Make it greater than you. When my goals and dreams are bigger than me I find much more motivation and sustainability. I’ve learned this as a mother as well. I have energy reserves that I never knew I had when my daughter needs me or I have a deadline to make. When I focus more on donating thousands of cups a month to women who truly need them instead of making my bottom line I feel so much more filled and fueled!
As a part of our series about entrepreneurs who transformed something they did for fun into a full-time career, I had the pleasure of interviewing Alila Rose Grace. Alila Rose is the Founder and CEO of Mahina Menstrual Cup. Menstrual advocate and holistic health educator, Alila Grace is an international speaker and writer. She inspires women to embody their radiance and reclaim their personal power. Alila is a mother and entrepreneur, deeply passionate about keeping our planet and bodies clean. She began selling menstrual cups as a nomadic backpacker, offering a solution were there was a great need, which quickly turned into a thriving business. Alila is ready to change the way humanity views menstruation, ensuring all women and girls have access to a clean, dignified and sacred period. Alila is dedicated to leaving the planet better than she found it. You can find her in Hawaii swimming, dancing and creating heaven on earth.
Thank you so much for doing this with us! Can you tell us a bit about your “childhood backstory”?
Ok, so my parents always told me to marry a nice rich man who would take care of me. They didn’t tell me to follow my wild dreams and live my passion with purpose, actually the opposite. I grew up in middle class suburbia and was told to be a lawyers assistant, a teacher, or something stable — with good benefits and steady pay. It makes me laugh to remember these days. I never fit in. Not in my university classes or my dead end jobs. I had a hard time sticking to anything, because nothing felt right, there was nothing that lit me up. My parents worried about me because I couldn’t really land anywhere. It seemed every 3 months I had a new idea, a new direction and was leaving my current job. I spent so much time trying to fit a mold that never fit me. It caused me a lot of pain and confusion. I watched my friends in their corporate jobs, getting married, buying homes, and having children and my only desire was to experience the world. So, that’s exactly what I decided to do. One day when I couldn’t take it anymore, I sold my car, gave away all my clothes and jewelry and material things, bought a backpack and a one-way plane ticket to Costa Rica. I traveled in this way, on a one-way plane ticket for about 8 years.
What was the catalyst from transforming your hobby or something you love into a business? Can you share the story of your “ah ha” moment with us?
My business found me, not the other way around. I did not have a great idea, find a niche in a multi-billion dollar industry and decide to make a brand from it. I was on a spiritual journey, a journey of self-discovery and awakening. I was living in India; was recently dumped by my boyfriend, whom I was extremely codependent on financially and emotionally and had no clue what the next step was for me. At that time I was teaching tantra yoga, nannying, selling hula hoops that I was making out of my guest bedroom and everything that I owned fit neatly into my backpack.
I did what I always do when I don’t have the answers, I wake up in the middle of the night, sat at my altar, prayed and asked for guidance. After some long sessions of ugly crying and pleading with the most high, I heard a voice “go teach moon (women’s) circles.” It was an interesting download and to be honest, I was intimidated to facilitate an only women’s workshop, however I knew I had to follow this guidance. I found a location, choose a date, made a flyer and I was off. The moment I sat down in that circle I knew I had come home. The only way I can describe it is I instantly started to remember, remember that women used to gather in this way for centuries, remember that women hold wisdom in our bodies, remember that women need to come together to vision and dream, I remembered the power and purpose in women coming together in circle to honor their bodies and honor each other.
Selling menstrual cups out of my backpack was just an extension of the connecting and sharing of wisdom. My personal journey to a menstrual cup was one of the biggest game changers in my experience of being a woman. All the sudden my periods went from a pain point to a power point. As a way to deepen my ability to awaken women I began importing menstrual cups, had cotton bags sewn by the village women and sold them to tourists so I could gift them to the locals.
I was all about education and empowerment. By opening the conversation about a women’s most intimate places and most relevant experiences, I was able to have deep life-changing connections. I was known as the ‘period girl’ ‘vagina whisperer’ and ‘yoni sage.’ I LOVED sharing this new found wisdom that seemed to be trapped inside of me and now had a channel to release. I had finally landed somewhere that felt more like ME then I had ever experienced in my life.
