Empowering Women: Ruby Raut’s Journey to Leading a Period Revolution with WUKA
In a world marked by the resilience of visionary immigrants, Ruby Raut’s story shines as a beacon of inspiration. A Nepali woman with a deep-rooted sense of community and a passion for environmental science, Ruby migrated to the United Kingdom to co-found WUKA, a groundbreaking brand that is challenging conventions and taboos in the period wear industry. Her journey is not only marked by innovation but also groundbreaking achievements, including B Corp certification with a remarkable score of 111.4 and the prestigious Queen’s Award for Sustainable Development. These accolades reflect the profound impact of her work on both sustainability and women’s health.
Ruby’s journey began with her pursuit of knowledge and a determination to make a difference. After completing her studies in Environmental Science at the Open University, her love for the subject ignited a passion to contribute to a greener, more sustainable world. It was this unwavering commitment that would eventually lead her to create WUKA, a brand that’s revolutionizing the menstrual care industry.
What inspired Ruby to found WUKA was a deeply personal journey. Her inspiration is deeply rooted in her Nepalese heritage, her first period, banishment for bleeding and a strong desire to empower women. She became involved with charities dedicated to menstrual education and women’s empowerment, sparking her interest in environmental menstruation. As she led an ‘environmenstrual’ project at a high school in St Albans, she was struck by a startling reality: many young girls were not acquainted with reusable menstrual products and continued to use traditional, non-ecofriendly alternatives. It was at this point that Ruby drew upon her upbringing in Nepal, where her mother had provided her with sari rags as menstrual solutions – an eco-conscious but uncomfortable choice. Sharing her story with the young schoolgirls led to an epiphany: the need for comfortable, flow-absorbing underwear and a brand that destigmatizes periods. Thus, WUKA – an acronym for Wake Up Kick Ass – was born.
WUKA recognized a significant gap in the market when it came to sustainable, reusable period products. The brand’s mission was clear: to provide choice, accessibility, and affordability for women worldwide. With the potential for savings exceeding 40% over two years, WUKA addresses the economic burden of menstruation. It is also a champion in the fight against period poverty, particularly for women who cannot or choose not to use traditional disposable products. Moreover, by promoting reusable and eco-friendly solutions, WUKA instills sustainable habits in future generations.
One of WUKA’s key selling points is its commitment to inclusivity. The existing reusable options on the market often lacked a fashionable edge and didn’t cater to a wide range of sizes and styles. Ruby and her team believed that every woman, regardless of her flow, size, lifestyle, or age, should have the freedom to choose the perfect period product. As a result, WUKA proudly offers the most size-inclusive range on the market, extending up to 6XL. Recently, they launched the world’s first multi-size period pants that can fit up to four different sizes – a significant leap in manufacturing efficiency and customer satisfaction.
WUKA sought to revolutionize period wear by combining eco-friendliness, comfort, and style. Their product range has expanded to include a variety of styles and colors, from the popular leopard and lace collection to recent swimwear limited editions. The brand’s ethos revolves around empowering women and girls to make eco-conscious choices without compromising on comfort or fashion.
Yet, the journey wasn’t without its challenges. Encouraging shoppers to make the switch from traditional sanitary products to period pants proved to be a formidable task. The truth is, despite the benefits, period pants remained an underrepresented alternative, with 95% of consumers still using single-use products. The solution lay in education. WUKA’s mission became not only to sell but to educate. Many consumers were unaware of the materials used in traditional products, and manufacturers were not legally obliged to disclose this information. For example, tampons could include harmful dyes, pesticides, and fragrances. This knowledge gap drove WUKA to focus its marketing efforts on answering fundamental questions, such as “how do they work?” and “how do I use them?” The goal was to provide helpful content that would empower women to make informed choices about their health, emphasizing the value of the WUKA brand above all.
Ruby also sought to tackle the challenge of expanding WUKA’s presence in stockists. While they achieved the milestone of becoming the first period pant brand in UK supermarkets in 2020, convincing retailers to list more than one brand was challenging, often due to limited shelf space. In response, WUKA introduced their innovative Stretch™ technology, allowing one pair of pants to expand to up to four different sizes. This solved the space issue and ensured that the majority of the menstruating population in the UK could access their products. As they waited for retailers to catch up, WUKA turned its attention to the public and corporate sectors. The brand partnered with education authorities, sports clubs, and workplaces to promote period positivity. These partnerships extended to major organizations, such as the Welsh Rugby Union, Watford FC, Scottish Gymnastics, and Channel 4, which became the first major UK broadcaster to launch a menstrual health policy for its employees.
