When Ebby Weyime, 33, stumbled on reusable pads and menstruation cups, it was a revelation that excited her immensely, one that she would found her business on.
The model and actress is now the proud owner of the Grace Cup, a company she started in 2017 when she returned to Kenya from South Africa, where she had lived for six years.
The company sells durable sanitary towels that are reusable for up to three years and menstrual cups, which can be used for up to10 years.
When Powering SMEs paid her a visit at her shop on Moi Avenue, Nairobi, the commerce and marketing degree holder from Daystar University was more than pleased to talk about the unique products, which she describes as a game changer for Kenya and the African market at large.
“I was inspired by my own needs. I was looking for products which were different from the normal pads and tampons which I used. Being a heavy bleeder, I would use tampons and pads at the same time, pads would burn me, I still have dark marks as a result,” she says.
Hoping to find a lasting solution for her menstruation woes, she begun to research about alternative sanitary products, coming across reusable pads, which she had seen women using in Cape Town. She also came across the menstruation cup.
Armed with the knowledge she had gathered and convinced that Kenyan women would appreciate what her business offered, she registered her business. She started Grace Cup with Sh200,000 initial capital drawn from her savings and an additional amount from family.
“It took a while to repay the loan because money is never enough especially when you are starting a business, whatever little you have, just start with it,” she says.
Grace Cup is now her main source of income alongside earnings from acting and modelling gigs once in a while.
“Our products comprise of menstrual cups which are reusable for up to 10 years. This means once you purchase one cup, you don’t need another for 10 years. It does not leak if inserted properly and you can stay with it for up to 12 hours, besides, it is odourless, and you can do anything with it - sleep, run, jog, swim, even go horse riding.”
As for the pads, they just need to be washed. Both products, Ebby points out, are eco-friendly since they are reusable.
She sells two types of menstruation cups: regular and antibacterial cups. The main difference between the two is that regular cups require to be sanitised by boiling with water before reusing to kill bacteria – one cup costs Sh2,000.
Antibacterial cups only need to be rinsed before reusing, and due to this convenience, they cost Sh3,200 per cup.
The antibacterial cups that she sells differ from other sanitary cups in the market since they are made from medical grade silicone which contains a protective gel that lends it antibacterial properties which repel germs and bacteria. A pad costs Sh330 each while a packet, which contains four pads, goes for Sh1,250.
“Our target market is mainly the urban woman considering our products might seem to be highly priced to some. Another of our target market is governments and non-governmental organisations which buy the products in bulk and distribute them free or sell at cheaper prices. For marketing, despite having a physical shop within the capital city, she relies heavily on social media platforms such as Facebook and Instagram to drive sales.
To cut down on production cost as well as avoid the headache of searching for raw materials for her cups, she has partnered with manufacturers in Canada and China.
“We source our reusable pads from China, they are made from a fabric called bamboo charcoal fiber which is only found in Asia. It is therefore cheaper to get the pads manufactured there and then shipped here,” she says.
As she celebrates four years in the business, Ebby reflects on her journey.
“At the beginning, I barely made any sales because so many people did not know or understand what a menstrual cup was. I had to do a lot of training to spread awareness and struggled for at least two years before business started picking up.”
Another challenge was convincing women that the products were worth it and to influence behaviour change among them.
Not about to give up, she would go out of her way to attend workshops and trainings related to sexual and reproductive health to sharpen her knowledge regarding her products so that she could sell them better.
Her efforts were rewarded with her being certified as a menstrual hygiene trainer by the Ministry of Health. Her future plans include expanding her business and setting up a digital training space on sexual reproductive health.
“I hope to make Grace Cup the hub where women can feel safe talking about issues that are generally frowned upon and deemed as unconventional in the African set up, such as sex, contraception and safe abortion.”