In these early years I would sell menstrual cups wherever I was, at workshops, festivals, markets, over lunch, in the internet cafe, with my nanny clients.. It was who I was and what I couldn’t talk about enough. I never had to ‘sell’ anything, I only had to share information and I would have a wait-list for menstrual cups. They were selling faster than I could get them!
My hobby continued to show me that it was a successful venture that was worthy of my continual investment and attention.
There are no shortage of good ideas out there, but people seem to struggle in taking a good idea and translating it into an actual business. How did you overcome this challenge?
Honestly, I had a lot of support from my friends telling me I was sitting like a hen on a successful business. They would look from the outside and see that I had a product that people wanted and I just needed to package it in a way that was shelf-ready. A big turning point for me was investing in Marie Forleo’s B-school. It offered me a lot of the tools I needed in a way I could digest it, transforming my hobby into a business. It was only then I started owning the title CEO and feeling comfortable being a ‘spiritual person’ running a business.
What advice would you give someone who has a hobby or pastime that they absolutely love but is reluctant to do it for a living?
Money always follows passion. The more excited and engaged you are in anything you offer, the more successful you will be. Start where you are comfortable, baby steps and grow from there. Imagine waking up every morning with purpose and passion, loving what you do, finding joy in using the gifts that are uniquely yours.
And one of my favorite quotes by Rumi, “Let yourself be silently drawn by the strange pull of what you really love. It will not lead you astray.”
It’s said that the quickest way to take the fun out of doing something is to do it for a living. How do you keep from changing something you love into something you dread? How do you keep it fresh and enjoyable?
Building a team and delegating the things that bog me down has been extremely helpful to stay engaged and excited. There are things that I absolutely love to do, that feel joyful and effortless about my business, and there are other things that I dread and will put off until the final moment. For me, things like hiring an accountant and moving to a fulfillment center were things I happily handed over so I could spend more of my energy on creating and connecting, the things I love to do!
Also, when I find myself dreading paperwork or procrastinating emails, I take a step back and look at the bigger picture. I have a self talk that is optimistic and motivating, like, “how fun, we are filling out paperwork so Mahina Cup is now on the shelves at — and can be accessed by even more woman!” It’s cheesy, but it settles my mind and helps me to return to the original joy.
What is it that you enjoy most about running your own business? What are the downsides of running your own business? Can you share what you did to overcome these drawbacks?
I love having creative power. I love knowing that as much as I put in is as much as I’ll get out. I love working at my own pace, on my own schedule (like now it’s 2 a.m., my baby is sleeping and I can get creative). I love connecting with other entrepreneurs, sharing ideas, inspiring each other and collaborating. I love the joy I feel when another girl or woman makes the switch and tells me ‘she’s excited to get her period.’ I love the motivation when I’m out doing demo’s or at a festival booth or making phone calls to new stores, there is no commission bonus, it’s how I support my family and there is nothing more driving than that. I love that there is zero limits on the amount I can make and create!
In the past, I have dealt with a lot of inconsistency and really had to motivate myself to have ‘working hours.’ In the beginning it’s challenging because it’s so much work to create a business and you don’t get paid hourly. I had to continue to see the bigger picture, know that I was growing something larger than myself and worked many part-time jobs through the years to stay afloat and have money to continue to invest.
Has there ever been a moment when you thought to yourself “I can’t take it anymore, I’m going to get a “real” job? If so how did you overcome it?
Yes, I still face moments when I don’t think I can continue forward. And on the other side of my “giving up” something always huge opens and shifts. So now I’ve learned to be still inside the confusion and allow the dust to settle. When these moments come up I have to take a step back, shut down all my devices and either get out in nature or go on a fun adventure. Once I shift my energy, I shift my perspective and can come back fresh and ready.
Can you share a story about the funniest mistake you made when you were first starting? Can you tell us what lesson you learned from that?
I see all mistakes as relevant learning curves. I have made so many ridiculous mistakes, and continue to do so as I’m continuing to learn. The most important thing for me is to stay humble and stay honest. When working with a company or a customer directly it’s always been my policy to be transparent, even if it makes me look like I don’t have it all together. Who does?! My mistakes make me human and keep me on my toes!
