Be kind to yourself. We are so damn hard on ourselves. It’s okay to make mistakes, it’s okay to have a bad day. If you are annoyed with yourself, let the emotions happen and then tell yourself it’s okay — you are doing your best in a crazy world. Chalk everything up as an experience.
I had the pleasure of interviewing Robyn McLean and Mary Bond, Girl Bosses & Co-Founders of Hello Cup.
Hello Cup was created by founders Robyn McLean and Mary Bond out of frustration from the lack of quality, comfortable menstrual cups on the market. Mary’s medical knowledge as a registered nurse, complemented by Robyn’s marketing and journalism background made for the perfect combination.
Best friends since 11, Mary and Robyn sought out to start a conversation around sustainable and body-loving period care in a fun, engaging way. In a few short years, Hello Cup has rapidly gained a loyal international following for their incomparable fit and cheeky personality. Headquartered in New Zealand, this bloody brilliant duo has been ridding the world of single-use pads and tampons since 2017.
Our readers would love to “get to know you” better. Can you share your “backstory” with us? Can you tell us a bit about your respective backgrounds?
We’ve been best friends since we were 11, we met at school. We often talked about going into business together over the years but none of the ideas we came up with ever seemed to be quite that ‘light bulb’ moment. After we left school, we chose completely different careers. I started my career as a journalist working for years for newspapers in New Zealand both as a news writer and a feature writer. I moved from there into public relations and marketing before. Mary has worked as a nurse for years and currently specializes in palliative care.
Then when I tried a menstrual cup for the first time and realized instantly how life changing they could be, I thought the whole world needed to know about them. I instantly saw it as something that had huge potential as a business Mary and I could do together as we could use both our skills to help educate and spread the word about how fantastic cups were. While there were cups already on the market, they all seemed to be largely the same design and we felt we could design something that was more comfortable and reliable that the ones we had tried. Another driving force behind The Hello Cup is the fact we’re both mothers of teen girls and we wanted a better period future for them in particular. Single use period products were the only option for us growing up. Not only do they create a huge amount of waste and are expensive, but they can also contain a lot of chemicals that you probably don’t want to be putting in your vajayjay. We launched in December 2017 at a time when menstrual cups were not even close to being mainstream. That started to change almost immediately as people were drawn to Hello Cups and the good reviews started to roll in. We wanted to talk to our customers as if they were friends — in everyday speech. Nothing too convoluted or condescending — that’s where my background in writing has been helpful.
Despite working full time on Hello Cup these days, Mary still manages to squeeze in a few shifts at a hospice in Wellington because she loves it so much.
Can you share the most interesting story that happened to you since you started your career? What were the main lessons or takeaways from that story?
The most interesting thing that has happen since we started Hello Cup has been the way the conversation around periods has started to change. Obviously this isn’t solely down to us launching, but I think what we have contributed to is people feeling they can talk about periods in a loud and proud way. Half the world will experience a period at some stage so the fact they’ve been something so hushed up for so long is nuts. Opening the conversation is normalizing the conversation. Periods are normal, people! The more we talk about them and share our own stories, the more we learn from others and help ourselves. We have used our voice and platform to education on things that many had never stopped to think about before. Like the fact tampons and pads can take up to 500 years to break down in landfill. Many people assume that because they are ‘paper like’ that they will biodegrade easily and that is not the case because they often contain plastics. People are shocked to hear that something they use so much can have such a damaging environmental impact. Even organic tampons will take several years to breakdown. Given that half the world’s population will have a period every month for around 35–40 years of their life, you suddenly realize that menstrual waste is a massive issue and one that hasn’t been address — probably because people tend to shy away from discussing menstruation fullstop. A single Hello Cup is equivalent to over 2000 single use products. It will last at least five years and is reusable and then recyclable at the end of its life. — so it’s a zero waste period option.
Can you share a story about the biggest mistake you made when you were first starting? Can you tell us what lesson you learned from that?
We actually don’t believe in mistakes. We turn it around and put everything down to learning. There’s nothing in our history that stands out as being a disaster for us. We spent a lot of money in the early days doing trade shows and traveling all over the place trying to work out who our ‘best’ audience was. In hindsight they weren’t always the best spend and but you don’t know what you don’t know.
We still got to meet people and talk about menstrual cups. In those days (actually not even that long ago), the majority of people we met had never heard of them. So even if we didn’t sell many, we were still educating people and (hopefully) opening their minds up to the idea of using a menstrual cup in the future. That’s the great thing about being a start-up, there might be lessons learnt but they shouldn’t be looked at as a mistake.
None of us are able to achieve success without some help along the way. Is there a particular person who you are grateful towards who helped get you to where you are? Can you share a story about that?
It the old days we would have said each other. We have always tried to have each other’s backs in our individual pursuits but now we are in business together it’s definitely our husbands who have helped us get The Hello Cup to where it is today. They give us emotional support when times are stressful but most of all they give us tangible support because we’ve been able to tap into their skills (Mary’s husband is a designer and mine is a lawyer). When we married them, we had no idea they’d become so handy! Yes, technically we are using them for their brains — but their ‘payment’ is the fact they get the priceless experience of being married to us. Lucky guys!
