Exclusive interview with UltuCup, a gender-neutral menstrual cup brand based in the US

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UltuCup is a personal hygiene brand that creates reusable silicone menstrual cups that are gender-neutral. Not all people who menstruate identify as women and the language used on many gender-specific products can exclude the LGBTQ+ community. UltuCup wants to change that dynamic and offer a supportive customer experience. Lucky for us, we recently had the opportunity to interview the team at Ultucup.

What drives you to run a gender-fluid business in the US?

At UltuCup we pride ourselves on offering honest, simple and empowering menstrual care to all people with periods. It has always been a pillar of our brand to be an inclusive company since our launch, and that stance has come to the forefront of our brand goals in recent months. Many members of our team have worked in the menstrual care category for several years, specifically in the menstrual cup industry. A common concern became apparent - not all women menstruate and not all those who menstruate are women. This was voiced consistently by the LGBTQ+ community and when the opportunity came to launch our own company, we listened. 

It is common for many conversations about periods to focus on cisgender girls and women, and this can make it easy for people to forget that some transgender men, genderqueers, and nonbinary people have periods too. It’s also important to understand that some women don’t have a period. This might be due to menopause, stress, disease, or a medical condition or procedure. None of these makes a woman any less of a woman than one who does menstruate.

It is our goal to be as inclusive as possible to all people with periods. This is a continuous learning experience for our team, which has already sparked changes to our package design, website updates, and marketing initiatives. 

What kind of framework has UltuCup developed or adopted to help build a purpose-driven organisation? 

Our vision from the very beginning was to offer honest, simple and empowering menstrual care to all people with periods. To achieve this, our brand comprises of three main pillars: 

Environmental responsibility 

UltuCup is a sustainable company that will continually strive to improve our environmental efforts. Menstrual cups are a fantastic eco-friendly solution for your period. After all, one menstrual cup will last at least one year, that’s over 240 disposable products saved from entering our oceans and landfills! Our line is thoughtfully designed to be made with minimal waste and highly sustainable methods. The UltuCup is reusable, it’s packaging is recyclable and the starter guide is printed on recycled paper with vegetable-based inks. 

Inclusivity 

We are proud to offer a product to all people with periods no matter your age, shape, experience level or gender. We hope to create a welcoming and inclusive space for all our cuppers. 

Our inclusivity pillar is reflected in our marketing, packaging, and donation initiatives. We are very proud to have donated over 300 cups since our launch, and we are hoping to double that number by the end of the year. 

We believe that every person should have the option of a natural and toxin-free period. People have a right to know what’s in their menstrual care products and where they were created. With this in mind, we will always be completely transparent when it comes to our product line.

Health and wellness 

Consumers are becoming more aware of the chemicals used in products. This is very true in the menstrual care industry. Many tampon and pad brands do not disclose their ingredients. Chemical-filled pads, tampons or coloured cups can impact your health and the environment. UltuCup is made from 100 per cent healthcare grade silicone and is free of dyes, dioxins, BPAs, phthalates, pesticides, chlorine and latex, for a toxin-free period.  

What is the biggest lesson that you have learnt from running your business so far?

Never waiver from your stance. Our brand decided to be inclusive at a very early phase in our development and has already encountered trials since our launch last year regarding our gender-inclusive policies. As a gender-neutral company, we avoid using the terms ‘women and girls’ in favour of saying ‘users, menstruators or people with periods’ to be more inclusive. This messaging is not always met with positive interpretations. Standing by our brand commitment has been an important lesson in patience and perseverance. 

Always continue to learn. Since our launch one year ago, our brand has already undergone many changes due to continued learning and development. This is something we will continue to strive for. Our company is not perfect. We have made mistakes and have found areas for improvement regarding our messaging and production. The importance of listening and learning from our consumers is an important practice for our brand that we continue to uphold. 

What brands and thinkers do you admire and why?

There are so many amazing brands and thinkers in the world today, doing their part to improve our category and menstrual care for all people.  

