CEO Carinee Chambers-Sani is leading a revolution in women’s health while promoting values that matter.
Co-founder and CEO of feminine hygiene company Diva International, Carinne Cambers-Saini always had a dream of following in her mother’s foot- steps as both a successful entrepreneur and an advocate for women’s health, and it was precisely at the family kitchen table that the idea for Diva International—a feminine hygiene company guided by the principles of sustainability and the empowerment of women—was born.
Seventeen years later, and Carinne and Diva are leading a long-awaited revolution in women’s menstrual care.
“For generations, women had used tampons and pads, which are expensive and non-biodegradable, polluting our oceans,” Chambers-Saini told CEO Magazine of how the Diva story began. “But my mom, who hated the bulky menstrual care products of her day, dreamed of a better way. And she found it in the menstrual cup–an eco-friendly, reusable, comfortable way to handle period care. As soon as I graduated university, we went into business together.
“We designed our own silicone cup to replace the old rubber version that had been around since the 1930’s. But we faced stiff opposition from male buyers who were only accustomed to selling pads and tampons. It took us eleven years to get our first national account. But we knew that people around the world could benefit from a reusable product, both in terms of protecting the environment and promoting a healthier option that doesn’t expose our bodies to chemicals .”
Founded in Kitchener, Ontario, in 2003, Diva International Inc. works closely with its industry, trade and distribution partners to create a better period care experience through their DivaCup and DivaWash products. Furthermore, the company ensures that every process, from manufacturing and packaging to distribution and sales, contributes to its founders’ heartfelt commitment to providing sustainable period care options worldwide.
For Chambers-Saini, these values are key. As a Certified B Corporation, Diva is one of a number of businesses looking to put core progressive values above profit, and help make the world a be er and more sustainable place. “We saw an opportunity to innovate the industry, creating an entirely new category, while also using our corporate position social responsibility to really take a stand on natural health education,” she said.
A different kind of hygiene
Diva designs and manufactures a reusable menstrual cup known as the DivaCup, which is an eco-friendly, cost-effective alternative to disposable cups and tampons, and can be worn comfortably for up to twelve hours. The company also offers the DivaWash, a botanically-based, all natural cleanser specifically designed to protect the silicone material of the DivaCup, and your body, without leaving behind harsh residues.
“When we first started out, the big players in drug store chains thought we were crazy,” Chambers-Saini explained of the company’s early days. “They worried that the DivaCup couldn’t compete against the tampons which guaranteed repeat business, so they laughed us out of meetings, convinced that women would never use it.”
Nevertheless, the menstrual cup movement has since expanded to thirty-plus countries and in all major drugstore chains in the US and Canada. In the past five years alone, by fine-tuning corporate messaging and expanding the company’s reach, Chambers-Saini has led Diva International to triple-digit growth, outselling established brands and seeing the DivaCup top Amazon’s sales charts in the personal care category.
“Our company has not only revolutionized the way that people handle their periods,” she insisted. “We’re now part of an incredible movement that’s changing the conversation around periods and bringing issues such as period poverty to the forefront.”
Period poverty is a term used to describe when women struggle or are unable to afford menstrual products and the impact this has on them. The issue affects people around the world, including in Canada. According to a 2018 report by Plan International Canada, one-third of Canadian women under the age of twenty-five have at some time struggled to afford menstrual products.
Diva takes its role in drawing awareness to such issues extremely seriously. The company is currently producing a full-length documentary film about the worldwide problem of period poverty, menstrual taboos, and the need for period equity, which will be released in 2020, while Chambers-Saini herself, an in-demand public speaker on the subject, will publish her first book, An Inner Revolution, Period.—an entrepreneurial memoir—the same year.
“I want to motivate women to assert themselves, to find their voices, dare to follow their passion, and fulfill their true potential,” Chambers-Saini told CEO Magazine. “My hope is they will be inspired by our story—take chances and never give up, even when they’re up against the odds.”
Until now, Diva International has stuck to two principal products, the DivaCup and the DivaWash cleanser, with a view to maximizing their quality and market potential. Yet looking to the future, Chambers-Saini sees enormous potential for Diva to expand its product range with a number of ideas that the company has been quietly developing in a bid to further its mission to improve women’s health options.
“The strategy of staying focused on two core products has really worked,” she elaborated. “But at this point, it’s time to expand our line with innovative products we’ve been keeping in our back pocket for years.” Furthermore, while Chambers-Saini still views significant market growth potential in North America, where the company already distributes to over 40,000 retail locations, Diva is also looking beyond the US and Canada, notably to Mexico, as well as certain markets in Europe, Asia, and Australasia—all the while keeping one eye on Diva’s mission to practice sustainability and promote the empowerment of women.
“A key area we’re focusing on now is sustainability management,” she explained.
“We’re promoting environmental initiatives, such as recycling and energy savings; using trucking companies that have a lower environmental impact; and incorporating new technology in our warehouses to streamline production and reduce waste. We’re always trying to think outside the box. We didn’t take the traditional road to success, and now that we’re established, we want to continue to innovate.”
Putting women first
Ultimately, Chambers-Saini views Diva International as a unique company in today’s feminine hygiene market that has grown in large part thanks to its unique vision for the industry and a desire to bring something different to the marketplace. And she doesn’t plan to change this approach anytime soon.
“We’ve done something that few companies have been able to achieve,” Chambers stated. “Starting out as a 100% family-owned company and a mother-daughter team, we created the product, we built the distribution and the marketing, and disrupted an entire category, providing a product that’s really changing the world and empowering people who menstruate.”