#BEYOUROWN MEETS CHERIE HOEGER AND AMBER FAWSON
Cherie Hoeger was talking with family in Venezuela who had gone for months without staple hygiene items. Cherie has an insatiable penchant for the practical and felt strongly about empowering people to take care of themselves. Three months later, Cherie was sourcing reusable menstrual products for hundreds of friends, just to be nice. She would catch Amber Fawson before leaving on road trips to neighboring states and send garbage bags full of supplies to deliver. (These kinds of things are Cherie’s idea of a hobby. Not joking).
Cherie started asking for custom changes to her orders and naturally wanted to create the perfect menstrual cup. Amber encouraged Cherie to combine her two passions—better period-care and empowerment for people who are marginalized because of their periods and circumstances. Amber, who had sold her own business (a chocolate shop) a couple years earlier, figured it was pretty much the most natural progression possible to go from selling chocolate to period care. So she and Cherie joined to start Saalt.
“We called it Saalt because it is symbolic of a basic, essential element. Periods too are a basic and essential part of human life. We believed the best approach to period care should be just as distinct, simple, and elemental.”
Hey Amber and Cherie, can you introduce yourself to us?
Hi, we’re Amber and Cherie and we recently launched Saalt, a reusable period care company. We both talk about periods all day to everyone we know, and you may not believe us, but we love it. Somehow talking about periods always leads to the best conversation. We’re sisters-in-law with 9 kids between us, and when we hang out away from Saalt, we eat Thai food and hip-hop hop dance classes together.
Can you take us through your journey to where you are now?
Saalt started with a phone call that Cherie made to an aunt in Venezuela. During the call, she learned that pads and tampons have not been available on store shelves for years. Cherie immediately thought of her 5 daughters and what she would do if she found herself in the same situation. The dependence she and others had on disposables kept her up at night.
Cherie has an insatiable penchant for the practical and felt strongly about empowering people with solutions to care for themselves. Three months later, she was sourcing reusable menstrual pads for hundreds of friends, just to be nice. (These kinds of things are Cherie’s idea of a hobby. Not joking. Her intention was to also source a bulk order of a good menstrual cup, but she couldn’t find one that met her ideal criteria. So she started custom designing her idea of the perfect cup.
Meanwhile, Amber had recently sold her own business, a chocolate shop and had no plans to start another business ever again (it’s a big job!). But as she and Cherie began to understand how something as simple as a period cup could give people a healthier way to care for their periods, divert waste, and keep girls everywhere in school, they became passionate about taking the cup mainstream. So she and Cherie joined to start Saalt. Amber figured it was pretty much the most natural progression possible to go from selling chocolate to period care. She came up with the name Saalt to represent something that is essential for our bodies, and also natural. Periods too are a basic and essential part of human life.
We believe the best approach to period care should be just as distinct, simple, and elemental.
What is a day in the life of you like?
Amber: I go to crossfit and come back home in time to get my kids ready for school and to make them watch educational videos while they eat breakfast (there’s less fighting with a video on!) The kids are off by 7:30, and then the juggle begins: business lunch dates along with Cherie, filming of Instagram stories, volunteering in the classroom, going to an occasional ballet class, and Saalt emails and meetings. Most days, a drive for half-day kindergarten pickup is thrown in there as well. I manage to make dinner sometimes—plenty of nights we eat frozen Indian food—and then I try to decide between getting sleep, talking with my husband, or cleaning house!
Cherie: My morning routine starts off with some inspirational reading, journaling, and meditation, followed by strength exercises that either keep on schedule or get cut short depending on how late I stayed up! The morning hustle dies down by 8:30am when my older three daughters are off to school, then it’s off with my younger two to the Saalt office where I get to work with the best team of thinkers and innovators all committed to changing lives of women for the better. And because we have an in-office preschool, I get to do what I love while still swooping up my girls throughout the day for hugs and giggles. It’s so liberating to have created an ideal work environment that empowers the mothers on our team! Back at home my time mostly goes to feeding kids and chauffeuring, but I savor every chance I get to cook something new, take a dance class, get outside, or dive into my pile of bedside books.
What was the concept behind launching Saalt?
We want to encourage friends to tell their friends about the cup! We need to talk periods openly. We believe that every person who has a period should at least know about the cup and that it is an option for managing their period. The cup is reusable for up to 10 years, can be worn for 12 hours at a time, and is more comfortable and healthier than tampons. That is the kind of thing a friend shares! We also know that across the world, girls without period card find it hard to attend school during their periods. Something as simple as sustainable period care can keep them in school and change their future and their family’s future forever. That cause is really what gets us through the frustrating days and wakes us up each morning.
How is Saalt funded, is it bootstrapped, self-funded etc.?
We are self-funded. We have taken out a nice, big, personal loan and are all-in this venture.
Can you tell us more about your brand DNA and ethos at Saalt?
Early on we started a focus group on Facebook and have worked hard as one big 1000+ person team to accomplish Saalt’s mission of bringing healthy, sustainable period care and period positivity to the world. Some of the Saalt team members we’ve hired have come from that group, and it’s incredible to see how everyone feels the Saalt mission personally. They are really all leaders in their own right. We are forever amazed by our team and the purposeful, brainy, and big-hearted people we meet through our online presence.
“We created Saalt with the simple goal to give people an option to care for themselves and others in a better way.”
Can you tell us how you are empowering women to care for their periods in a healthy and sustainable way?
We love how using the cup empowers people to not only care for their period in a way that is healthier for them and more sustainable for our planet, but also to get to know their own bodies. Using the cup introduces many people for the first time to their cervix height, changes in menstrual flow during their cycle, uterus position, and more. And because it helps them become more aware of menstrual health, we see cup users taking a more active role to improve their own health and become advocates for others.