Ok perfect. Now let’s jump to our main focus. When it comes to health and wellness, how is the work you are doing helping to make a bigger impact in the world?
We think that by using our platform to encourage people to rethink periods and how we talk about the is making an impact. Our aim from the very start was to create a product that would make periods easier to deal with. We have always wanted to ensure we were inclusive as a brand. We recently did a series of videos on our page with our friend, Rain Dove — a non- binary activist and model. Rain models as both male and female but is often perceived as ‘male’ and like many other non-binary or trans people is often left out of period talk or marketing. We did a series with Rain about encouraging others to talk about ‘people with periods’. Not all people who have periods are women and not all women have periods. The more inclusive we can be in this space the better. Why would we ever what to exclude some who had a period but didn’t identify as a woman? Chances are they’ve had to deal with enough judgement in their life. We actually have never done a campaign with anyone before because we never wanted to just ‘hire’ a voice. Our friendship and belief in Rain was organic and genuine and we essentially just wanted to tell their story to help others who had been alienated from being able to talk about their periods. Rain’s personal period experiences and the judgement they have endured makes you stop and think. At the end of the day we are all human, let’s be kind to each other.
At Hello Cup we want to lead the way when it comes to doing things differently. We want health and wellness industry as a whole to look at what they do and who they target and HOW they target people. Now is time for change. The industry needs to ensure it is as inclusive as possible and continuing to endorse stereotypes. Like with periods, not everyone who loves beauty products is female. We need to stop reinforcing stereotypes whether it’s around gender, colour or race. While some areas of the industry have a much larger proportion of users who identify as female currently that doesn’t mean others should be excluded from campaigns — it only increases their sense of alienation. Black Lives Matter is teaching us all so much and we as a company are opening to learn more and our door is always open to advice and guidance from others willing to share what they would like to see us doing. We are the students in the important time of learning. I hope the industry adopts a similar approach.
Can you share your top five “lifestyle tweaks” that you believe will help support people’s journey towards better wellbeing? Please give an example or story for each.
- Be kind to yourself. We are so damn hard on ourselves. It’s okay to make mistakes, it’s okay to have a bad day. If you are annoyed with yourself, let the emotions happen and then tell yourself it’s okay — you are doing your best in a crazy world. Chalk everything up as an experience.
- Get some fresh air. Fresh air is an underrated and free resource that can do wonders for your mental health.
- Use a menstrual cup. Okay we are totally biased, but our customers tell us their Hello Cup has literally changed their life. Skip the tampon aisle for the next five years.
- Drink more water. Drinking more water was something our mothers used to bang on about and we never listened to but actually now we are older and wiser we’ve realized they were right all along! Water definitely helps when it comes to clear skin and feeling hydrated.
- Be mindful of what you buy. We live is such a disposable world. It’s heartbreaking to think that every tampon ever used is still on our planet somewhere. Small changes can make such a massive difference to our planet. Buy mindfully — look at the quality — how long with the product last? Is the packaging recyclable? Can you refill the product?
If you could start a movement that would bring the most amount of wellness to the most amount of people, what would that be?
Make kindness mandatory! We are pretty inspired by our New Zealand Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern who has put kindness at the forefront in a way that has never been seen in politics. Kindness makes people feel better and goes such a long way.
What are your “5 Things I Wish Someone Told Me Before I Started” and why?
1. If you have a good idea, go for it.
We never felt the need to follow the rules when it came to starting The Hello Cup. We believed so strongly that we had an exceptional product, we didn’t want to waste time with forecasting and spreadsheets — we just launched it!
2. Don’t be afraid to go into business with a friend
People told us going into business after a lifetime of friendship would end in disaster. In reality it’s only made our friendship even better. We talk everyday and bounce ideas off each other. We get to travel to all sorts of places and basically live the friendship dream. It’s super fun — although we have learnt that margaritas should be kept to a minimum before long haul flights.
3. Don’t be afraid to try something new.
We both had successful careers before The Hello Cup and essentially leaving them to start a new business was scary but the last few years have been incredible. Yes, there have been challenges but we’ve both learnt so much and have had a whole lot of fun along the way.
4. Don’t be afraid to stick to your vision.
As you grow it’s quite easy to get side tracked by other people telling you what you should do. While it’s never a bad thing to listen to other people’s thoughts, don’t be afraid to back yourself. Sometimes it’s actually really hard to go against the grain but it’s the people that do who change the world.
5. If you do something you love doing it will consume you so try to plan regular time away from your phone or laptop.
Finding the ‘off’ switch is virtually impossible when you own your own business. It’s so all-consuming you definitely have to work on making ‘you’ time. Even if it’s just 30 mins a day initially — go for a walk, turn your phone off for a while. If you burn out then you are no good to anyone so look after you!
Sustainability, veganism, mental health and environmental changes are big topics at the moment. Which one of these causes is dearest to you, and why?
They are all super important but if we had to pick one it would be mental health. There is so much going on with our world and there’s a lot of uncertainty. We’ve always been an empathetic company and understanding and supporting people’s mental health needs is vital. Globally it’s something that needs more attention and resource so we can help our fellow humans be the best and happiest they can be. Suicide rates are too high — how do we reach people who need us? We want to be a solution-driven company and want to support others who are at the coalface doing work to help others.