“At most points I've made the wrong decision and then I look back and learn”

with Ruth Marsden, founder of Better Company

Show notes:

This week’s conversation, and the season one finale (!) is with Ruth Marsden, founder of The Better Company, a “game-changing” sustainable period products company.

Ruth is an incredibly passionate, purpose led founder, and is really refreshingly honest about the mistakes she’s made (hello 1000 unusable micro bags!) and how hard it can be as a product business in a post Brexit world.

She really is so inspiring. We get to do this, we chose to do this. So manage expectations, accept where sacrifices have to be made, and the benefits that will come from those sacrifices and enjoy it.

And most of all Do Not Compare Yourself To Anyone Else.

Links:

Website
Instagram 
LinkedIn

 

About Ruth Marsden:

Ruth is Founder of The Better Company. A business that is on a mission to create sustainable products of exceptional quality.

It started with a menstrual cup that for every sale they then gifted one to a person that needs it most and has now expanded to offer a range of sustainable period products.

Mother-of-three Ruth, was already on a journey to make her family home more sustainable, changing daily habits and products, when she began to realise the planet-damaging reality of her period each month. She was fed up with endless disposable sanitary products, knowing that they were all ending up in landfill and our oceans.

Ruth’s Links:

Website
Better Company Instagram
Ruth’s Instagram
LinkedIn

Transcript:

Caroline [00:00:00]:

Hello, and welcome to Bump to Business Owner I’m your host, Caroline Marshall. Thank you for tuning in today. I just wanted to do a quick little mini episode before our fabulous bigger episode with Ruth from The Better Company, which I know so many of you are really going to enjoy. But I wanted to pop on because she recently shared on social media what finances, what investments she started with to get her business going. Because of course, with a business like hers and a lot of businesses, some more than others, you need to have that little startup cost investment, not even thinking about how you’re going to live and what sort of money you need to maybe have saved away if you’re going all in on a business. And I feel this is something that’s really important to share if we’re going to help encourage mothers and women take the leap and start their businesses themselves. And so something I really regretted on the podcast with Ruth was not asking her the question, maybe because I am very English and still think talking about money is something we shouldn’t do. So she shared on social media. So thank you, Ruth for saying I can share it on here. Basically quite as simple as this. Someone asked her on her Instagram stories is how did you start? Would love to start a business, but I don’t have the personal investment. And Ruth was very open and said she got a 5K loan from her family. This went on branding, product, domain and imagery. To save money herself, which is a great one to hear about, she did the website herself, which is fantastic to hear. So I am also going to be sharing I think I’ve shared it before in other places. I did a blog on Zapier with them about low cost businesses to start, because I really I started with far less than 5K just because it’s a service based business, potentially or other reasons. But I will also share on another podcast what I spent in order to get Upsource up and running. But thank you so much, Ruth, for sharing that. If you did have any further questions for her, please just contact us at Bump To Business Owner and we’ll try and get those answered for you. But otherwise, please do enjoy this episode with Ruth from The Better Company.

Intro
Hello and welcome to Bump to Business Owner, thank you so much for tuning in today. This podcast is inspired by my mission to find out why more and more mums are leaving the employment world for the entrepreneur life. I’ll be talking to some of the people I believe to be the most inspiring women in business about their journey building their businesses alongside motherhood. I’ll be also sharing some of my own experiences of juggling my award winning virtual assistant agency Upsource, while raising my two young children. Right now they are two and four, and trust me, it can be chaos.

Caroline

Hello and welcome to today’s Bump to Business Owner. I’m Caroline Marshall and today I am with Ruth Marsden, who is founder of The Better Company, a business that is on a mission to create sustainable products of exceptional quality. It started with a menstrual cup that for every sale, they then gifted one to a person that needs it most and has now expanded to offer a range of sustainable period products. Mother of three, Ruth was already on a journey to make her family home more sustainable, changing daily habits and products when she began to realise the planet damaging reality of her period each month, she was fed up with endless disposable sanitary products, knowing that they were all ending up in landfill and our oceans. Hi Ruth, thank you so much for joining me in your busy schedule as mum of three.

Ruth [00:03:35]:

Thank you for having me. It’s a a pleasure to be here.

Caroline [00:03:40]:

You know, a way I like to start off is I love hearing about mums, like what they were doing before they started their business and their kind of career path that led to that because I think a lot of us end up with kind of wiggly careers. I know some people put it now as doing a lot of things. So what was your career like that led you to being a business owner with the Better Company?

