In conversation

Ruby Jones

In conversation

There’s something about community that marries perfectly with womanhood. As women, we’re part of a network that supports one another whether it’s lending a hand to a friend in need or asking a stranger how her day’s going, we’re all unified in something much bigger and greater than ourselves.

This season we’re continuing to connect with likeminded women who share the same values as us here at Max and were lucky enough to catch up with Robyn McLean, co-founder of Hello Cup.

After discovering period cups in recent years both Robyn and her best friend and Hello™ co-founder Mary Bond were amazed at how easy they were to use – this sparked the idea for what is now known as Hello Cup.

Now four years down the track, Robyn and Mary’s business is continuing to jump from strength to strength as they remain dedicated to creating game changing period products that are both sustainable and comfortable for women worldwide.

Ruby Jones

Starting from the beginning, tell us about yourselves and how Hello Cup first come about?

Mary and I met at school when we were 11 and have been through a lot in life together. We both had terrible periods at school but never really spoke about them with periods being such a taboo subject in those days.

One day I was driving home and could feel I was getting my period so thought maybe I should try a period cup - I had nothing to lose. Heading into the local pharmacy in Havelock North, I asked the pharmacist if she had menstrual cups and she did. They weren’t overly common back then, so it felt like fate to us that this pharmacy in Havelock North happened to stock them.

Cutting a long story short, I bought one, tried it, and it was amazing. I remember calling Mary and telling her how the cup had instantly changed my life but there were elements that I didn't like about the one I’d used. This cup wasn't aesthetically pleasing, there were design elements I’d change, and it wasn't made in Aotearoa.

As best friends do, we had often talked about one day going into business, so after my first cup experience, I pitched starting a menstrual cup business to Mary. At first, this whole thing was a bit of a shock, but she didn’t take long to embrace it. Being a nurse, Mary has always been up for anything that can make people’s lives better and she saw the benefits of menstrual cups and how they could help people.

We are both mothers with daughters, Mary has three daughters, and I have one - so we wanted them to have better period choices than we’d had growing up.

Ruby Jones

After your first experience with menstrual cups, you talk about how there were elements that you didn’t like as much. When it came to designing the Hello Cup what were your main focuses to ensure it was a product that ticked all the boxes?

From the outset we wanted a menstrual cup that we could trust - there were cups already available, but you had no idea who was behind them or what the cups were made from. We wanted to make sure that our products were well designed and that they worked.

It sounds obvious but not all menstrual cups are created equal and if they aren’t well designed then they will likely end up in landfill which isn’t what we want. We designed Hello Cups from scratch. We wanted them to be smooth and comfortable with a different look to others and put a rim on the inside with some other additional tweaks and improvements.

We thought Hello Cup would be a side hustle but as soon as we launched, we both realised that this was going to be a full-time thing. Fast forward four years and we now have a team of eight and have diverted more than 200,000,000 single-use tampons and pads from landfills around the world!

Hello Cup is essentially the catalyst for sustainable period care. What was the process when it came to ensuring the product you made was just as good for the environment as it was for the women using it?

Each Hello Cup is the equivalent of over 2000 tampons or pads. They are so much better from an environmental point of view as often tampons contain microplastics and aren’t as biodegradable as people assume - in fact, it takes over 500 years for a tampon to break down in landfill.

Add to that all the packaging, plastic applicators, boxes, wrappers and managing periods with single-use products can become mind-blowingly wasteful. Obviously, not all products work for everyone and with period products you can’t ‘try before you buy’ so another important aspect of our business is having a recycling programme. Our cups can be recycled back into the raw material and repurposed.

In terms of being better for the user - we love that cups collect rather than absorb blood because let’s face it, most of us have had a hideous experience trying to remove a dry tampon. It ain’t fun.

Ruby Jones

It’s important to touch on the incredibly nonchalant way Hello Cup talks about periods. It’s refreshing to see how challenging the stigma around menstruation is done in such an off-the-cuff way and is how conversations around periods should always be. Did you ever think that by creating Hello Cup you would help change the way periods were discussed for women around the world?

