Menstrual health has been somewhat of an enigma in the consumer products world. Often misunderstood and rarely talked about — especially among older generations — few products have come along that have truly revolutionized the category.
Diva is a first-of-its-kind women’s wellness brand that’s setting a new standard in a male-dominated industry. Offering eco-friendly menstrual products, Diva launched in 2002 when Francine Chambers and her daughter, co-founder and CEO, Carinne Chambers-Saini, were inspired to change the conversation around menstruation.
We caught up with Chambers-Saini to learn more about Diva’s journey, how she’s approaching hiring, and more.
ForceBrands: You’re a trailblazer in the menstrual health space. What inspired your interest in changing the dialogue around this particular area of women’s health?
Carinne Chambers-Saini: My mom inspired me to change the dialogue around period health. I’ve always looked up to her. She’s been both an entrepreneur and an advocate for women’s health her whole life, and instilled in me the importance of understanding and advocating for our health and bodies. When I graduated from university, we decided to join forces and develop our product the DivaCup. We worked from our kitchen table and relentlessly challenged the male-dominated industry. Twenty years later, our products are sold in over 40 countries and we’ve made over 80 million periods better and more sustainable, worldwide. My mom continues to be my number one source of inspiration and strength.
FB: You’ve created a certified B-Corp and competitive sustainable business model for Diva. Why is sustainability important to you as part of Diva’s brand story?
CC: Owning a brand that is making a positive impact on both the planet and for people who menstruate has always been a priority to me. After seeing how much menstrual product waste goes straight to landfills and our oceans, it inspired me to make a change in the menstrual product space. I didn’t want to be another business that adds more waste to our planet, hence why we introduced the DivaRecycles program. We care about our consumers and the future of our planet and want to leave it better than when we started. Since launching DivaRecycles on Earth Day 2021, we’ve recycled and re-purposed over 1,000 DivaCups.
FB: In the earliest stages of development, what challenges did you run into when introducing the product? How did you educate your consumers about it?
CC: The industry was saturated by disposables and run by older men who didn’t understand the needs of women and people who menstruate. They were calling the shots of who and what products get into mainstream retailers. We didn’t let that stop us and were very nimble. We worked from our kitchen table, regularly attended local pop-up markets to introduce ourselves to our local communities, and slowly started creating brand awareness. Eventually, at every trade show, we went to, we became known as ‘the Diva girls.’ Word of mouth was exceptionally important to our start and our growth.
We also found that the older generation is hesitant to talk about periods as it was seen (and still is often seen) as taboo. With that, it’s our mission to educate consumers about our products and showcase how they are an environmentally-friendly alternative. Our DivaCup can last five years or more with proper care — and many distributors and buyers (most of whom were older men) didn’t want to make waves on the shelf.
FB: You’re leading innovation in the menstrual health space. How do you see this sector evolving as it relates to both products and overall conversation?
CC: The sector is ever-evolving. We’re seeing a positive transformation in the menstrual health sector, especially with newcomers introducing new menstrual products made for diverse bodies. Brands are entering the space with intention and a mission that’s focused on much more than providing products, but rather on serving and giving back to their community. Additionally, period talk is becoming less taboo than before, and we’re creating the space for consumers to feel safe and talk about it.
FB: As a female entrepreneur, do you have any women mentors who have helped and inspired you in your career?
CC: Again, I have to credit my mom. I grew up watching her as an entrepreneur, fearlessly trying new things and pushing boundaries. She was always ready to have hard conversations and talk about difficult topics – with her friends, family, and other women who she knew would benefit from the DivaCup.
FB: How have you approached hiring and team building? What qualities are most important to you in new hires?
CC: Kindness is underrated.
When Diva is building out a team, we are always looking for people who are kind and just have good hearts. We like working with good people — finding a mix of ambition and heart in our team makes every day more enjoyable.
FB: What’s the best piece of leadership advice you’ve received that may be helpful for other leaders on their own entrepreneurial journeys?
CC: Keep going. People are going to say no, people will doubt you, and people will even call you crazy. But that’s okay. Keep going despite being misunderstood — you have a vision and it’s your job to stick to it.
FB: Knowing what you know now, is there anything you would have done differently when you first launched Diva? Anything the pandemic has taught you that made you think differently about the work that you’re doing now?
CC: I wouldn’t take a thing back — even the mistakes that we’ve made have been gifts to us. I am constantly learning and I haven’t had a thing to regret on this 20-year journey with Diva.
The pandemic brought a whole new set of challenges to our business — we were suddenly tasked with managing a whole team remotely and keeping everyone safe and healthy. It has been a positive period of transformation for the business because, despite it being challenging, we have been forced to level up in so many ways. For example, we recognized the need for Paid Menstrual Leave days for our staff in 2021 — a landmark for a company like ours. We are asking ourselves more and more how can we not only accommodate our staffs’ needs but support them? The pandemic forced this thinking front and center for us.
FB: What’s ahead for Diva? Where do you see the company in 3-5 years?
CC: We are gearing up to launch our 2021-2022 Impact Report, where we provide an overview of our efforts of the past year across partnerships, advocacy, education, sustainability, and more. Additionally, Diva has some exciting product innovations coming down the pipeline! Our hope with these upcoming launches is to take an even more active stance in the menstrual health space and continue to offer our customers products they love to make managing their period easier. We’re also working to expand into wellness products holistically, so we’re very excited to continue innovating and leading in the marketplace!