Ruth [00:04:00]:

Yes, it’s definitely not been a linear process. So went to drama school, was working as an actress for a few years, then had my first baby. And I wasn’t far enough into my career to be able to make any kind of demands of when I wanted to work or how I wanted to work. So I quickly realized that it just wasn’t for me and my priorities, it just wasn’t going to work. I wanted to be around for bedtime, I wanted to be with my baby. And so I kind of quickly realized that this wasn’t an industry that was going to work for me, at least in those early years, but I still wanted to kind of have this creative outlet and so I felt a bit lost in what I wanted to do. So I just started a little blog and a YouTube channel just to try and let those creative juices out in some way. So we’d make little Vlogs. My husband was a musician at the time, so he was away traveling, so me and the baby would kind of make little Vlogs of what we were up to while he was on tour. Yeah, and that just kind of evolved into a job, into kind of content creating on Instagram and on YouTube and then the Better Company came after that. So it hasn’t been a kind of natural progression of what you would think to then be a business owner. I think in the back of my mind, I’ve always liked the idea of starting my own thing. I think acting has been in my life since forever. And the one thing I always hated about it was how little control you feel like you have and you can do your best at an audition, but if you’re not right for the role in that person’s opinion, there’s nothing you can do to change that. So I always liked the idea of doing something where I would have a bit more control while I was acting. I trained and did some photography and would do actors headshots again because then I felt like I could go out and get the work and I could control it. Yes, I always liked the idea of starting a business, but just didn’t know what the business would be, which is quite a key part of starting. I just, I’d listened to a lot of business podcasts. I love Guy Raz – How I Built This. I love hearing how someone actually built their business, you know, right from first concept to where they are now. And it always been in my head. And then I started using a menstrual cup, having really judged them, thought they sounded really strange, very unhygienic like. I just didn’t understand how they could be a good thing. Tried one and loved it. And that’s when I thought, okay, this could be a business. Because of course there are products already out there. A menstrual cup already exists, but it’s clearly not mainstream enough. If I would consider myself the target market and if I don’t feel like I’d been targeted much, then it’s clearly not as mainstream as it has the potential to be. So, yes, that was kind of the first thoughts and seeds towards starting and growing into what is now the Better Company.

Caroline [00:06:53]:

Amazing. It’s really interesting. I myself included in that. A lot of people come from creative backgrounds and they always want to create something and then you end up owning a business. But I think a lot of us, whether we’ve had a creative background or not, can really relate to. I wasn’t at stage of my career to make demands of flexibility and things because while we’re all shouting about flexibility now and we know there’s getting more leverage for it to have an inclusive workforce, I think we can all really relate to. I think often you may not be at the stage you wanted your career to be at by the time you choose to start a family or know it’s time to start a family and you’re in that sense of like, well, I can’t make demands, like being home for bedtime and all of that. And I think that’s a really powerful thing to touch on. So you were a bit of a content creator before. How was that as a career for you before you started this and around your mum life? Because I’ve not had many, some people on this podcast coming on who might have got a bit of a personal brand once they’ve started their business, but not before. So the women I’m speaking to feel marketing and branding isn’t their real strong piece. Do you think that really helped you, your experience from content creation before?

Ruth [00:07:59]:

Yeah, I think as much as the journey hasn’t been linear, in a way, it does feel like it’s all led me to where I am. So even with the acting, I feel like it’s helped me to kind of fake it till I make it. I find myself sometimes on a zoom with six businessmen talking about manufacturing and I have to play the role like Ruth, confident business owner, and I have to totally fake it. So even that kind of thing has helped. And then, yeah, then the content creating that was very accidental and kind of just happened. And I mean, my platform is very small in the grand scheme of things, but yeah, I definitely learned how to put content together, how to kind of put a little caption, know, get a message across in just a few sentences. So it definitely helped when I launched the Better Company. So obviously at the time it was Bettercup, that was the brand and that was like our one product. So launching Bettercup a few years ago, it definitely helped because I think I had that audience, that kind of engaged audience that were interested in the product, interested to hear more about it. It’s funny though, in terms of the marketing and all that side. I feel like such a fish out of water and I don’t know why, because you’d think as someone that’s done it on my own personal platform, I’d feel really confident. But it’s probably the thing I struggle with the most for the Better Company is how to speak as a brand, not just as a person. I’m speaking on behalf of a brand and I’m speaking on behalf of even a brand that isn’t in existence now, of where I want it to be, but the idea of where the brand will be in the future. And putting across that message of who the Better Company is. And the Better Company isn’t just Ruth. And I very much, right from the beginning, didn’t want it to be me. I don’t want it to be my face on the Instagram, I don’t want it to be me talking on the stories. I want it to be a brand. It’s completely me, but separate from me, which has then been quite hard to navigate. So actually, in terms of business investment, the main places I’ve invested my money has actually been in marketing and advertising and actually outsourcing that to actual professionals. Because I think as a content creator, you can think that you are photographer, marketer, all these things and actually you’re none of them. You’re kind of just winging it. So actually, when it comes down to a brand, I wanted to get it right. So I’ve then hired freelance help of people who are actually experts in their field. But it definitely helped. I think I quickly so that initial sphere of influence from my platform. I quickly utilized that and then to then work out how does the brand go beyond this once you’ve reached that platform of it’s only a few thousand people in the grand scheme of things, once you’ve reached those people, okay, what do I do now? I want this to go further. I don’t want this to be just a kind of instagram business. I want this to be a household brand, big business. Okay, so how do I go beyond? So it was a really helpful kind of springboard, but then I quickly had to make a plan and find a strategy to grow beyond that, especially because my product means you don’t come back to buy again, which is great, but from a business side is quite tricky.

