Mooncup: Should All Women be Using One?

With a growing interest in sustainability, menstrual cups are becoming increasingly popular. We speak to the founder of Mooncup, Su Hardy, about periods, the pre-internet marketing days and ‘tampon tax’…

You started Mooncup from your bedroom in Brighton, how old were you and what stage were you at in your life (studying/working etc)?
I was about 38 and I had a partner and a four-year-old daughter. I had a part-time job but I was half looking for a project!

How and why did you come up with this idea?
I came across an old version of a menstrual cup (originally invented in the 1930s) while travelling with my family. I had never heard of anything like it before and thought it was great! So I started importing a few and tried them out on friends and realised that they needed to be made out of a modern material. After I did some research I decided on medical grade silicone, then managed to find a factory to make me a few samples… and it took off from there.

8DD Mooncup 0017

What were the steps you took to turn it from a good idea into a manufactured product, selling in shops and online?
Initially it was sold by mail order through leaflets, then a friend built a website for me. And eventually another friend developed a shop for the website. In the meantime, Infinity Foods in Brighton had started stocking the Mooncup® and its wholesale arm started distributing it to health food shops around the UK. We attended natural health exhibitions, Glastonbury Festival (we’re still regulars!), Green Gathering, and distributed stickers that ended up on toilet doors all over the world!

When did you start employing staff, and what were their roles?
After about the first 18 months a friend came and helped me with packing and distribution. Then another friend helped with customer service. And Eileen, who is still with us at Mooncup today, took on the administration. There were five of us working in my spare bedroom and then we made the move into a proper office in 2005. We have since moved again recently and there are now 14 of us on the fourth floor at Vantage Point, just off Preston Circus. We have amazing, if distracting, views over Brighton.

 

The Mooncup headquarters…

Can you describe the Mooncup headquarters?
Our office has a lovely big kitchen where we all sit and eat lunch together every day – it’s a great time to catch up with what we’re all up to outside of work. And we get to enjoy the wonderful views all through the office; it feels good to work in such a bright open space. It’s a really fun place to work, we tend to have music on quite a lot and we all help each other stay topped up with teas and coffees!

Mooncup team

Is Brighton a good base for running a business?
It’s a great place for running a business, it’s full of alternative people and ideas and it’s really an inspiring place to live and work.

Are you noticing an increase in sales with the new ‘tampon tax’?
A 5% tax has been payable on sanitary products, including the Mooncup, since 2000 (before 2000 the payable tax was 17.5%) and although this has been in the public domain recently it’s not really a new phenomena. However, Mooncup has benefitted from the publicity surrounding this conversation. People are keen to know that because it’s a reusable product you only pay the tax once.

You recently made the business employee owned, could you explain why you did you this and what exactly it means?
In Mooncup’s case employee ownership means that the shares in the business are owned on behalf of the employees in an employee ownership trust. I did this because I believe that ownership and control over your employment makes people healthier, happier and gives them a better standard of living and gives them more control over their lives. For me it seemed like the obvious and best next step for the business.

An average menstrual cycle is 28 days long and so is the cycle of the moon – I don’t believe this can just be coincidence!

Should every woman own and use a Mooncup? Can you talk us through the advantages…
We’re all different and the Mooncup appeals to some more than others. The benefits are that it’s comfortable, convenient and clean to use, it’s better for the environment and over time it costs you less money than disposable sanitary protection.

Are their any disadvantages, when compared to Tampons and sanitary towels?
It’s been a long time since I used a tampon! I don’t really remember being very fond of them when I did use them, and certainly can’t remember them having any advantages over a menstrual cup!

The Mooncup and teenage girls…

Is it something that mothers should be giving their pre-pubescent daughters, in preparation for their first period?
Only if the daughter has shown an interest in using one herself, although with a mother already using one this might mean she’s more aware of menstrual cups. It’s important to let young girls make their own decision about how they manage their periods. And their feelings about their periods are likely to change as they develop and grow.

 

What links the moon’s cycles and a woman’s menstrual cycle?
An average menstrual cycle is 28 days long and so is the cycle of the moon – I don’t believe this can just be coincidence!

The Mooncup is considered, by some, to be a hippie form of sanitary wear. Why is this, and what do you say to these people?
Many very good mainstream ideas originated in grassroots subculture, and the Mooncup is simply another one of these. The Mooncup has been sold in Boots since 2005 and is also sold in over 50 countries worldwide, which clearly indicates it has already reached a wider audience and with great response.

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