Has This Portlander Designed a Better Menstrual Cup?
Does the world really need another menstrual cup? At least a couple dozen—from the venerable Diva Cup to the bulbous FemmyCycle—already exist on the market. (If you’d like a thorough roundup of 18 options, as well as a detailed recounting of the struggle to simulate a vagina using Champagne flutes and bubble wrap, peep this Wirecutter guide.)
But Portlander Amanda Wilson thinks she’s got something new to offer. As founder of Voxapod, Wilson has just entered the menstrual cup fray. The company launched a Kickstarter campaign earlier this month, aiming to raise roughly $84,000 by April 5.
“I’ve tried probably a dozen cups,” says Wilson. “I couldn’t find one that had the function and comfort I wanted.”
So a couple of years ago, Wilson—former president of Woman Led, a nonprofit that supports (as the name suggests) woman-led businesses—decided to innovate her own design. (Another precipitating event? While climbing Mount St. Helens in October 2015, Wilson came across another hiker’s period trash—tampon, applicator, wrapper, and all. “Part of me was frustrated, but part of me was empathetic for the hiker,” says Wilson, who’s also a bodybuilder and a mother. “She was just trying to take care of it.”)
Wilson and her team gathered a group of about 40 women—including college students, athletes, doctors, and parents—and spent the next 18 months perfecting the design. The result is a cup made in California from medical-grade silicone and boasting a few notable features, including pinch grips at the base for easy removal, a bell-shaped curve to minimize poking, and a more compact shape than many other cups on the market. Wilson initially wanted a cup without a stem, but the women in her test group weren’t having it. “Our first iteration didn’t have a stem,” she says. “Some women loved it, but others had a hard time psychologically.”
The compromise? A flexible stem that can be trimmed or removed. (But, just for the record, no: you cannot lose a menstrual cup inside your vagina.)
Concerns around comfort and environmental impact were paramount to Wilson—she’s quick to rattle off stats about how in the US alone, we discard 12 billion pads and 7 billion tampons per year (that's according to the National Women's Health Network). She also opted to launch Voxapod as a benefit corporation. The company has partnered with Femme International, which works to promote menstrual health education and gender parity in East Africa. To start off, Wilson says 1 percent of Voxapod’s revenue will go directly to Femme International. In the future, she envisions 10 or even 20 outreach partners, including grantees in the US and groups addressing policy.
For now, though, it’s about getting Voxapod to market. Fulfillment for the initial Kickstarter orders should happen by October or November, Wilson says. In the meantime, she aims to build up e-commerce and reach out to wholesale retailers, such as Whole Foods and REI.
“When you think about how we manage our periods, there’s been very little innovation in the sector,” Wilson says. “Women deserve to have more options.”