Caroline [00:11:26]:

Yeah. Oh, gosh, yeah, I didn’t even think of that. And you touched on several great things there because it’s also like, oh, faking it till you make it. I’m a business owner. This is me. I’m Ruth. I know what I’m doing. But also knowing what you shouldn’t be doing, I think is the other piece. And obviously I’m passionate about that. I run a whole outsourcing business. But that’s a great part about it. It’s like, yeah, knowing the things that you need to lean into and just get past the nerves and have confidence in yourself, but also knowing the parts which you shouldn’t do yourself. And I think that’s great because I think sometimes people think when you’ve got a personal platform as well, that naturally you can start a business, you’ll have sales, and it will be great. And like you said, there is a limit to that. It’s like you’ve got your audience, but you’ve got to go beyond that. You want to grow, you want to be a household brand. So you’ve got to now start building that audience and build it on other platforms, not just instagram. So that was really interesting. And when did your passion and interest in sustainability come about? Was it after your first child or was there a particular penny drop moment for you?

Ruth [00:12:32]:

It’s been a really gradual process. I think just as you learn more, you kind of can’t help but let that affect your life. I love the Maya Angelou quote, do what you can until you know better, then when you know better, do better. And I feel like that’s kind of what my sustainability journey has been. There’s been a lot of times, looking back, where I thought I was making great changes and actually now I think, oh gosh. It’s hard for sustainability to not be sold as needing to buy more and do more. And it’s quite a privileged thing to do. You need all the really beautiful tupperware and you need that. It’s something to buy into and actually it’s about completely simplifying how you live, what you take into your home, how you use it, how you can reuse it. So I’ve kind of just been slowly learning that over the years. So, yeah, it wasn’t really a penny drop. There’s definitely been penny drop moments along the journey. I remember one in particular. I was at an event, and I sat next to this amazing girl, and I annoyingly don’t remember where she worked, but she was working in kind of educating around fast fashion and the effects it’s having on the planet. And she just asked me a couple of questions about my thoughts. And I had no idea, no idea about the effect fast fashion had on the world. I mean, it’s embarrassing even to think now how little I knew, but I just thought people kind of sat happily in factories, sewing these clothes, think like, that it was a passion and that it was a skill, that they wanted to be there and they were paid well. And I hadn’t stopped to think. If you picture one Zara and picture all the clothes in Zara, then picture how many Zaras in that region, then that country, then the world, how many clothes are being made, how quickly, then think about the people that are making them, and is that realistic that they can make them that quickly? And okay, so actually, what conditions are those people in to be making clothes that quickly? And I had never given it any thought. So that was a real penny drop moment for me in terms of, okay, where am I spending my money? You vote with your purse. And so where am I voting? Who am I giving my money to? That was a real penny drop moment. But yeah, in general, it’s been quite a slow process. And then same with periods. That was a bit of a penny drop moment in terms of, oh yeah, what are actually in tampons and what are in pads? And I think one of the big lessons for me within everything has been to try and think of every product you use. Don’t just think about it in the moment you’re using it, think about its whole journey it’s been on. So the process it made to come to you and how it was made, what you’re using it for, and then what’s going to happen to it afterwards. And that was a big thing for me with tampons looking into, okay, how are they made, what goes into them, how are they affecting the planet before they’ve even arrived with me, then I use it for 3 hours, and then what happens for hundreds of years with this tampon? And that was a real moment as well. Although, on a side note, I do feel very passionate about us as the users, the guilt and the responsibility not being put on us. The guilt and the responsibility is with the big brands and with the big companies that are making these products and they could very easily make these products a lot better. So I would never want, and I don’t ever want, on The Better Company the message is never, you should be making a swap and you should be doing this for the planet. The idea behind The Better Company, hence the name, is that it’s better for the planet, but it’s also very genuinely better for you. And that’s what we want the message to be is how it makes your period better. And the responsibility shouldn’t be on you to change the waste issue of period products. But it was definitely a big moment for me of thinking, oh gosh, okay, yeah, my period is creating loads of waste and while that’s happening, I don’t even find them comfortable anyway. I don’t even enjoy wearing tampons. I find them really uncomfortable. I don’t enjoy the experience and they’re causing loads of waste. And so I think that was my kind of journey of learning to live more sustainably. And how that then led to The Better Company was through making the change myself, slightly out of a planet guilt, and then realising, oh, this has completely transformed my period, this is actually better for me. I want more people to know about this and I want this to be a product that is celebrated because it’s better for you, not just because it’s better for the planet.

Caroline [00:16:57]:

Yeah. And I love that because I think I was clearly mentally prepping for this podcast today with my husband because I actually mentioned that to him this morning. It’s like there’s so much put on us as individuals and almost guilt. You walk around in guilt sometimes, especially like we’ve got kids, like the toys, the plastic, all the stuff, all the gifts they get. I feel guilty constantly with people, all the gifts they get and the gifts I buy others. But at the same time, these companies are the ones actually that could change and could be doing that and they’re not. I met a founder recently, a lady who’s starting an environmently friendly pregnancy test and she met with a big company and what’s like one of the main competitors of pregnancy test doing, and they were like, they’re not doing anything towards that. And I hadn’t even thought of pregnancy tests and the life cycle of them and the wastage especially when you talk about people who are going through rounds of IVF and things and do lots of testing, it’s really interesting, but it’s not their fault. These brands could change, but it would affect the margins, I guess.

Ruth [00:18:05]:

Yeah.