It was really important for us to be relatable. When we started, we were annoyed at how little periods were discussed in open conversation. Over the last few years, we’ve noticed conversations around periods have definitely changed and like to think that we've contributed to that change.

We honestly weren’t sure what to expect when we started. We wanted to talk to our customers in our language, the same way we talk to each other as best friends – not taking life too seriously, being incredibly open and always up for a good convo.

Periods happen to half the world’s population so it’s quite weird that they are not part of everyday discussions. Periods are normal, not shameful or disgusting - for too long we have let that myth perpetuate and now are in a position of having to reframe them to be what they are, a part of life.

Period poverty is such a real issue for women all over the world, can you share a bit about the Hello Kindness programme and how that came about?

Being able to give back is important. The challenge with reusable products is that they are a relatively new concept to people so education on how to use and care for them is key.

To help us resolve this we started our Hello Kindness programme which allows us to partner with various organisations that distribute the cups and provide the education. We strongly believe that anyone who receives a cup gets a rundown on how they work and are told that we are here to answer questions too.

We're big believers in choice and while significant savings can be made by using a menstrual cup, they are not for everyone. We are never going to be a company that says you ‘must’ use our product because periods are tough for so many people and it’s vital that no one has their choice taken away.

Ruby Jones

As you know it’s been an interesting end to this year and with summer well and truly around the corner, we want to know what you’re looking forward to this season? What’s on the horizon for Hello Cup and the both of you?

We’d love to be putting our feet up this summer but, we’ve just finished a capital raise and there’s a lot to do! We are launching the Hello Disc™ in early 2022 which is another amazing period product - it holds even more than a cup but sits higher. One of the bonuses is it allows for no-mess period sex, which is cool if you feel like a bit of summer lovin’ but hate the laundry.

We’ve also got some other products we are launching in 2022 so it’s going to be an exciting year for us. Our focus will be on ensuring that anyone with a period has a care option that is comfortable, easy to use, and reusable. We’ve been told single-use period products are the only option for too long - we are set on our mission to change that mindset.

It’s incredible how our senses can link us to memories from our past. Whether it’s the smell of SPF that reminds you of childhood at the beach or the taste of a delicious summer cocktail or even the feeling of a fab silk dress against freshly sunkissed skin, our senses come to life in summer. What little things spark your best summer memories?

The salty smell of the green waters of the Marlborough Sounds is an amazing summer memory for both of us. We both spend time there each summer and it really is heaven on earth. Funnily enough, we had both been holidaying in the Marlborough Sounds well before we met so it’s really a place that holds all the best summer memories for both of us.

When the sun is cranking, what are your warm-weather wardrobe must-haves?

When it comes to summer clothes, we’re both in the floaty camp - nothing too restricting for us! In the hot weather, comfort is Queen and so dresses, cute tops, shorts, and sandals are pretty much our go-to wardrobe staples. Putting on sunscreen first thing is also super important to try to ensure wrinkles don’t come to the party early. Also, does rosé count as a wardrobe must-have? If so, then we like to accessorise with rosé from 5pm.

Lastly, what words of wisdom do you follow in business and life and what advice would you give to aspiring businesswomen?

Don’t listen when people tell you not to go into business with a friend - we’re four years in and it’s made our friendship stronger.

After all these years we still manage to separate work and ‘friendship’ when we need to - although we do talk shop A LOT! We might not always agree but we talk about things until we find a solution which is important. We had no idea what to expect when we started Hello, it was a total leap of faith, but we designed a product that worked and knew it was great.

We try to do business differently in the sense that we are mindful of our impact and are proud to be a B Corp certified business and going on that journey is hugely worthwhile in terms of giving you a sense of purpose and making you aware of how to run a business that is better for its people and the planet.

In short, our advice is: if you’ve got a good idea - go for it. It’s relatively easy to start a small business and test the waters thanks to Instagram and Facebook.

Photography by

Kirsten Simcox

As told to

Courtenay Lewis

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