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From the beginning of the project, Elizabeth wanted to look for sustainable alternatives that could replace the traditional single-use products for women during their menstrual period. Currently, there is a high environmental impact that consumers are still not fully aware of.
"Many people have questioned me what is good about this venture, and that is where I started to do the study where according to the DANE (National Administrative Department of Statistics), we are about 48 million people in Colombia, of which, 51. 2% of us are women, who menstruate around 30 to 35 years between 3 to 5 days, using an average of 5 disposable pads a day, this in a year, we would be talking about 60 days of menstruation, and if we take into account the number of pads, we would be generating 51,000 kilograms of non-degradable waste". - Elizabeth Viana
According to the above, it is evident how Elivcup addresses a problem that generates an environmental impact and that probably large multinationals do not turn their eyes to it given the traditional approach to business, where they seek the generation of wealth and financial surplus and not a business model oriented towards long-term sustainability and care for the environment.
The role of women in society is also a determining factor and the fact that "just because we are women, we generate non-degradable waste and how from fertility we take care of the planet and how I, as a woman, help to reduce the impact I am generating on the planet" - Elizabeth Viana
In addition to this, part of the resources generated by Elivcup are reinvested in the growth of the company and in social inclusion and education programs for the rural community of the department of Cundinamarca, focusing on girls and women with low incomes or disabilities, thus reducing the gap of misinformation and school dropouts due to lack of knowledge on the subject.
The innovation focuses on different devices and alternatives to disposable products, such as the menstrual cup which, although it is an invention that dates back to 1937, served as a starting point for the social purpose of the venture and was the basis for generating new substitute products with a sustainable approach, such as marine sponges - "which have no process, they are taken from the sea and used as a tampon, but the difference is that you take it out, wash it and you can reuse it with a duration of 6 months". - Elizabeth Viana.
In comparison, a marine sponge has a much longer useful life than a disposable product that can last only between 3 and 4 hours in the case of a tampon. In addition, as Elizabeth mentions, sponges do not have an industrial or chemical process, on the contrary, they are taken from nature and are 100% biodegradable.
Within their offer is also the menstrual disc, which works as an alternative to the cup given the differences in the anatomy of women, which is less invasive, easier to use and lasts up to 3 times longer than a cup. They also have other options such as reusable pads, disposable diapers for the incontinent population, washable pantyhose as a complement to other devices.
In addition, Elizabeth mentions that it is necessary to carry out a close accompaniment in order to lead women to replace the traditional product for those that are reusable.
Elizabeth grew up in the countryside and currently works as a teacher for rural populations and thanks to this, she was able to demonstrate the current problems in the country related to menstrual poverty where, due to lack of information, many girls drop out of school due to the lack of economic means to access hygienic products during their menstrual cycle.
"I was raised in the countryside and many times I had to use rags, this is the reality of many women in the country and in the world who do not have money to buy sanitary pads, in fact, the UN gives menstrual cups in low-income countries in order to prevent girls from being locked up 3 or 4 days which is how long their period lasts." - Elizabeth Viana.
Part of the motivation that led Elizabeth to create Elivcup was the fact of being a woman, and how to promote education from a young age and not wait until adulthood to become aware of the small changes that can impact society.
Sport has also been a determinant to start the entrepreneurship. Elizabeth is a high-performance athlete and practices triathlon, which led her to identify a need when she was in the water for long periods of time, as well as in other activities that generated discomfort and impediment when developing her competitions. Today, she promotes the use of these devices with her colleagues with good reception and recognition.
This initiative transversally targets different Sustainable Development Goals, however, SDG 12, Responsible Consumption and Production, is the main objective of the venture given the positive and quantifiable impact that Elivcup's products can have on the reduction of non-reusable waste and environmental sustainability. Women in a country like Colombia generate around 51 tons of waste per year related to intimate care and menstrual periods poducts.