Caroline [00:18:06]:

So I love that. And that’s what the Better Company is not about. It’s about, if you’re curious, give this a go. But if it’s not for you, it’s not on you to feel that guilt, which is really lovely value your business has there. And so tell me a bit more along with your sustainability values about your values, you donate a Bettercup for someone who needs it for every purchase. Is that right? And how did that come about?

Ruth [00:18:34]:

Yeah, so my sister works at a school in Zimbabwe in a kind of rural farm area, so it was around the same time I’d changed my period products and I’d swapped to a menstrual cup. Was loving it, I was evangelising to anyone that would listen about how it changed my period pains and my period length.

Caroline [00:18:51]:

Changed period pains?

Ruth [00:18:54]:

Yeah, it has fully stopped my period pains. That is crazy. This is a total side note, but I love this.

Caroline [00:19:04]:

I feel anyone would be interested.

Ruth [00:19:07]:

There’s not proven science behind it, although that’s mostly just because they never fund women’s issues. So it’s nothing to do with it not being science, there’s just no funding. I personally, just as a user, I have my own idea of why. I think it’s because tampons are designed to draw the blood away and they draw the blood, but they also draw a lot of other bodily fluids that your body needs to stay in your body and they pull it away. And I think it feels quite unnatural because it’s being taken and it’s being drawn. Because I know for me that was often my period pain, that quite hollow ache of it emptying in your uterus. Whereas a cup sits there and as the blood is ready, it leaves your cervix and goes into the cup but isn’t drawn from the lining. And the lining isn’t kind of pulled away and then it’s not absorbing any of the other fluids which you really need for your PH levels and to keep your body kind of balanced as it should be. So I think because it’s happening naturally, that’s my opinion anyway. I think that might be why it doesn’t hurt as much, because it’s just kind of leaving in its own time as it’s ready.

Caroline [00:20:18]:

Maybe one day you can help fund the research. Sorry, that was a side note, but I think that was fascinating. So thank you for sharing. But yeah, you were talking to everyone about using a cup and including your sister?

Ruth [00:20:35]:

I was loving using a cup. My sister lives in rural Zimbabwe, she was visiting in the UK and we were talking about the girls at her school. I was just asking how it was going and she was saying, to be honest, the biggest issue we’re having is just the girls’periods. Everything else is kind of we’re kind of set up with the actual physical work that we’ve got the papers we need, we’ve got the textbooks, we’ve had donations for, all that kind of side. We’ve got the tables and chairs, we’ve got the practical side. But now we’re just finding the girls just aren’t coming to school for a week every month because they’re on their period. They don’t have any period products. They’re using rags, which are obviously not very reliable, so then they just stay at home to save embarrassment. Or the school was getting donations, but with inflation in Zimbabwe, they’ve gone to the US dollar, but inflation is just horrendous. So a farmer in the rural area would be on $1 a day and a pack of sanitary pads were costing about $10. So when you think about that, they just need to be buying food as well. You can’t spend ten days work and that’s only on one pack of sanitary towels, which then you use and you throw away and you need to use them again. So they were relying on donations, but those donations were needing to come in every month, so the girls were missing school, basically. My sister has lived in Zim for years and years, so she has no concept of reusable products or anything like that, from what we are being advertised to a little bit more in the know, even with, like, period pants, she wouldn’t have heard of anything like that. So she was like, we just need something like a tampon that they can reuse. I was like, well, funny should say that. So, yeah, so that’s sitting on that bench with her having a little cup of tea, that was where the idea came. That was kind of the boost I needed to give me the confidence to say, actually, no, yes, I am trained as an actress and that’s all my training. I have no other experience in anything else, I have no business experience. But, yeah, why not? Why not me? If it’s not me, if I’m not brave enough, someone else will do it at another time and then they’ll get to have the experience that I have dreamed of having. So just got to fake it till I make it and just start. So, yes, that was the idea, was to start a menstrual cup business and for each one we sold, we’d donate one to her school and then the girls would have something. So, a menstrual cup, you use that one cup for your period and at the end of your period, you just clean it, put it away and you use it again the next month. And if you’re cleaning it properly and storing it properly, you can use it for years and years. So, having gone from trying to donate sanitary towels every month to every girl in the school, we were then able to just give one Bettercup to each girl. We actually ended up giving them to the mums first, so the mums started using them, got used to them and then helped their girls, kind of guided their girls into using them as well. And so now they’re sorted for years and years with their period.

Caroline [00:23:37]:

And a whole week of education a month.

Ruth [00:23:38]:

Totally, which, again, is the gender inequality, because obviously the boys weren’t needing to lose a week of their education each month. So now the girls can be right there at the front ready for exams without worrying about their period.

Caroline [00:23:52]:

And it’s still that embarrassment piece, isn’t there? I know we talk about it a lot. There’s a bit a lot more talk about, why am I hiding my tampon up my sleeve kind of thing. Which you wouldn’t need if you’re using a Bettercup, but you shouldn’t need to do that at all, that kind of thing. But I think that’s why these conversations are so important, because it is like half the population have periods, so it should not be an embarrassing conversation to have. And I’d love to know, because obviously your background wasn’t in products and how on earth ,because if I was going to start a product business, I’d be like, where do I start? I’ve not got that background at all. You Google, how do I make a menstrual cup?