Who does the team involve behind you at Saalt?
Last year at this time we had one employee. This year we had a holiday party and filled Cherie’s house with 13 members of our Saalt team, plus we have two who work remotely and couldn’t join us.
We love our team desperately and often can’t believe how smart and capable they all are at what they do. We have the most incredible and committed customer service gurus (they’ll chat with one person on the phone for half an hour sometimes), team members who pour out love on social media, an artsy product designer, a sales manager who also throws the best local parties, a brilliant preschool teacher for the kiddos, an office manager, a show-stopping creative director, and our husbands who now work 60+ hours a week on Saalt.
Where can you see yourself within the next 3-5 years?
We hope to make a waste-free and healthy period available to almost everyone with additional product options, and we want to bring period care to more countries through sales channels and charity partners.
Which methods are you using to build your own support network?
We have been amazed at how many BFFs we make through Instagram, YouTube, local events, and summits. We have built some committed, strong relationships. It is such a sense of satisfaction to have fellow warriors in our mission to bring healthier periods to everyone.
What do you believe are the common misconceptions about and how are you using your platform and voice to educate people more about sustainable living?
Saalt is more than just a menstrual cup. We are working to overcome some very entrenched societal norms and cultural taboos. Nobody wants to talk about periods, and because of that, there’s been a huge lack of innovation and work done to develop better products that provide healthier and more sustainable options for period care. This stigma also stifles people from adopting improvements that are really no-brainers. For instance, one Saalt cup can divert 3,000 tampons from landfills (which is actually over 9,000 pieces of trash when you consider the plastic applicator and wrapper too)! If the period talk is taboo, discussing menstrual cups is just off the table. We’ve found that in so many cultures, women are still treated as second-class citizens. We work to educate both men and women that periods are not only normal but a healthy process that makes human life possible. By actively engaging in this discussion, we empower women all over the world to care for themselves in a better way and instil a level of dignity that inspires them to rise up and care for others as well.
What would you like to see changed for millennials in business?
We believe that a business governed by strong ethics and principles creates a powerful vehicle to bring about positive change. We’d love to see millennial entrepreneurs embrace their influence to do more good in the world through the Benefit Corporation model. We believe the Benefit Corporation standard is decisively the way of the future. It focuses on conscious capitalism in every aspect of business from sourcing products responsibly, paying fair wages, committing to honesty and transparency, and using business as a source for good, all give us hope and optimism for the future. There is so much every business can do to maximise their social impact while simultaneously decreasing their environmental footprint. In an era where cheap and disposable products offer far more profit, we hope millennials in business will instead choose better health for their customers and our planet.
How do you create an evenly balanced work and personal life?
Honestly, having empowered employees and freelance partners has been incredible for us. Amber came from running a chocolate company where she did everything from shopping for ingredients to delivering the product, to designing packaging, to seeking out retail contracts. Having committed team members makes a world of difference. We also had a big ah-ha moment when Cherie realised we could hire an in-office preschool teacher to help her and several other team members in the office. Additionally, we also have slowly taken over more and more of our husband’s work schedules, and have been endlessly grateful for their ability to take as much ownership for nurturing Saalt as we do, and in juggling parenting pick-ups, drop-offs, sick days, fun days and everything else.
A seminal point in your career so far?
Getting to pitch together to a major retailer and have them tell us they loved our product!! Big news coming later this year!
What gives you ultimate career satisfaction?
When we started Saalt, we knew that supporting girls education would be a key pillar to our social mission. Education opportunity has done more to shape our confidence, prosperity, and fulfilment in our personal lives as women than any other single factor. Yet so many girls and women are halted early in their educational pursuits. The loss of potential is heartbreaking, and yet the solution is so simple.
There’s nothing that gives us more satisfaction than witnessing the power one menstrual cup has to afford a girl the opportunity to finish school, provide for her family, and break the cycle of poverty for generations. Each additional year of school can increase a girl’s lifetime earnings as by as much as 25%! Most importantly, it empowers a girl to care for herself and increase her feelings of self-worth. We want our daughters (Amber has two daughters and Cherie has five) and every young girl to grow up in a world where they are limited by nothing but their own hard work and resolve to accomplish their dreams. To think that we could do something to help create that world is worth any effort we can give.
What challenges have you seen to have been presented during the growth of Saalt?
Finding the right team members, partner relationships, and suppliers that share our vision of uncompromising quality in our products and social impact is always tough at the start. Though we’ve hit a few bumps in the road, every effort to identify the right key partners has been worth it. And we’ve learned that once you find that amazing individual or team that buys into your vision, you do everything you can to nurture that relationship because good business is all about good people!
What is a good article or book you have read recently?
We both love Essentialism by Greg McKeown and are complete disciples of its pages. We’ve also been loving Factfulness by Hans Rosling. In the past 20 years, billions of people worldwide have escaped a level of poverty where they didn’t have clean water and their children couldn’t go to school. Now, with better access to clean water and more girls attending primary and secondary school, the ability for healthy period care to change lives is here. We want to make that happen.
Top 3 go-to Podcast channels?
- ‘How I Built This.’
- ‘The Economist.’
- ‘99% Invisible.’
What does #BEYOUROWN mean to you?
Being authentically and confidently you. Brené Brown said it best: “Authenticity is the daily practice of letting go of who you think we’re supposed to be and embracing who we are.”
Finally, What can we expect from you both and Saalt?
We hope that our work with Saalt can continue to create a meaningful and measurable impact on the lives of women through our commitment to better innovation for period care and sustainability for our planet.
Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/saaltco/ (also search Facebook for our closed group, Saalt Cup Academy)
Website link: https://www.saaltco.com/
Image by Leah Southwick