Similarly, SDG 1, the end of poverty, is another of the goals that the business aims to achieve as it works with poor communities where, during the pandemic, they had to access education via telephone due to the lack of internet. This same situation has led them to donate devices for this population allowing girls and women to continue attending classes, in addition to this, they have developed education programs in order to raise awareness among children in the community about the importance of the impact on the environment and the optimization of all renewable resources that SDG 4 contemplates.
Finally, SDG 3 - Health and Wellness, given that the use of these alternatives promotes alternative and natural consumption habits that present an imminent benefit to the community. Likewise, with this initiative Elivcup also promotes and fosters gender equity by providing tools for girls to attend classes in the same conditions as their peers.
"I found a way to impact people and make them see what they are doing with a simple fact of using sanitary pads, what you invest in two months in pads, you buy a cup and the cup lasts up to 10 years". - Elizabeth Viana.
This is how Elivcup seeks to expand its community in search of women who are interested in mitigating the environmental impact, generating awareness and as Elizabeth mentions, just by involving one woman we already have a big impact.
Currently Elivcup has had a great reception in the community of sportswomen, who have seen in this venture a great ally for their daily lives thanks to features such as comfort, durability, and also economic benefits, comparing the price of a menstrual cup in relation to a pack of pads is equivalent to 2 months of use of pads compared to the expense of a single time of a cup, which lasts approximately 10 years.
With all this Elizabeth mentions how she has managed to position herself in this market, even generating some alliances with high performance athletes who through their social networks have begun to promote Elivcup products not only for the benefits mentioned above but also for the environmental impact that they as athletes value and want to promote.
Social networks are the channel to be able to reach different people in a massive way being the traditional way to spread the products, however, social brigades, sustaining data and statistics and voice to voice marketing is what has generated a great impact on the way in which the products are marketed.
At this moment Elivcup is a profitable company that manages to generate income and is growing with the inclusion of new lines of business all focused on the care of women through sustainable products that do not generate any environmental impact, in the future Elizabeth sees herself growing in this market of sportswomen, but also reaching more vulnerable rural communities where she can continue with her education programs and thus raise awareness in the community from an early age about the importance of environmental impact and menstrual education.
Elivcup directly impacts both society and the environment while developing its commercial activities. In the first instance the social impact leads to the gender inclusion that has been made through more than 150 girls in the community by allowing them to attend their classes and not relegating them due to their menstrual period, in the same way, bringing education and allowing the whole community to know about alternative means to the conventional ones for menstrual period days, empowers the female gender while educating the male gender about these alternatives that are sustainable and do not harm the environment.
The venture is also committed to society and its social impact reaches to allow vulnerable or low-income people to acquire this type of products, which in the short term suggest an important economic alternative, since the investment of using products such as sponges or cups ends up being much lower than with traditional hygienic products. Products such as panty liners or reusable diapers are also economically and environmentally sustainable alternatives for those who see Elivcup as a supplier of substitute products.
From a community perspective, the innovation also generates indirect jobs by supplying raw materials such as seaweed, recycled paper cases, or the distribution chain itself, generating an economic impact on different people.
In relation to the environment, the impact is not minor, since "a single woman to migrate to reusable devices, suggests to stop discarding up to 600 sanitary pads per year" Elizabeth Viana. Which, added to other waste related to the feminine care industry, can constitute in a country like Colombia, a total of 51 tons per year of waste unfortunately cannot be easily reusable and end up in landfills, causing pollution problems that end up affecting water sources, air quality, gas accumulation, etc.
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Elizabeth Viana Henao, CEO
Elivcup is a venture made by women for women, created in 2019 and strengthened during the pandemic. Initially it was consolidated with the purpose of meeting the needs of the menstrual cycle of sportswomen and in parallel to generate an environmental impact from the replacement of tampons and pads.
"Beyond being a venture is a social work that I have tried to be carrying out, not to give up and that, despite the circumstances, do not stop doing it and not only managing it through social networks but with close people who end up being the first to change their mentality". - Elizabeth Viana, CEO.