Ruth [00:24:35]:

Yep. You’re bang on the money. Yeah. So I had the idea and just kept it to myself for a few days, but then I was just too excited. I think once you’ve had the idea, it’s kind of already been birthed, and then you’re like, Well, I’ve got to do it now. But I was equally completely terrified. So I’d been at my parents when I saw my sister. So when I came back home, I had a day of childcare. I went to my local very lovely coffee shop, and I just sat down knowing I had kind of nine till three, just to sit here, work through my flat whites. And I literally just Googled, what is a menstrual cup? What is a menstrual cup made from? Then discovered silicone. What is silicone? And just slowly started googling. And I very much told myself at the beginning of that day, I don’t need to have anything to show for today. I very consciously didn’t put pressure on myself for quite a while into the process. Each day was just, I’m just going to look at this. I’m just going to research this. Okay, now I’m going to work out where it’s manufactured. Okay? Now I’m going to just start trying to Google actual manufacturing names and find actual factories. Then I actually did a lot of brainstorming of, okay, who do I know? Who do I know that manufactures or has a product based business? Who do I know that does branding? Just brainstormed. All my friends that are far cleverer than me and thought, right, who can I surround myself with? What brilliant women can I surround myself with? Honestly, I am such an advocate for if I can start a business, anyone can start a business. Because I had no experience, no knowledge, and it was honestly just Google was my best friend. I’d email a manufacturer, and then they’d know, what’s your MOQ or something, and I’d then Google, what’s MOQ, then reply, Totally. And even now, when I look back at I was looking back at some of an email chain with the factory I did end up working with, some of my initial emails I now read and I just cringe and I think, oh, they were so gracious with me, they were so patient with my strange questions. But you’ve got to, you’ve got to be prepared to look a bit silly, ask the questions, you’ve got nothing to lose because the business doesn’t exist yet, and even now it does, I still ask silly questions. But you’ve just got to go for it, you’ve got to step out.

Caroline [00:26:55]:

No such thing as silly questions.

Ruth [00:26:56]:

Totally.

Caroline [00:26:57]:

We say that at Upsource to all our team. No such thing. And if you’re hiding behind email, even better.

Ruth [00:27:04]:

If you don’t ask, you won’t know.

Caroline [00:27:05]:

Yeah, exactly. And I love so many things that you said. There such small actionable goals that made you feel good but weren’t going to be like, right, I’ve got nine till three, I’m going to have my product and my supplier sorted by the end of it. You didn’t set unrealistic goals and were kind to yourself, which is really important. You are like a part of probably in line with your sustainability. It’s like, if you’re going to build a sustainable business, don’t rush it. Set yourself small goals that you can achieve and ask your friends for help, because I still do. They all know way more about, one of my best friends did my first contract and sometimes they may want to kill you in the process, but they want to help you at the same time.

Ruth [00:27:45]:

Yeah, definitely.

Caroline [00:27:46]:

So I love that. It is like you sat there and thought, who’s in my network? Who can help me? And that’s so valuable to have the confidence, because I don’t think everyone does, to be like, I’ve got this idea who can help me? And, yeah, I think that’s a great way of starting and how I started myself. And so you started this business before your third baby, is that right?

Ruth [00:28:08]:

Yes.

Caroline [00:28:09]:

So how did that look like? Did you decide you were going to take some maternity leave from the business or you thought, I’ll just see how it goes, kind of thing? How did you plan for that? Or did you plan for that?

Ruth [00:28:24]:

Yeah, so I was in a good rhythm. So before the third baby, we’re in a good rhythm of the oldest was in school and the younger one was in 30 hours of childcare each week. So that was kind of my working parameters. And actually, as well, at that time, my husband was freelance, so we very much tag teamed and worked together. His situation has now changed and he’s in a job, in a real adult job. Yeah, I know, he’s so serious. So that’s changed. He does the school run in the morning, but from then on, it’s pretty much all on me, which has been a, you know, that’s been a joint decision going into it and the job was right for him to take. But it means it has shifted a bit in terms of my responsibility is a bit more full on at home, but yes. So the children were in school in 30 hours of childcare, and then I was pregnant with number three. And so I decided to be organized, which is unlike me, I’m not a very organized person. And I decided to hire someone, get some help. Kind of was going to be about kind of 15 hours a week of help with kind of content for the website and for Instagram and just getting some help so I could set myself up. So when the baby came, it wasn’t all coming to me. This is another thing I’ve learned. Starting a business, everything you do, you’re doing for the first time. If you haven’t run a business before, everything is a learning opportunity. And I genuinely would say, at most points, I’ve made the wrong decision, and then I look back and learn. And so I’ve learned a lot. It’s a shame I can’t go back and do it all again, just really smoothly, make all the right choices. Right back to the first your next business.

Caroline [00:30:16]:

That’ll be fine.

