Instagram Live Chat with June Diane Raphael

Interviewer: June Diane Raphael, @junediane
Interviewee: Cherie Hoeger, @saaltco

June: Cherie Hoeger is the CEO and co-founder of Saalt, a company that aims to modernize reusable period care. In 2018, Saalt launched its first product, the Saalt period cup, with the vision of making cleaner, more sustainable period care accessible to everyone. Before starting Saalt, Cherie had been an entrepreneur in multiple e-commerce ventures. She worked as a tech writer with 15 years of publication experience. Most recently, which fascinated me, she co-authored seven editions of collegiate textbooks in the field of fitness and wellness. And she's also the mother of five daughters.

Cherie, please request to join this live so we can begin. Oh, there she is!

Cherie:  Hi! Thank you for having me today! 

June: I'm so glad you're here! Cherie, I'm already getting so many questions in these comments about period cups. Let's get into it. Where did this idea come from? How did you start? And what does sustainable period care mean to you? 

Cherie:  Those are great questions! The spark for Saalt started with a phone call I had with an aunt in Venezuela. My aunt was describing the scene there and how she couldn't access food, diapers, and basic consumer things like pads and tampons. That got me really interested in reusables. I have five daughters and I immediately thought, “what would I do in this situation?” So that introduced me to the menstrual cup. I thought, ”why haven't I heard about this all my life?” It's cleaner, it's sustainable, it's non-toxic, you can sleep with it in, you can wear it for up to 12 hours. I bought several to try out, but I just couldn't find one that met all of my ideal criteria. So my husband helped me create a new 3D cup model of what I hoped would be the perfect cup, and that's what led us to start Saalt. 

June: A menstrual cup was certainly not introduced to me when I got my period at 12 years old. I am somebody who is looking for solutions, and I'd never heard of this before. So there does seem to be a real education piece that's missing. How do you use the cup? How does it work? 

Cherie: You need to fold the cup, there are three main folds: the C-fold, the Punch-down fold, and the Seven fold. Then you're going to insert it horizontally towards your tailbone. Once you insert it, you let it pop open, and you give it a little twist. And leave it in for up to 12 hours. When you go to remove it, you break the seal and then you wiggle it out, remove it, dump it, give it a quick rinse, and then you can insert it back in. That easy! 

June: My stylist is the one who got me into the Saalt cup. One day I inserted the cup, I walked out of the bathroom, and I did not feel it. That began my journey with the Saalt cup and it's truly been life-changing. 

Cherie, can you talk to us a little bit about the difference between purchasing the larger cup and the smaller cup? Which one folks should look for?

Cherie: Yeah. We have our small cup and our regular cup. We generally recommend the smaller cup for beginners, and also for people who have a low cervix. The small cup holds two to three times the amount of a tampon, and the regular cup fills three to four times. Twenty-five milliliters and 30 milliliters. We recommend that you use the regular cup if you have a high cervix. And I know the question that you're asking me, “well, how do I know if I have a high or low cervix?” Okay, the beauty of being a cup user is you start to get to know your anatomy.

So I'll give you a little trick and it is going to involve some hands-on experience with your body: You want to insert your fingers into your vaginal canal, and your cervix feels something like the tip of your nose with a hole in it. If you feel it at the first knuckle, then you have a low cervix. If you go to the second knuckle, it's a medium height. And if you go to the third knuckle or you can't feel it, then it's higher. We also have a cup quiz on our website, making it super easy based on age, flow, and cervix height.

June: Does it matter if you've had children? If you haven't had children? Do you have recommendations for people who've had babies, people who haven't had babies yet? 

Cherie: It does. It's not the only indicator, and we don't like to use it as the primary indicator, but it does matter. It really depends on people's anatomy. Everyone is so different and so unique. So age and birth aren't the only indicators. Flow is a bigger indicator, and so is your cervix height.

June: Okay. So I'm going to start talking more about what the company is doing. I would love for you, Cherie, to tell everybody about what Saalt is doing for women and people on their periods all across the world. 

Cherie: Saalt is a B Corp. We have this mission of giving 2% back to initiatives: menstrual health, education, and sustainability. That involves giving educational scholarships for young girls, and funding direct cleanup efforts. I want to say a little bit about education because I'm a mother of five and I'm a college educated woman living in a first-world privileged country. I think it's hard for us to really realize how stifling periods can be to those in developing nations. As soon as a girl hits puberty, school dropout rates just start to skyrocket. There is this deep tie between menstruation and education, and this little cup can solve that. It can literally break barriers for people, it can keep girls in school, it can help women earn more, it can create so many solutions for women and girls out there. This is really what drives and motivates my team every day. It's a beautiful pattern. 

June: Clearly there's a disproportionate effect in developing countries, and I've never heard about the connection to education and that's so startling and upsetting, but in general there's such a stigma around it. How do you recommend that women and men, and all genders talk about menstrual cycles? So that all of us can really demystify and de-stigmatize what is such a normal part of our lives.

Cherie: I've just seen how much progress has been limited by a stigmatized market. It's up to us as menstruators to set the tone of the conversation. So my advice is to go in with openness, with directness, and make sure that you feel comfortable. You're setting this tone and that's where people are going to get their cues.

I also want to mention that I love that Jane Club offers childcare. That's one of the first things that we tackled here at Saalt. I came in with my two year old and I realized right away that my husband was able to put in more work hours than I was. And we decided to offer a free on-site preschool five days a week for working parents. It has been so instrumental to our success because we've been able to tap into this amazing pool of stellar talent who can now come back to the workforce.

June: I appreciate that. That's incredible that you offer childcare at your company. I'm just going to say, as a Saalt cup user, the cup feels more dignified. It is much easier to deal with a Saalt cup than with tampons. So how do you clean the cup? How do you deal with it in public? 

Cherie:  When you first get the cup, we want you to boil it for four to five minutes just to sanitize it. When you're on your cycle, all you have to do is give it a rinse, you can use our Saalt Wash. We do recommend that you sanitize it between cycles, you can boil it, and then you store it in your little baggies.

The public restroom question is very common. I take a little water bottle in my purse and I just rinse it right there in the toilet. You can also just use toilet paper, or get a paper towel and wet it and take it with you at the stall. It's really no big deal. It's going back into your vaginal canal, it just came from there. 

June: I'm a full Saalt cup ambassador. For Saalt, I will do anything! I will encourage everybody to go to Saalt's Instagram @saaltco because when I have had some questions, I've gone onto their Instagram and in their story highlights they have a whole Q&A section.

Cherie:  I'll just quickly address education. When you become a cup user, you just start to know more about your body and flow, and you're introduced to your cervix height and your uterus position. Cup users start to learn more about their bodies, become more empowered, and then they start becoming passionate mentors for other people.

June: Yes! I really encourage everybody to try it. "Hey, do you take  a couple of cycles to get used to it?" For me, it was the first insertion, done! I was a complete believer. 

Cherie: I think that's a great wrap up, to expect a learning curve. You have the biggest cup cheerleaders in our Saalt Cup Academy. If you want to join there, you can ask all your questions and you have the biggest support group. We're here for you.

June: I want to thank you so much for joining me today. Everyone who signed on, thank you so much for being a part of this conversation! I'm just so happy to spread the word about this. I really encourage everybody who gets their period to just try it. 

Have a great day, Cherie! It was so great to see you!

Cherie:  I appreciate you spreading the word. Lovely chat. Thanks so much to you!