In 2004, Heli Kurjanen was both happy and unhappy at the same time. She had purchased her first menstrual cup, a reusable feminine hygiene product that collects menstrual fluid instead of absorbing it.
The idea was great, she thought. The cup lasts for years, so using it saves money and produces less waste than tampons and sanitary pads, and the material can be safer than fibre-filled tampons. Only the delivery was lacking.
“I was really content with the product, but there were small things I didn’t like about the design,” she tells. “As I was complaining about it to my husband, he half-jokingly told me to make a better one myself.”
Kurjanen did indeed. The stay-at-home mother in her early 20s drew sketches on paper and introduced them to a family friend with expertise in silicone products. Once the prototypes were ready, she asked her girlfriends to give the cup a go and provide feedback.
Everyone was thrilled.
“It’s all happened pretty quickly really,” Kurjanen notes. “But somehow everything just started to fall into place right away, like I was always supposed to do this.”
For example, a Finnish eco shop chain got in touch with Kurjanen saying that customers are continuously asking for the product – although the only thing available at the time was the landing page of the company’s website.
Hailing from the countryside
Lune Group’s silicone-made Lunette cups are a perfected version of the product Kurjanen tried out in 2004. They come in two sizes and different colours, have a flat and short stem and are easy to keep clean. Lunette also has its own range of antibacterial towels and cleaning products.
The cups were launched in 2005. Now, 85 per cent of the business is international, the products are for sale in 40 countries and available globally on the company’s webstore.
The biggest markets are the US, France, Germany and the Nordics, with China continuously growing. Through the online store, orders come in from all over the world.
“Sometimes we have to use Google to find out where we’re shipping to, as we might’ve never heard of the place,” Kurjanen says laughingly.
Despite the global reach, the headquarters remain in the small village of Juupajoki in central Finland.
“It’s good to be in the countryside,” Kurjanen notes – and laughs again. “If anything, we get sympathy points for making international business yet staying away from the city!”
On top of Kurjanen and her husband, the office in their house employs seven staff members. A subsidiary in the US is run by further two.
In Europe, menstrual cups are considered a consumer product. However, in the US and Australia they’re treated as medical devices, which made entering the markets a little complex. Still Kurjanen sees the classification as a good thing.
“It ensures the safety and quality standards of the product,” she points out.
Body parts aren’t swearwords
Every day, 800 million women in the world are on their period. This means the customer flow isn’t drying up for Lunette – but also that not every one of these 800 million have access to a menstrual cup or other hygiene products.
This is why the company also has a social agenda in its business.
“Before Lunette, I didn’t understand what a huge effect periods have on women and equality,” Kurjanen says. “Now that we have a product that can make a difference, it would be utterly stupid not to take the opportunity.”
In poor countries, buying sanitary pads can mean less money for food for the family, or women on their period might not be able to work – which, again, affects the family’s finances.
“Initially I was concerned about how these women could keep their menstrual cups clean. Then I heard that some girls use small rocks to block the blood flow, and I realised our cup is still a million times better.”
When Lunette donates cups through charitable partners, it’s not just giving a free product. The cup comes with educational materials about periods as well as sexual and reproductive health.
In the Western world, Lunette works with homeless charities. A global issue the company is battling is period stigma by collaborating with partners such as Swedish fashion brand Monki.
For example, the names of female body parts shouldn’t be seen as swearwords.
“We’re continuously trying to broaden the discussion and talk about things with their real names.”