Ruth [00:30:18]:

Exactly. Right back to the first product order. I remember I got centimeters and inches wrong for the packaging, and the packaging arrived and it’s tiny, these little organic cotton bags that would not fit anything in. And I remember being so cross on myself and I was like, I can’t do this. But, yeah, they’re all little knockbacks that you have to take as learning experience. Anyway. So with hiring someone, putting together a job description, holding zoom interviews, everything was really new and I felt very out of my depth. But I found a great girl who started working with me, and then, unfortunately, her personal situations changed and she had to stop working with me, which was really hard, and it was a real blow because it was basically just before I then had the third baby. So I feel like I tried to line everything up and I tried to be my unusually organized self. And then everything changed and I found myself back on my own again at kind of 38 weeks pregnant. So I did have a maternity plan, but then my maternity plan changed.

Caroline [00:31:22]:

Oh, wow. Gosh. Yeah. That’s stressful.

Ruth [00:31:26]:

Yeah, it was really hard. Again, I feel like maybe it’s one of my best skills, is telling myself I can almost trick myself into thinking things so I don’t actually get too stressed out. I quite good at just being like, it’s fine, it’s a gift. I don’t know, I somehow managed to stay quite level headed in moments like that.

Caroline [00:31:56]:

That is an excellent skill quality you should teach.

Ruth [00:32:00]:

Yes, I know. Yeah. You can make my millions. It wasn’t too stressful. I did what I needed to do and I just didn’t do what I didn’t need to do. And I also had a little word with myself and I just accepted that the following year, to kind of get the baby up to one, the business was just going to go slower. There was just no way around it. And that’s okay. We were two years in at that point, so enough was in place that the business could happily tick along. We’ve got a fulfillment center, we’ve got marketing stuff set up in terms of Google Ads and those kind of things. So customers were coming and product was being sent out and so that would work without me. So that was fine. But most of my time goes into the bigger picture, planning, product planning, what are we doing in the next one to five years? So that was going to slow down, but I just had to be okay with that. And I knew third and last baby really want to embrace that time. So actually it was fine. And so I just went in with it, knowing what my expectations were and where there was going to be sacrifice, but also where there was going to be gain. But yes, my maternity leave was nonexistent. I was emailing my branding lady on day one of baby, but again, she’s a really close friend and I was in bed with the baby and at that moment, and I was really excited. This is when we were planning Better Pads, our second product, and I was really excited about them. And I didn’t feel like I was being pulled to my computer. The baby was sleeping and I wanted to email her because I wanted to know how it was going. And so I think I just took each day as it came of how much I wanted to, how much I didn’t want. And she replied, being like, what are you doing? Get off your emails. She was really cross.

Caroline [00:34:00]:

Yeah, I guess third child, you know, when you’re in bed with a newborn, you know that’s going to be the easier part.

Ruth [00:34:07]:

Yeah, totally. Those first few weeks were lovely. That was one thing I was really strict with. With my second baby, that was probably the hardest because I had the guilt of the first one, I thought, oh, no, the first one, his whole life’s changed and I’ve got to make it up to him. And so with the second baby, kind of 24 hours later, I was going down a slide in the playground with my older child because I felt so guilty.

Caroline [00:34:32]:

Well done, you.

Ruth [00:34:34]:

No, but no, I mean, goodness me. And then I had my, like, donut cushion to sit on afterwards. I had very unnecessary guilt, as we all do when your first child becomes a sibling. And looking back, I wish I could have just told myself to be kinder to myself and that actually it was the best thing I was ever going to give him. They’re thick as thieves, best friends. It was the best thing. But, yeah, with the third baby, I think you have much better. You’ve got the hindsight of how it goes and, you know, that actually the newborn days are lovely. And now is the bit where it’s getting a bit trickier of, okay, how do you work around a 14 month old rather than a four day old?

Caroline [00:35:15]:

Are they at home as well? They’re not in any form of childcare at the minute.

Ruth [00:35:18]:

Yeah, he’s at home at the moment, yeah, so true.

Caroline [00:35:23]:

I had to laugh at that because yeah, it’s so true of my second child. I think when he turned two and a half, not a few months after I had my second, and it was very terrible twos, I thought I’d broken him, I thought I’d ruined him.

Ruth [00:35:34]:

Yeah, me too. Me too. He started hitting I was like, he’s seeing so much violence at home, which obviously he isn’t. I was like, what ruined him?

Caroline [00:35:47]:

I need to remember this to my friends about to have their seconds.

Ruth [00:35:51]:

They’re not yeah, and it’s so worth it. And they’ll be such good buddies. Yeah, it’s hard.

Caroline [00:36:01]:

No, I love that you’ve got a 14 month at home and obviously then with the other ones, you’ll be battling things like school holidays and things. Something I like to talk about with mums on a podcast, because I know the term, how do you do it? Because I think a couple of years ago, it was like, well, we’re not asking men who run businesses how they do it. Why are we asking women? And there’s been a bit of pushback now of like, well, if we’re going to embrace that, a majority of women like yourself, and even if it’s a decision you’ve made together, carry the mental load at home or carry a majority of the household labor as well. And childcare, how do you do it? How do you feel about that term? And is there any wisdom you can give to mums who are wondering how you do it? And they want to try and create something similar?

Ruth [00:36:45]:

I think most importantly, don’t ever compare your own life, of which you see the whole thing, to someone else’s life that you’re just seeing in a podcast interview or on Instagram or whatever, because your reality is not the same as the reality that they’re showing you. Even if they’re showing you warts and all they physically can’t show you 24 hours in their day. So I think that’s where the unhelpful comparison can start, can’t it? Because you then start telling yourself a narrative of, I should be able to do more because I see these other women doing it. And then you think, how do they do it? But you’re asking yourself how they do it of something that isn’t reality.

