By June Ramli
Dear Readers, an audio version of this article is available below.
We recently sat down with Kimberli Schuitman, the founder of MyCup.Co.NZ. and My Cup Menstrual Cups. Whilst running her other businesses, Kimberli started collecting menstrual cups from all over the world, to gift and share with friends before setting up her very own menstrual cup business in 2014. Her business website was established with a clear purpose – to be people-oriented and not brand-centric. Kimberli’s vision for MyCup was to create a space for all genders to visit and discuss periods where no one would be uncomfortable. When it was first launched her website was unique and provided a point of difference, selling multiple products and brands with an advice channel. Since setting up her business, Kimberli’s vision remains the same, that is to encourage women to get comfortable with their bodies and normalise talking about periods. In this exclusive interview with DailyStraits.com, we ask Kimberli where she got the idea for her brand and some of the challenges she faced in starting her business.
What other business were you doing before you started MyCup?
There was the Fairy Light Company which was the first company in New Zealand to sell LED fairy lights. Then I started up the Urban Cheese Company which sells cheese making products and teaches people how to make cheese. Finally, I ran a signage business called Safety Signs which specialises in the design and manufacture Te Reo Maori Signs for schools and educational facilities. We were the first sign company to sign a mahi tahi with the Maori Language Commission to help make Te Reo a living language within the New Zealand community. I sold all of these companies on – Safety Signs being my last sale in February 2021. I found it hard to part with Safety Signs after almost 20 years of working in that industry.
Why did you decide on starting MyCup?
In 2013, I saw an ad on Facebook promoting a menstrual cup and had no idea what this was, so I did some research. After deliberating over it for 8 months, I finally took the plunge and bought one. It was a UK based company that gifted a menstrual cup to their African Period Poverty Program for every cup they sold. This little silicone cup was a game-changer from the moment I started using it. I couldn’t even feel it inside my body. I always thought the pain associated with tampons was something I just had to deal with as I had no other choice. I also had my deep taboos around my period (from how periods were introduced to me as a child) and even struggled to talk to my husband about my period. Once I started using the menstrual cup those taboos vanished overnight and all I wanted to do was SHOUT about how this cup had quite literally changed my life. Suddenly, I was buying cups for all my friends. From that point onwards I was determined to give this choice to others and change their lives too.
What was the first thing you did to get the business going?
I started with building a website and then contacting overseas cup suppliers so I could start selling cups. I remember in the entire first month of my site being life only selling one cup and when that order came in I was so excited. I then became focused on manufacturing the cups in New Zealand. At that point, I had no idea how involved this journey would be. I started by sending menstrual cups out to about 200 people all over New Zealand to trial and I did this twice. These people filled out surveys so that I could learn more about the successes or struggles people had with menstrual cups. This information was gold – it helped me design MyCup – a menstrual cup based on feedback from real New Zealand people.
What was the investment involved and were you doing this with other founders?
As the sole founder of MyCup, the investment and costs were huge for producing a silicone device in New Zealand. I first approached Callaghan Innovations* for a seed funding grant. The Sustainable Initiatives Fund also invested in my project to help me get my prototype tool made in New Zealand. These two funding providers were key in the initial stages of my project as I had no money and the cost of design to manufacturing in New Zealand is huge. I also had to start with a very solid Intellectual Property document – which took 8 months to research – once this was finished I had complete freedom to operate in the world with my unique cup design.
What were some of the challenges faced in getting stock very early on? Did you have to purchase large MOQs?
No, fortunately, my engineer and factory have worked with me closely to bring my business to life. They knew what a struggle this was for me and that apart from the initial funding I was on my own.
Did people ever make fun of you when you told them about the nature of your business?
Yes, to start with they did, as there were very few people talking openly about periods back then. I suppose I was a bit of a pioneer in this industry and so I needed to have a good strategy in place with the right answers. It has become a bit of a joke now – my label is the Vagenius so that always causes people to laugh and it kind of breaks the ice. Nothing is out of bounds for me anymore.
Some women are trying to normalise periods by letting it flow freely and not use anything. Do you have an opinion on this?
I think what people don’t realise is that most women aren’t phased at all by period blood, especially the new generation. I think that freedom of choice is so important and if anyone wants to free bleed then that’s cool. I know some people who spend their period resting and free bleeding onto a towel and generally being kind to themselves by using that time to read or be mindful. Some people prefer to free bleed into period underwear – this can be quite life-changing as well. I love that we all have this freedom of choice.
Are NZ women open to using menstrual cups?
Yes, they are. Recently I did a period talk to about 50 people and when I asked the question “Who here uses a menstrual cup?” Everyone in the room put up their hand except for five people. This showed me that real change is happening – not only with the health of these people but the fact that they are saving waste from landfills and saving money on single-use products. I’ve also run a series of surveys and one of these shows us that 70 per cent of people still prefer pads over any other product.
You sell your products, individually and wholesale, so does that mean your products can be purchased by others who can in turn put a brand name on them and sell as their own?
Yes, we retail and wholesale throughout New Zealand and soon the world. Over the years we have realised that MyCup is such a great fit for most women that it would be wonderful to be able to offer other companies the ability to repackage our cups under their brand. We are currently working with a very large brand that will be taking MyCup to the world via their branding. This is super exciting and we are so proud to do this with a New Zealand made product.
What is your market share in NZ?
Oh yes – it is a tough industry for sure. I suppose we had our heyday of being the biggest reusable period products supplier in New Zealand but there are now SO many brands in the country – too many for such a small nation. I’ve even heard of a new cup launching here, soon. I just feel so grateful that MyCup is a trusted brand after so many years in the market.
What is your best selling product and why?
Our best selling product is our MyCup Size 1. This is because it is the size best suited for all body types. We have recently redesigned our tool to incorporate a longer stem for people who have a high cervix, so now the stem can be trimmed to any length and used by more women.
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June Ramli is the editor of DailyStraits.com. To stay in touch with June, look her up on Twitter @junesairaramli