Mary Bond (left) and Robyn McLean (right), founders of The Hello Cup. Image supplied.
Periods aren’t often fun for anybody – and their environmental impact is dire. In their average lifetime, a person with a period will use over 2,100 single-use tampons and pads that end up in landfills and our oceans. That’s why two best friends from Wellington, Robyn McLean and Mary Bond, decided to be the change and created their own range of menstrual cups, with a difference. The Hello Cup was born out of sheer frustration at the lack of menstrual cups on the market here in New Zealand that were super cute, uber comfortable, hypoallergenic and recyclable, so they took matters into their own hands and created a range themselves.
With summer on the horizon, it’s also great time to make the switch from single-use period products to a menstrual cup. One Hello Cup can be left in for up to twelve hours and they hold 3x more than a tammie – so that’s far more chill time at the beach this summer!
The Hello Cup has gone from strength to strength since its launch in 2017 with the product range growing to suit a range of different vaginas because as we know, one size does not fit all. Their regular range includes extra small, small, medium and large cups and they have just released their low cervix range in small/medium and large. The cups also come in a range of super cute colours (the colourful line-up recently took out Gold at The Best NZ Design Awards), meaning there is a cup to suit everyone’s style. The collection recently expanded to include a black cup (sleek with a touch of attitude) to align with The Hello Cup’s inclusive values, that accommodate not only women but non-binary and trans people with periods – who are usually overlooked by other mainstream period brands.
We wanted to hear more about what makes this Kiwi company different from others on the market, so we had a chat with Robyn and Mary about their award-winning company.
How did the idea to start The Hello Cup come about?
Robyn explains: We both had terrible periods at school but weirdly never really talked about them with each other despite being best friends – periods just weren’t talked about. A few years ago I tried a menstrual cup and it was so life-changing for me. It allowed me to manage my periods so much better and I knew I’d never go back to using tampons ever again. My only regret was not making the switch earlier. The funny thing was, I’d heard about menstrual cups but I just didn’t know anyone who used one so I assumed there must be something wrong or uncomfortable about them. I think with personal care products we rely heavily on word of mouth and I had so many questions about them, like how do would you insert it? how would you empty it? And I had no one I could ask. The cup I tried was good but it wasn’t amazing and it wasn’t made in New Zealand, so I searched for a better option but there wasn’t one and so I rang Mary and said: ‘This is what we need to do as a business’.
Mary has worked as a nurse for more than 20 years and her knowledge is impressive. We both have teenage daughters and we both felt that menstrual cups and reusable period products were the way of the future. Not only are they better for the environment, but they are also better for the user and more comfortable too!
Mary and I are both design-led people and after seeing what was available on the market, we were sure we could design something much better, so once we started on our research and design journey, everything we learnt just reinforced to us that we were on the right track. Like many, I was unaware of how nasty some tampons and pads were, many are bleached and contain microplastics and can leave fibres behind. It’s been said that the first-ever tampon used is still somewhere on earth because they take up to 500 years to break down in landfill which is pretty horrific. Each person with a period who uses single-use products will generate about 250 kg of period-related waste in their lifetime. If someone uses a cup, they will only need a few in their lifetime. The footprint is amazingly small.
For me personally, the real game-changing aspect was the fact cups hold more than tampons so it meant I could go about my day without thinking about changing my tampon or worrying it would start leaking after a couple of hours. They are reusable and each cup will last several years. There is nothing you can’t do using a menstrual cup – you can sleep, swim, run marathons and binge watch Netflix. Oh, actually there is one thing – we do recommend removing them before sex!
What makes The Hello Cup different to other menstrual cups?
Mary: We wanted Hello Cups to be the highest quality cups on the market and also be the best and most thoughtfully designed. We also knew that we needed to get a conversation going so with my medical knowledge combined with Robyn’s marketing and journalism background we felt we could educate about our cups but in a fun way.
Unlike other brands the rim on Hello Cups is internal. This makes the cup really comfortable. For some people, an external rim can result in pressure being placed on the urethra which can make you feel like you need to wee, so by putting our rim on the inside we’ve removed that issue.
We also wanted to make sure the toggle was super comfortable. The cups we’d tried often had stems that were spiked or just generally uncomfortable. A piece of consistent feedback we get is that our customers can’t feel our cups at all – which is the aim of the game!
Also, a major difference between The Hello Cup and other brands is we chose to make our cups from medical grade thermoplastic elastomer (TPE). Many of the other cups available are made of silicone and some people have sensitivities to silicone or even allergies.
TPE is commonly used for hospital equipment such as catheters and IV lines. It’s very safe and it’s also fully hypoallergenic. The material is also really comfortable to wear because when it warms, it conforms to the shape of the body. Another bonus for us is that TPE is recyclable.
The design of the packaging was also really important to us. The boxes we use are fully recyclable and they are super cute too so we encourage our customers to repurpose them to hold makeup brushes or pens.
Can we expect to see any new products from The Hello Cup?
We’ve just launched our low cervix range. These cups don’t have a toggle and are specifically designed for people whose cervix sits lower than average – There’s a cervix measurement guide on our website.
We have also just launched a mini gift pack. It contains a double Hello Cup box, a Hello Go hand and cup sterilising spray and a free reusable liner.
We are working on some new things for next year too so keep an eye out!
Anything else to add?
Robyn: Yes! We are very proud to be a New Zealand company that is taking on the world. We were actually shoulder tapped by buyers from Urban Outfitters and Anthropologie to be stocked by them which was so amazing and felt really validating for us.
To date we have saved more than 200 million single-use period products from ending up in landfills around the world. Crazy, huh? Good crazy!
The other thing we are proud of is how the conversation around periods is slowly starting to happen. We’ve seen a big change in the last couple of years. We love seeing how self-confident people are becoming and we love hearing periods being discussed in normal everyday conversation – as they should be!
And finally, last week we were beyond thrilled to take out Gold at the Best Design Awards 2020! Period products aren’t known for winning design awards, so, needless to say, we were over the moon. The Awards – hosted by the Designers Institute of New Zealand – recognise excellence in a range of categories including product design. We love colour, so taking out the top award in the Colour Award section as well as being a finalist in four other categories made was truly humbling for us.