Caroline [00:37:32]:

A filtered version.

Ruth [00:37:33]:

Yes. You’re comparing yourself to something that doesn’t exist. Yeah, I don’t know. All of this comes from quite a privileged place where you’re assuming that you’re doing something that you love because you love it, and that you’re lucky enough to be doing a job that you’ve chosen to do. Not out of necessity, but because it’s a passion. But I think coming from that place, it’s just focusing on why you enjoy it. And for me, it’s been a really hard probably three months. I’d say the last three months have been really hard. Just post Brexit and the cost of living crisis, it’s really hard. So my products are manufactured in Europe. Just one example, my container price has gone up 800% since Brexit. So it’s just crazy numbers that you just weren’t prepared for. So it’s been a really hard three months. But I just tell myself again, within the privilege of the job I do, I don’t have to do this. I’ve chosen this business. I’ve chosen to start this brand. If this is going to make me miserable or if the juggle is too much, I don’t have to do it. I’ve chosen to do this. And so I choose every day, I choose to get up and enjoy doing it and to find the fun in it and to find the enjoyment and with the challenges that come, choose to see them as a positive and to see them as a chance to learn, a chance to grow. So then that means the job side I’m actually enjoying rather than it being a stress and a strain. And then I try and really enjoy time with the children again. I feel like I’m painting a much simpler picture than what my day to day life looks like. But I try as much as I can do when I’m with the baby, be with the baby. We go to rhyme time. We go to the garden centre and see friends for a coffee, and I’m not on my emails. And then when he’s napping or when I’ve sat him down in his little circle of toys, then my head’s in work. So I don’t know, I think it’s kind of finding a rhythm that works for you, working out what hours work for you. Do you work well in the evening? I used to work in the evening, and actually, I just don’t work well in the evening. If it’s something that’s quite mindless, I’m okay, but I really want my downtime. I really want to watch MAFSA and just switch off again. That means the business might be slower or whatever the consequences are of that. That’s something I want to do and I want to hold on to I want to hold on to my evenings. So then, okay, I only have the day, so then where do I fit it into the day? But, yeah, I don’t know. I think. Yeah. Making it work for you within your parameters and not comparing what you think someone else’s parameters are because you don’t actually know what they are. And finding the enjoyment in it. Finding the enjoyment in your work whilst also finding the enjoyment in your children. Because I think as well, I slipped into a bit of a season of resenting time with them because it meant I couldn’t focus on work. And then I missed my son’s first day of school. So our oldest son, I missed his first day of school because of work and because of something, I’d already booked in this big shoot for Bettercup that was planned and I couldn’t change. I missed his first day of school and I spent the whole first half of the shoot completely distracted and kicking myself and really annoyed that I was missing his first day. And then I had a chat with myself and I was like, I’m getting nothing out of today now, I’m not present at the shoot and that’s not changing the fact that I’m not present at his first day of school. So let’s enjoy this and be here because I need to actually be helpful and be present and then I can go home and be fully present with him and find out how his first day went and then of course went home and he couldn’t have cared less that I wasn’t there. His dad was there, his auntie was there, like he didn’t care. I probably just would have cried and made it worse, probably he was probably less traumatised because I wasn’t there clinging onto him. My thing is it’s easy to almost be grass is greener of your own life and be like I wish I was just full time with the children, I wish I was full time in work. I’m being pulled in both ways was actually trying to shift it. I know Anna Mather talks about this, and I think it probably existed as well before her, or I don’t know if it actually came from her, but the idea of I get to do this rather than I have to do this, and I get to work, and I get to be at home with the toddler and then find a way to make that work. But having that mindset of I get to do it.

Caroline [00:42:24]:

Exactly. No, I love the get to do it. I remember it was her that I saw that from as well. And I think that’s so true because I always try and remember myself that with Upsource when I’m having a bad day or I might have taken on much more than I should have done. I’m like I chose to and every client we bring on, I chose to do that. No one else has made that decision, it’s me. And I think that’s really powerful thing to realise because when I’ve made a mistake, it’s like, well that was me, I made that mistake and that’s fine, I clearly had to make that mistake. It’s like you can’t be too positive about everything and wake up every day going oh, isn’t this great, I chose this. But at the same time, it’s much easier than when you’re employed and you’re getting stuff dumped on you to be like, well, I chose this business, and if I’m having a bad phase, what can I change again to make it better? And you’re right, be present with the kids when you’re with the kids, if you can, obviously. Sometimes things happen where things hit the fan and they’ll understand. And I suppose as they get older, it’s easy to talk to them about it, but it’s good for them to see you working. I’m a full advocate for that. So, yeah, thank you for sharing.

Ruth [00:43:36]:

Yeah, I think it’s more with the toddler. I try and be fully present with him, but yeah, no, I’m a huge advocate for that with the older ones, not when I’m trying to be with them and you’re kind of like one eye on your phone. But I definitely am a big advocate for mummy’s working. Like, I’m doing this. You can wait so that they see that, because they know daddy goes to his office and I don’t like that. That’s such a visual for them. If they’re not then getting that visual for mummy going to work. So it’s a real thing we talk about at home, mummy works and that you don’t always see it, but it’s happening.