One of WUKA’s notable achievements is their remarkable B Corp certification score of 111.4. This score reflects their dedication to sustainability, not just in their product but in every aspect of their business, from fabric weaving to production and shipping. Moreover, WUKA’s commitment to the community is deeply ingrained in the brand’s DNA, with every product sold giving back to charitable organizations like EndometriosisUK, Choose Love, The Kujuwa Initiative, and The Wave Project.
Ruby’s leadership style is characterized by an open-door policy and a commitment to creating a collaborative environment where all team members’ voices are heard and valued. This approach fosters diversity and empowers each team member to share ideas, ultimately driving innovation. This collaborative spirit has led to some groundbreaking product ideas.
WUKA is not just a brand; it’s a movement. It’s a brand that has consistently pushed boundaries and made a mark in the world of sustainable period products. Their mission is not just to sell products but to empower women to make informed decisions about their health and well-being. WUKA is a small team, but it’s a team in which every voice is heard and valued.
Creating a recyclable product at the end of its life was another challenge that WUKA embraced head-on. While most products have a shelf life of mere hours before being discarded, WUKA developed underwear that could last for up to two years, replacing up to 200 single-use products. They emphasized proper care and maintenance to extend the product’s lifespan, even offering a special laundry bag to protect it.
Ruby’s childhood in Nepal, where her mother provided reusable period solutions, deeply influenced her values. Her family’s practice of reusing sari rags taught her the importance of sustainability and the philosophy of “Wear. Wash. Reuse.”
WUKA’s commitment to innovation, sustainability, and inclusivity has been reflected in its best-selling items, including WUKA Stretch™, the world’s first multi-size period pants for adults and teens, as well as the introduction of period swimwear and accessories such as wearable hot water bottles.
One of the notable aspects of WUKA’s mission is its advocacy to change UK law to remove the tax on period pants. The brand is leading a government petition to make period pants exempt from VAT. While traditional sanitary pads and tampons are already exempt, period pants are considered clothing and subject to taxation. WUKA firmly believes that sustainable periods are not a luxury and should not be taxed as such. Their fight for tax equality is part of a broader commitment to environmental sustainability.
In addition to their remarkable B Corp certification, WUKA has achieved the Queen’s Award for Sustainable Development, an honor that reflects their outstanding contributions to environmental and social sustainability. WUKA’s commitment to breaking down taboos and leading the conversation on periods has been further supported by several prestigious awards and funds. They received £250,000 from the Sky Zero Footprint Fund to create the first-ever period product ad showing blood and blood clots. This campaign represented a groundbreaking step in normalizing period conversations and removing stigma.
Furthering their mission, WUKA secured £100,000 from JC Decaux to create a taboo-breaking campaign, telling #Desi Period stories, representing South Asian women in mainstream media. This initiative is part of a broader effort to make period conversations inclusive and representative of all women’s experiences.
Looking ahead, WUKA’s plans for the coming year are just as bold as their journey thus far. They plan to launch more campaigns, foster open dialogues, and partner with influencers to destigmatize the topic of menstruation. Their commitment to breaking taboos is evident in their innovative use of media platforms like TV and out-of-home advertising. Their vision for the future is a world where landfill waste is dramatically reduced, where single-use disposable products are a thing of the past, and where period poverty is eliminated.
In summary, Ruby Raut’s journey as the CEO and co-founder of WUKA exemplifies the power of resilience, innovation, and unwavering commitment to making a positive impact on the world. Her story is an inspiration to all, reminding us that positive change is possible with determination, dedication, and a passion for empowering women and promoting sustainability. Under Ruby’s leadership, WUKA is paving the way for a more inclusive, equitable, and eco-conscious future. With a remarkable B Corp certification score of 111.4, the Queen’s Award for Sustainable Development, and significant funding to break taboos and champion equality, WUKA is not just a brand; it’s a movement. They’re challenging conventions, empowering women, and reshaping the future of menstrual care.
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