If you’re a woman who menstruates, you most definitely would have known (or heard about) menstrual cups. Contrary to what you (and I) might think, these tiny cups didn’t come into existence in the 21st century (I thought it was a new invention of the late ’10s). In fact, the invention of the very first menstrual cup was in the late 1930s, but then it stopped production during World War 2; was relaunched in the ’50s, then disappeared again in the ’70s. You might be thinking why the product keeps getting pulled, then relaunches every now and then. Well, as with anything new and unknown to the market, women — no matter how progressive we might’ve been — have their reservations regarding the product. Either it seems scandalous or uncomfortable to use, or it’s uncomfortable to clean the cup.
How, then, did we come to widely accept the use of menstrual cups, and it’s even popular and recommended to use now? Well, we have Carinne Chambers-Saini to thank for that. The founder and co-creator of the first modern menstrual cup brand, DivaCup, fought to revolutionize and normalize this period care product, as well as fight against menstrual stigmas. Creating medical-grade silicone menstrual cups and launching her business in 2003 — a time when no one even thought to use (or make money out of) the product — Carinne is a pioneer in her industry.
In my interview with Carinne, she shares how the business started, her struggles, the impact she and her company is doing, and more!
Business Name: Diva International Inc. makers of the DivaCup
Name and Title: Carinne Chambers-Saini, CEO and Founder
Location: Kitchener, ON
Education: Ivey Business School at Western University
Edit Seven: How or why did you get the idea for your business and what inspired you to start?
Carinne Chambers-Saini: My mother and I created Divacup over 20 years ago. My mother originally had the idea for the product, and together we had a vision to revolutionize menstrual care around the world.
E7: Tell us more about DivaCup. What makes you different or unique from other menstrual cups in the market?
CCS: I first want to say that I am so excited and thrilled to see menstruators have so many options in reusable period care products today. The way the industry has grown — wow, it’s amazing to witness. I am also incredibly proud of The Divacup; our products are made right here in Canada with clear, medical-grade silicone, and we have decades of research and development behind them and truly view them as best in class.
In addition, in offering a reusable product, we also launched a partnership with TerraCycle in 2020 where our customers can recycle their cups if they need to, based on body changes, et cetera. It was the first of its kind in the industry, and I was thrilled to be able to further support our commitment to environmental stewardship.
E7: What do you love most about the products you have created?
CCS: I love that we gave women a choice in menstrual care that aligned with their commitment to environmental sustainability; a product that supported their active, busy lifestyle and one that never compromised on materials, design, or efficacy.
E7: I’m sure that as your company progressed, so did your goals and missions. Can you share with us your company’s goal and mission, and do you think you’ve reached them?
CCS: Thank you for this question. When we started, we knew we wanted to disrupt and revolutionize period care with a premium, reusable product. However, Diva’s DNA is rooted in menstrual equity, and we continue to prioritize our commitment to work towards menstrual equity in all spaces. We’ve made great progress in this mission, but there is definitely more work to do.
E7: Your company is the first to have a Paid Menstrual Leave policy in Canada, and that’s amazing! What brought about this decision, and why do you think it’s important to implement this?
CCS: We are proud to offer a Paid Menstrual Leave policy to all menstruating employees at Diva. We saw the need first within our organization through team members who quite frankly were not being supported enough through our robust but traditional sick leave. We realized that we had a responsibility as a progressive menstrual care brand to be the leaders in this space.
Pain and illness associated with menstruation [are] so often diminished or dismissed. It is crucial that we work every day at dismantling the stigmas attached to periods. Our Paid Menstrual Leave is another way Diva can work against the taboos entrenched with menstruation.
E7: I know your company takes part in several community-support and sustainability initiatives; one of the latest being your recycling program with Terracycle. Can you tell us more about why you chose to support these causes and initiatives?
CCS: Diva has always found our purpose in supporting causes that align with our core values. We recently restructured our existing impact program to be more streamlined and efficient. Under the new structure we have four defined pillars of focus:
- Access to Safe and Affordable Menstrual Products
- Menstrual, Reproductive, and Sexual Health Care
- Gender Equity, Empowerment, and Liberation
- Environmental Stewardship
Over the next year we will work with nine incredible organizations that align with these pillars:
- Period Purse,
- No More Secrets,
- SHORE Centre,
- SIECUS: Sex Ed for Social Change,
- Black Women’s Blueprint,
- Fora: Network for Change (formerly known as G(irls)20),
- and CIER (Centre for Indigenous Environmental Resources).
Throughout our fiscal, [we] will commit both monetary and product resources to each organization’s respective programs. Our impact pillars truly define Diva, and for me, it is imperative that we can support real change and progress in these areas; that is my benchmark of success.
E7: DivaCup has been around since 2003, and I’m sure there are a lot of stories and struggles there. Can you tell us some of the biggest lessons and challenges you’ve encountered and learned from while running your business these past 20 years?
CCS: You are absolutely right, there are a LOT of stories, lessons, and challenges. I think one of the biggest ones was really launching our brand; no one — NO ONE — was talking about menstrual cups, so we truly had to fight to be taken seriously.
I remind myself of that when we are looking to be the first again; say, with the Paid Menstrual Leave, people will always doubt what has not been done before. But, if you have a vision you can work to make it a reality.
E7: Why do you love what you do?
CCS: I love being able to have built something from the ground up, to have had the vision when others did not, and to now be in a place of privilege. Here, I have the capacity to look outwards and commit resources to make [a] true impact in those areas of value to me.
E7: As a veteran businesswoman, what is your one piece of advice to someone in your industry who’s just starting out?
CCS: Surround yourself with people who will truly support you on your mission. You need people you can trust to help you stay true to your path.
E7: Do you practice a daily or regular ritual that you love?
CCS: I really love to meditate and have been studying Reiki for years. Both of those practices I consider essential to my personal well-being.
E7: How do you stay balanced, organized, and motivated?
CCS: I don’t think you “stay” balanced, organized, or motivated. I think life, and work, are an ongoing evolution filled with a continuous stream of micro-adjustments. The best you can do is stay very in touch with yourself; if you feel yourself trending towards disorganization or feeling unbalanced and unmotivated, stop and refocus your energy on rebalancing yourself.
(Story by Carmela Valencia, Assistant Editor)