In our ‘Inspiring small businesses’ series we share and celebrate great stories from fellow small business owners who started and run their own business. By bringing you closer to these inspiring businesses we hope that you find motivation, tips and ideas for building yours.
The next inspiring business story is shared by Ruby Raut, the co-founder and CEO of WUKA Wear, the company designing and selling period underwear that completely replaces tampons and pads.
What is it that you do?
I am Ruby, a Nepali woman, co-founder and CEO of WUKA Wear. We design and sell period pants that completely replace tampons and pads. WUKA stands for Wake Up Kick Ass and it was created so any menstruating person can have a luxurious, comfortable and eco-friendly period. One WUKA replaces 100 tampons and so far with WUKA we have stopped more than 2 million tampons and pads from going to landfill, seas and ocean.
What’s the story behind your business?
It all started after my graduation from Open University in Environmental Science. I was very passionate about the subject and was determine to get a job in the field that I studied. Whilst in the process, I joined a few charities and all of them worked in menstrual education and women empowerment. Whilst working with one of the charities, I volunteered to coordinate an ‘environmenstrual’ project in one of the high schools in St Albans. Speaking with the girls we found out that many girls were not aware of reusable menstrual products, they were just using what their family members used and the reusable options were very limited.
I grew up in Nepal using Sari rags for my menstrual products, which was super ‘sustainable’, however, they were very uncomfortable and constantly failed. This led to me (and other girls like me) missing school – creating shame and embarrassment around periods. I told this story to the girls in St. Albans and while I was doing so, I had a eureka moment… Why not create pants that also absorbs flow whilst being super comfortable? And why not create a brand that gives a positive message about periods? Hence WUKA (Wake Up Kick Ass) period underwear was born.
What inspired you to start your own business?
The sheer amount of waste going to landfill, every day, every month and every year made me feel that I need to do something about it. Dealing with periods were very personal to me, especially growing in Nepal and the huge taboos around period. After realising one solution will solve two problems, I was determined to create WUKA that tackles all the plastic waste from period and brand like WUKA will break taboos around period.
What is the most difficult aspect of running your own business?
I would say finance was the biggest problem. When I had the idea of creating WUKA period pants, I just graduated from the Open University, no job, so having even few thousand pounds to spend on any small project was the biggest challenge.
However when it came to launching the product. We did Kickstarter crowdfunding for three week and raised a small fund to help us make our first batch and after that we were funded by our customers with the pre-orders. The biggest change was when we were out in national papers all around the world. Yes, that created a huge momentum in our business. We had people from Mexico pre-ordering period pants!
What is the best thing about running your own business?
When I get a feedback from our customer like below, is the biggest and best thing about running your own This is really a huge win for us.
“Also wanted to take the opportunity to thank you for a great product! My daughter has gone from not wanting to do anything other than stay home in bed during her periods to going to gymnastics camps/competitions and gym class in school with no complaints. She says that she feels completely secure wearing her WUKA panties and also that they are more comfortable than all her other underwear”
Also moments like hitting your goals (stopping more than 2 million disposables from going to landfill) along with winning an award is a sign to say we are on to something good and it keeps us motivated.