While most stories end with a period, this story begins with one.
Heli Kurjanen, 34, first ordered a menstrual cup from an online store in 2004. A stay-at-home mom living in Finland, she loved the product’s idea but encountered problems with fit and cleaning. But rather than searching for a suitable replacement, Kurjanen decided to create her own.
Within a year, Lunette was born. The cup hit the market in Finland in 2005 and has since been making waves in the world of feminine products.
Lunette is made with medical-grade silicone and comes in two sizes, making it more comfortable for women of different ages and shapes. A single cup will last for years with proper care, according to the Lunette website.
And the tiny cup has received big love from users.
“I love love love it!” said Tara Everheart, who has been using Lunette for four years. “I have used other cups, and they leak or don’t fit correctly. Lunette is just awesome.”
“I had for a lot of years been annoyed about being stopped from doing what I want during my period,” Lunette-user Alexandra Sarnik said. “Now I can’t see myself ever using anything else ever again! And definitely not the disposable pads and tampons. Menstrual cups are better for your body, the environment and my wallet.”
Headquartered in the small, rural community of Juupajoki in Finland, Lunette is now sold in more than 40 countries with plans to expand, including an increased presence on retail shelves, as most product sales currently take place online, said Caron Rohman, president of Lunette’s North American branch. The branch opened in 2011, with sales doubling in just the first year.
“Since I started everything from the beginning, I have been growing with the company and learning new things along the way,” said Kurjanen, whose experience running a small cloth diaper company helped her in Lunette’s creation. “And what a fun ride it has been! … I can do what I love with awesome people all over the world. … The biggest thing I have learned during these years is that one person can’t do everything. The best is to surround yourself with people who know it better and have the same passion that you do.”
Menstrual cups are also a better option environmentally than traditional disposable products. Because they can be reused, there’s no waste, such as wrappers or applicators, and Lunette is additionally produced in environmentally friendly factories and packaged in recycled materials.
But while Lunette already improved on menstrual cups’ design, Kurjanen set her sights even higher: She wanted to educate.
“We don’t want to just sell our products,” Kurjanen said. “We want women to understand their own body better and respect it more.”
Their website is a start, with pages like Anatomy 101, which, unsurprisingly, delves into women’s inner workings. They also educate women in Europe — providing booklets about periods and puberty to school nurses in Finland who give them to teens is one example. In addition, they have provided cups to homeless women through Lava Mae, an organization in San Francisco, and have reached out to different groups of women in Ruanda, Uganda, Namibia and Kenya, providing menstrual cups and helping them better understand their own bodies and its functions.
Since 2012, the North American branch of Lunette has been working with A Future and A Hope, which was started by Johnny and Kate Brooks after they moved to Kenya from Texas in 2005. The Brookses have since welcomed nine orphaned girls into their home to live with their five biological children. They also work on a variety of community-aid projects and have created another orphanage for boys.
Periods are largely a taboo subject in Kenya, Kate said. In city slums, women often make less than a dollar a day, making it difficult to buy feminine products; rags, blankets and even cotton are sometimes used as replacements. Girls will at times miss school during their cycles to avoid the ridicule they might receive if they get blood on their clothing. Lack of feminine protection may also mean women missing work. Many areas also have no garbage collection, Kate said, which means disposable products are not picked up.
Kate reached out to Lunette for help. Since joining forces, Kate and Lunette have distributed more than 100 cups to Kenyan women. Rohman, Lunette’s U.S. president, visited in 2012 to help distribute cups and hold educational clinics for women in the community.
“In these circumstances, periods are one thing that perpetuates poverty,” Rohman said. “Lunette is a single thing that prevents these obstacles.”
“One of the heartbreaking comments that I have heard from Kenya is that because these women got Lunette cups, they now have money to buy meat for their family,” Kurjanen said. “That concrete sample tells how big [of an] influence a small piece of silicone can have.”
For more information, visit the Lunette website.
Top photo courtesy of Lunette’s Facebook page