Elle Cup: The power of starting with a problem, not a product

How social business, Elle Cup, is solving real-world, on the ground problems – and what we can learn from its founder, Chelsea Hornby.

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When Chelsea Hornby launched Elle Cup, a non-profit feminine hygiene brand, she had one goal: to make a measurable difference in the lives of young women across the African continent who miss too much school because they don’t have access to feminine hygiene products when they need them.

 

It’s not a new problem, and Chelsea isn’t the first entrepreneur trying to solve it, but she’s an incredible example of the important role that entrepreneurship plays in societies for two reasons.

 

First, like any good solution, the Elle Cup isn’t only solving one problem. Chelsea’s ethos is responsibility, and so her solution needed to tick a number of boxes, in this case, consumerism (it’s an affordable product); environmental (as a reusable product that lasts ten to 15 years, it’s good for the environment, which traditional sanitary pads and tampons are not); and community (more girls in school is something we can all get behind in a big way).

 

The second reason is one that we often talk about at Sasfin, and that is the power of partnerships and ecosystems. No one solves a problem alone, and Chelsea recognizes that a big role of her company isn’t to only provide a product, but to shine a spotlight on a major issue that many people don’t realise exists as well.

 

Find a problem and solve it

It’s a fundamental rule of business to start with a problem, instead of trying to figure out a way to make money first. When you begin by trying to solve a major need of society at large, and then worry about the money later, you’ll not only find the passion to carry you through the lonelier and tougher parts of entrepreneurship, but it’s more likely that the money will follow.

 

And entrepreneurship can be tough. Elle Cup didn’t break even until year three. Chelsea had to keep pushing. Each and every day she had to make a conscious decision not to give up – all while making a loss.

 

More than that, start-up entrepreneurs wear many hats, including personal cheerleader, sales manager, graphic designer, shipping agent, accountant and more. It takes a lot to keep going in the face of that adversity.

 

Which is why we love the Small Business Showcase so much. Not only do we get to meet amazing entrepreneurs who are actively working to make our society a better place, but the tenacity and grit that they display is inspirational.

 

Here’s how you can support Chelsea’s business:

  • Try out the Elle Cup (or tell someone about it). For every product purchased through the non-profit business, one product is donated by the for-profit entity to a schoolgirl in need.
  • Visit her website at ellecup.org/
  • Follow Elle Cup on Facebook
  • Follow Elle Cup on Instagram

 

You can watch Chelsea’s full story here:

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About the Author
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Elisheva Gilbert

CMO & Head of Small Business, Sasfin Holdings

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