Who has inspired or continues to inspire you to be a great leader? Why?
There have been many great teachers and mentors that have come in and out of my experience that have inspired me deeply to keep going. My biggest inspiration is my 2 yr old daughter. I didn’t really get ‘serious’ about turning my hobby into a business until I was pregnant with her. Every time I look into her eyes, I am reminded of my greatness and my promise to her to live life to the fullest and highest version of myself possible. I am reminded daily that she is watching me, to show her how to trust, how to step into my worth, how to navigate life and how much I am willing to open to love. She is by far my greatest teacher and inspiration.
How have you used your success to make the world a better place?
My brand started while I was a nomadic backpacker with a mission to make the world a better place. I begin by sharing and gifting menstrual cups to Indian women in the village I was living in as I sold them to the travelers. I believe that we can end period poverty and significantly cut global menstrual waste with Mahina Cups. It’s simple, one Mahina Cup lasts for 10 years! This means that one girl or woman only needs one silicone cup to have a dignified and hygienic period. This means that each cup removes equivalent to 10,000 tampons/pads/pantyliner from being disposed of in our water and waste systems. Even reusable pads and underwear are great, however they use a lot of water and resources to wash and are not the most convenient or hygienic option for a woman who doesn’t have a stable home or one living a village life. For every purchase of Mahina Cup we donate to a woman or girl in need. The world is cleaner, women are freer, periods are happier and the world is a better place :).
What are your “5 Things I Wish Someone Told Me Before I Started” and why? (Please share a story or example for each.)
- Prioritize pleasure. I’ve learned that it is just as important to take care of myself and be in a joyful state of mind as it is to get my tasks done. When I prioritize pleasure, I am more creative, engaged and productive. I work more efficiently when I’m most happy.
- It’s going to be OK. There are many times when the road feels blocked and you may not see you’re way to the other side or know how you will come up with the capital for inventory or will you will get the energy to get it all done. Sometimes I just have to tell myself, “it’s going to be okay” and trust that it will be, and it always is :).
- Always remember your “why?”. This is a big one. When the going gets tough, it’s imperative to remember your “WHY.” Why you started, why you’re inspired to continue day in and day out. What drives you? Follow this when you feel like you can’t go on!
- Make it greater than you. When my goals and dreams are bigger than me I find much more motivation and sustainability. I’ve learned this as a mother as well. I have energy reserves that I never knew I had when my daughter needs me or I have a deadline to make. When I focus more on donating thousands of cups a month to women who truly need them instead of making my bottom line I feel so much more filled and fueled!
- Build your team and delegate. It took me way too long to really figure this out and it’s been one of the biggest game changers. So often when starting a business we take it ALL on. It’s important to know what your super powers are and build a team of passionate people who are using their superpowers! We go further when we go together!
What person wouldn’t want to work doing something they absolutely love. You are an incredible inspiration to a great many people. If you could inspire a movement that would bring the most amount of good to the most amount of people, what would that be? You never know what your idea can trigger.
Follow your passion and your hearts longing. Take risks, take breaks and make it bigger than yourself. Really ask yourself what would turn you on every single day and start somewhere. Don’t allow yourself to get dragged down by a meaningless existence. You were born to shine and the world is waiting for you to share yourself!
Can you please give us your favorite “Life Lesson Quote”? Can you share how that was relevant to you in your life?
“I’d rather die trying than live dying.”
I know this seems rather morbid, however it was what I needed to continue taking a leap of faith into the mystery. When I first set out on my travels, this is the quote that came through me and continued to motivate me. I realized that I was living like I was already dead so and I needed to face my mortality to be pushed onto the edge of life.
Some of the biggest names in Business, VC funding, Sports, and Entertainment read this column. Is there a person in the world, or in the US with whom you would love to have a private breakfast or lunch with, and why? He or she might just see this if we tag them.
Marie Forleo, I love her. I love her zest, I love her passion and I love her wisdom. So many of her concepts I have used in my own personal and business life. I would love to have a meal with her, it would be so fun and informative!
Thank you for these fantastic insights. We greatly appreciate the time you spent on this.