Caroline [00:44:13]:

No, keep doing that. I think not my toddler, my school child got angry. I’d left his scooter at home and I was like, well, I had to go into this office, I couldn’t take it. He was like, you could have just left it outside. It’s kind of in town. But it was like, at least he had this conversation that sometimes I go somewhere and I couldn’t have leave it outside in the middle of London. So can you share what’s next for Ruth and the Better Company? Because you’ve spoken about your pads, which we haven’t really touched on. So if you want to chat about those. But where do you want to go with your business? Is there anything you can share with us?

Ruth [00:44:51]:

Yeah, I mean, growth is the goal. Sell more to be able to donate more. It’s a very sweeping statement to say that we want to see the end of period poverty. But that is the mission. The mission is that period poverty is something that you learn about in history. And it’s not something that is going on now, because it’s just ridiculous that something that is just a fundamental, basic human right isn’t being met in so many places. That’s the kind of big goal. Which is also, on a side note, I find so helpful when you have a really strong why, like, know why you’ve started something to anyone listening to this that’s starting a business, know why you’re doing it. And I think, again, like we were saying, that’s one of the things then gets you through the harder days, because it kind of brings me back and I kind of check back in of like, this is why we’re doing it. And so when loads of tiny cotton bags arrived, I was really annoyed. But then I was like, remember why I’m doing this and it’s not about me. So you kind of put your ego aside that you’ve made another mistake and focus on, right, why am I doing this? What’s the goal? And then it helps you kind of crack on. But yeah, so we started with just Bettercup and then brought out the other colour. But then Better pads have been our first next product, which has been really exciting to kind of branch out further than just our cup. So those are reusable pads that you can use for your period or post birth bleeding. There’s three sizes of kind of light, medium, heavy, and you just use it, rinse it, put it in the wash and use it again. And actually, a big reason behind those were, again, for our donations. So the school we donate to, the girls that are starting their period really young, aren’t comfortable using a cup. Completely understandably so. So the pads was always a passion to make sure we had those that we could meet everyone’s needs, that you don’t need to kind of try and fit into our donation. We need to fit to suit you and what you need. So the pads, that’s been a really exciting progression because obviously, yeah, we started donating to the school, but now we donate kind of all around the world to refugee day centres and women’s shelters and schools and all sorts of places. So, yeah, the dream is to keep growing more products, more products that are better. But, yeah, for now we’re just going to really focus on the cups and the pads. Hope that the climate calms down slightly in terms of finances and post Brexit and all that kind of thing. Just focus on the two products we’ve got. That’s a really scary thing about product based businesses is you put a lot of money into it before you then start earning it back. Because obviously you pay your factory to manufacture. So I’ve paid them to manufacture. So now we need to sell, sell, yeah. And donate, donate, donate. But, yeah, the hope is to keep growing, keep creating new products, and therefore keep donating more products.

Caroline [00:47:58]:

I love that. And I also love put the ego aside, what are you trying to do, end period poverty. I love that. And I still love the sizing of your boxes. I hope you’ve kept at least a box just to have there as a reminder of your mistakes, keep you humble. It just shows we all make mistakes. I love that you have a physical representation. Thank you so much. It’s been an absolute pleasure to chat to you and learn more about the Better Company. Where can the listeners find you and the Better Company if they want to find out more.

Ruth [00:48:36]:

So we’re the Better Company on Instagram. There’s an underscore somewhere there, but I can’t remember where. I think it’s underscore the better company or the better company underscore. But, yeah, we’re on Instagram and then the website is www.the-bettercompany.com the those are two main places, but Instagram, we’re very present. So any questions? I get questions every day about cervix height, and I’m in the bathroom and I’m not sure how to fold it can you help me? I love it. I count my job as such a privilege, or even then in person. I met somebody in the library the other day and before I knew her name, I knew how heavy her period was because she asked my business, I told her and then she suddenly opened up and then was like, oh, and by the way, my name’s Heather.

Caroline [00:49:30]:

This is totally what midwives must feel like. I know more about you than your name or anything. Yeah, totally.

Ruth [00:49:40]:

But, yeah, if you have any questions, there’s nothing you can ask that hasn’t already been asked. So slide into the DMs of the Better Company and we will be more than happy to talk about your vagina.

Caroline [00:49:53]:

Love it. Let’s talk about periods and vaginas more all day. We’ll do another one on this where we just chat on.

Ruth [00:49:59]:

Yes. Yeah.

Caroline [00:50:01]:

Perfect. Well, thank you so much, Ruth.

Ruth [00:50:04]:

Thank you so much.


Outro:
You have been listening to Bump to Business Owner, the podcast for mums running businesses, aspiring to run businesses, or simply supporters of mums who go on this crazy business journey. I’m your host Caroline Marshall and I run a virtual assistant agency called Upsource. I started it in lockdown 2020, I’ve seen it through maternity leave and it is growing alongside my two growing boys. Thank you so much, please connect me at Bump to Business Owner, my name is Caroline Marshall.

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