Ebby Weyime, 31, is the woman behind the Grace Cup, which aims to bring comfort and convenience to women during menstruation while saving the environment from waste. She talks about the business
I graduated from Daystar University with a degree in Public Relations and Marketing. After that, when I was 24, I moved to Cape Town, South Africa and lived there for six years working as a model and actor. I was privileged to work with Hollywood greats such as Sean Penn, Charlize Theron, Helen Miren, Phillip Noyce to name a few.
I have always had heavy menstrual bleeding and I used everything from pads to tampons. I never liked using pads because of the wetness you feel, plus I never liked the smell or discomfort that arises when you use a pad when it is hot. Because of my heavy periods, I would experience leakage and the heaviness of the pad was very uncomfortable.
I tried tampons but stopped when I found out about the risk of Toxic Shock Syndrome, a condition caused by bacterial toxins. If you look closely at a tampon, they put the disclaimer about the syndrome. I didn’t want to take the risk.
While in South Africa, I discovered the menstrual cup and it changed my whole menstrual experience. It made it pleasant. The cup, once placed, can comfortably last for 12 hours and the best part is you do not feel wet, plus you can be as active as you need to and do everything from a marathon to swimming.
At the time, I was in a season of my life where I was home sick and I had started thinking about going back home and what I was going to do next. I started thinking about the Kenyan market and lack of menstrual cups, and the more I thought about starting a business when I returned home, the more plausible the business of selling menstrual cups became.
What happened next
I moved back to Kenya and started my business on July 1, 2017. I called it The Grace Cup. The goal is not just to bring comfort and convenience during monthly period, but to make sure period poverty comes to an end. Period poverty is when girls and women do not access sanitary products due to financial constraints. In Kenya, although it is 2019, we still have girls using chicken feathers and going into prostitution to get money to buy sanitary pads. This has to come to an end. A woman should not have to suffer for something natural and that is out of her control.
Running a start up
Try selling a cup that someone has never heard of then ask her to boil it and insert it in her vagina. It was not easy! That was an uphill task but now sales are rising. Women don’t find it weird at all.
What I loved about my early stages was and still is getting The Grace Cup name out there. The look on people’s faces when I tell them what I do and show them how to use the cup is priceless. It’s shocking for most people at first but they end up being clients.
Apart from raising awareness, another challenge was finances, I thought I had enough money when I started but it reached a point where my parents chipped in financially to help.
We sell two types of cups, the platinum grade silicon which costs Sh1,500 and lasts for six years; and the medical grade silicon that costs Sh3,000 and lasts for 10 years. It is a more permanent solution that is cost effective. Further, it can be sterilised -- usually after one’s period comes to an end -- with hot water as it is made of the same material as a baby bottle, plus the material is flexible.
Where I am now
Business is yet to break even but at least it pays own bills. I no longer have to dip into my pockets. We have grown in terms of awareness. More people, both men and women, know of The Grace Cup. I want The Grace Cup brand to be world famous. I get messages from ladies talking about how much they love the cup and appreciate me for introducing it to them.
Some even say they no longer have cramps and have started loving their period again. Such messages keep me going. My clientele includes mostly upmarket, environmentally-conscious women looking for a safe and convenient way to deal with their period. To help create awareness we have a Instagram and YouTube accounts called The Grace Cup, plus we have a WhatsApp forum for clients so they can comfortably ask questions, especially if they are new users.
Remember that business is not just about buying and selling. There are so many laws that govern running a business. Some cost so much that employment starts looking attractive again.
Secondly, do your research -- not just on the products you are selling but on how to be an effective entrepreneur. Last year alone, I attended training courses at the Mbugua Rosemary Foundation, and Empact, non-profit organisation, in Berlin. These two courses have really helped me to grow as an entrepreneur.
Lastly, just get started. If you wait for the perfect time, you will never get anything done. read As the Bible says in Ecclesiastes 11:4, “Whoever watches the wind will not plant; whoever looks at the clouds will not reap.”