Brands:

Lunapads

A reusable menstrual pad company who have taken a proactive stance for inclusivity in the menstrual care category for many years. As described on their website, they are “committed to providing an inclusive and welcoming space for all those seeking better solutions to their everyday and monthly needs.”

Lunapads' founders Suzanne Siemens and Madeleine Shaw are a dynamic duo who have worked extremely hard over the years to establish the Lunapads brand as a fantastic reusable menstrual care option: “Are committed to building a more environmentally - friendly and socially just way of doing business to ensure a better future for menstruating people and the planet.” 

PERIOD 

A group of young activists across the US who know that menstrual care is a basic right. This non-profit period organisation was founded by Nadya Okamoto and Vincent Forand as high school students in 2014 and has grown to have over 300 chapters nationwide. 

Founder Nadya Okamoto struggled with homelessness as a teen and realised the need for menstrual care products. That is why she started PERIOD, a non-profit that works to give individuals equal access to period products no matter their income. 

Thinkers: 

Jennifer Weiss-Wolf 

A leading voice for equitable menstrual policy in America. Jen is the author of ‘Periods Gone Public’, the first book to tell the story of the new political movement for menstrual equity. She is also well known for her political actions to remove the Tampon Tax from the state of NY.

Laura Strausfeld 

Works with Jennifer Weiss-Wolf to mobilise legal action against the Tampon Tax. Together with Jennifer and their team, they filed a class-action lawsuit that resulted in immediate removal of the tax by the state. To continue their work together, they formed Period Equity.

Ingrid Nilsen

A fantastic media influencer who specialises in beauty, lifestyle, fashion, vlogs, periods, LGBTQ+ issues, wellness, and mindfulness. Ingrid is well known for her interview with President Barack Obama, where she asked him about the Tampon Tax. The president admitted that he had no idea such a tax even existed, bringing valuable international attention to the issue and sparking much-needed conversation and action. 

Rayka Zehtabchi 

An Iranian-American filmmaker who just recently created the Academy Award-winning documentary short 'Period. End of Sentence'. This powerful film features Indian women fighting the stigma surrounding menstruation as they begin manufacturing sanitary pads. Zehtabchi is the first Iranian-American woman to win an Academy Award.

What short-term plans and long-term goals do you have in store for UltuCup?

When considering short term goals, UltuCup is focused on gaining brand awareness through numerous collaborations and donation opportunities. We are currently expanding our donor relations program with a focus on student donations as well as numerous wellness centres. We continually strive to spread awareness of our product and its benefits through collaborations, student workshops, and events in hopes to educate people further on the importance of reusable menstrual care. 

Awareness of our product is not just a short-term goal. In the last decade, menstrual cups have gone mainstream with many users around the world looking for a sustainable option to meet their menstrual care needs. As much as the product category is growing, many still know little to nothing about menstrual cups and their benefits. The menstrual cup market is still in its infancy (with less than 2 per cent market share) and has the potential to grow to be a significant subset of the menstrual care category. 

Long term goals for UltuCup focus strongly on our expansion into new markets. Our availability continues to grow as we become available in more retailers in the US and UK, with hopes of expanding into Canada, Australia, and Mexico within the next year. You can also expect a new product launch coming your way very soon. We cannot disclose the unique features and benefits of the product at this time, but the product will address many needs that are not currently being met by competitors. 

Who would you like to collaborate with and why?

There are an endless number of people we would love to collaborate with. We are very much a brand that believes in the power of word of mouth. We want to work with people who truly care about spreading the word on the positive benefits of reusable menstrual care. We love providing our product to real people who love sharing the cup love with their friends and on social media. 

We currently partner with several schools where we focus on educating young people on the importance of sustainable menstrual care. We also donate to these schools in an effort to help students with the financial burden of their period. We are continuously expanding this program and researching new opportunities. 

On a larger scale, we hope to work in collaboration with several environmental organisations focused on cleaning up our land and oceans. 

We would love to see UltuCup in the Netherlands! Thank you so much for taking the time to share your insights with us here at Gender Jelly.

To partner with and find out more about UltuCup, reach out to PR Manager Alyssa Gosse at alyssa@ultumum.com and follow the brand on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram.