slum in Nairobi, Kenya. 50 women and 50 girls were given a cup and they were monitored and followed, I think between 1-3 years. At the end they were asked which product they preferred and 97% said that they definitely preferred the cup. So, we started working with women’s groups in the slums in Nairobi, we got in touch with schools and did some trial runs, donating some cups to girls.

It was really important that they received thorough education, follow up and support. We hired early beneficiaries of Ruby Cup as local trainers, because in the beginning the girls were still a bit like ‘you’re not the same as us’. We quickly found that it’s important to work with local girls that others can look up to and identify with.

Since then, we have realised how little education they get, there are so many myths and harmful beliefs surrounding menstruation, it’s taboo. You get your period and that means you’re a woman and now you can get pregnant, no one actually tells them that they’re going to bleed from the vagina. We have developed comprehensive education where we go through the female anatomy, reproductive health, menstrual care and of course how to use the cup. The cup is great, it’s long term and sustainable but it’s the education and the knowledge that empowers them, they feel in control of their own bodies.

Would you say that menstruation is taboo in Western countries too?

Yes, I think it’s still taboo, maybe not in the same way but you still have all those negative nicknames, there’s a lot of negativity surrounding periods. It’s ok if you want your period to be private, you don’t have to go out and scream about it, but at least be positive about it. It’s an extremely important function and Ruby Cup promotes a lot to track your cycle which is an added benefit of the cup, because you’re collecting the flow is that you can monitor it a lot better, the cup becomes like a health report card in some ways, you can track if there are any changes in your flow.

One of my main concerns about the cup is the removal, how does it work?

The removal for many and for me as well was the hardest part. Because you have the seal that’s created, and needs to be created so that it doesn’t leak, it also means that you can’t just pull it out. It takes learning to figure it out, what you need to do is use your stomach muscles or pelvic flow muscles to move it downwards and you have a stem that you can use to wiggle it downwards. And when you have the base of the cup, you pinch the walls, there are these airholes in the top so air flows in, the suction is released, you take it out carefully and empty it. It takes a little bit of practice. When I was trying it in the beginning at home, I was like ‘Oh my God, this is so complicated’. But then once I got the hang of it, it’s like nothing now.

Is the removal or application painful?

No, you shouldn’t feel pain, it shouldn’t be uncomfortable. The silicone is very soft but I always just put a bit of water on it, but you can use a water-based lubricant or something like that if it’s a bit dry. But it’s quite soft and quite silky, pretty far away from a dry tampon.

How does the size system work, is it based on size or flow?

We always recommend size based on your flow, so if you have a light flow the small size would be better for you. It would be very rare that a woman wouldn’t fit a medium.

Are there any instances where the Ruby Cup couldn’t be used? So women with IUD’s e.g. the coil, would this be an issue?

There are some cases where, because of the suction, it makes the coil or the IUD move. But we have many many users, even one of our co-founders uses the cup with a coil and has never found an issue. There’s not a lot of research yet, but we know one study where they found a 3% chance of IUD’s being effected.

So in general it should be fine, but there’s a tiny tiny risk.

Is there anything you wanted to mention that I haven’t asked about?

Most women are reluctant, and I was reluctant myself, it’s a slow thought process where you work yourself up to the point where you think ‘ok I want to give it a try’. A lot of people think it’s gross or it sounds really complicated. I always try to say that you really should give it a chance. The cup really changes your perception of your period and I feel so much cleaner using a cup than I did using tampons. I could never go back to using tampons again and a lot of women who have made the switch say that to. So be open!

Thank you so much for your time and honest answers- I can’t wait to give Ruby Cup a go for myself! Readers watch this space!

(Images courtesy of RubyCup)