Wake Up Kick Ass
CEO and co-founder of UK start-up WUKA (Wake Up Kick-Ass), Ruby Raut, causes a significant disruption in the world of FemTech with a new period product that confronts period shame head-on with a focus on sustainability and intersectionality.
“I’ve introduced an entirely new kind of reusable product that lasts around two years and requires no more effort than putting on a pair of pants,” Raut says. “It’s comfortable, stays in place, and feels secure, is leak-free and can be used again, and again. My research uncovered a carbon neutral fabric through all its production and is so absorbent that one pair can hold up to 4 tampons worth of blood, leaving you feeling dry. Everything about this is disruptive!”
Since she and her husband, Dave, founded WUKA (Wake Up Kick-Ass) in 2017, Raut has established herself as a force to be reckoned with by taking her company’s attitude to the business stage. Raut has been named among Management Today’s top 35 Women Under 35 and 2019’s list of the Top 100 Women in Femtech.
As the CEO and founder of, Raut has put in years of research, testing, and hard work to find herself at the forefront of the movement to end period shame, open honest dialogue, and, most directly, provide an affordable, sustainable and reusable product with the ability to completely replace tampons and pads.
It seems complicated to imagine such an essential and pervasive industry going half a century without any genuinely fresh ideas in today’s world as it stands. However, Raut’s WUKA period panties stand as the first significant advancement in menstrual products since a modern menstrual cup earned a patent in the 1930s.
WUKA stocks a line of sleek underwear and swimwear specially designed to stay clean and dry for up to eight hours without tampons or pads. Besides providing comfort and security, WUKA products are both machine washable and reusable, cutting down on plastic waste pollution by rendering traditional menstrual products obsolete.
“The nature of sustainable period wear is that it speaks directly to contemporary women who want to support eco-friendly choices for the planet, and who want to bleed free, comfortably and without health risks.”
Shifting the Flow of the Status Quo
Raut can trace the roots of her passion for her work back to the age of 12. Growing up in Nepal, Raut experienced an acute form of discrimination, which was, at the time, commonplace in the country. Nepal, as Raut puts it, was a country “where shame about periods was widespread,” and Nachune, the Nepalese word for period, translates roughly to ‘untouchable.’
“When I started my period, I experienced a form of Chapaudi,” Raut remembers. “During menstruation, I was sent to my aunt’s house and wasn’t allowed to go out in the sun, look at men, or touch plants – as it was believed that I would kill them – just because I had a period.”
Outlawed by Nepal’s Supreme Court in 2005, Chaupadi “regularly involved women and girls being exiled away from the family home, often sent to live outside in cowsheds while they were menstruating.” Despite being outlawed, Raut says Chaupadi is still practiced in some of the country’s rural communities.
As they enter adolescence, young people are taught to view puberty and their first period with fear and shame rather than as a time of excitement, growth, and pride. Longstanding taboo, tradition, and misinformation, much like what Raut experienced in her youth, have constituted the basis for the oppression and endangerment of people with periods across the world for centuries. In some instances, children have been barred from school, isolated from family, and forced to use unsanitary hygiene products, if such products are available.
“Millions of girls and women don’t have access to safe, menstrual hygiene, meaning girls missing education, and risking infections – and reusable period pants could solve this.”
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Different cultures celebrate periods in their own special way. Here at WUKA, we believe that regardless where you are from, periods should be free of stigma and taboos. Periods should be celebrated, after all we are all here because of someone’s period. In some places in Japan, a first period is often celebrated with the the family by eating a traditional dish called sekihan made of sticky rice and adzuki beans. The red colour of the dish symbolises happiness and celebration. Whereas in Fiji, some communities lay out a special mat for the person who started their first period and teach them about the importance of this milestone. One the fourth day of their period, an occasion called ‘tunudra’, takes place where families prepare a feast to celebrate their daughters’ entry into womanhood. In South America, when people from the Amazonian Tikuna tribe (indigenous people who live in Brazil, Colombia, and Peru) get their first period, they spend three months to a year living in private rooms in their family homes after they get their first period. During this ‘pelazon’ time girls learn the history of their tribe, study its music and learn their beliefs from other tribe members. What about your culture? Is there a special celebration for a first period? If you’re in need of an idea, our first period pack is a good place to start embracing periods with your child. #firstperiod #tweens #teens #periods #menstruation #periodstories #periods #firstperiod #firsts #comingofage #freeperiod #periodpoverty #periodpower #superpowerperiod #menstrualequality #periodcelebration#periodsmatter #periodstruggles #periodtalk
Building for Success
Years later, when Raut moved to the UK, her dream for what would become WUKA began to take shape. There, Raut was exposed to a wide range of sanitary products for the first time, yet found her excitement dashed while studying environmental science in collect.
“I discovered that more than 200,000 tons of tampons and pads were sent to a UK landfill every year, contributing to the mounting tide of plastic pollution. That was my ‘light-bulb’ moment when I knew I had to do something to change the way we handled menstruation.” This ‘light-bulb moment’ served as the birth of an idea, an unofficial starting line in the race to launch WUKA.
“Starting in 2017, I had to learn everything myself,” Raut explained. As a trained environmental scientist, Raut had neither the experience nor the funding one would think necessary to tackle such a massive undertaking. That didn’t stop her. Raut spent years teaching herself about the worlds of marketing, public relations, manufacturing, graphic design, social media, and journalism, not to mention the language being spoken around her.
“When I first came to London,” Raut reflects, “I barely spoke English, and ten years in, I have started a business in an English speaking country. It’s just crazy.”
When reflecting on her work today, Raut can point to three key pieces of advice that have become integral to her approach to business and success: time, turning up, and hustling.
When it comes to making your dream into a reality, Raut understands feeling overwhelmed by the fear of inexperience. The best way to overcome it? She says it’s all about putting in the hours. Author and speaker Malcolm Gladwell touts a principle in his book, Outliers, which states it takes 10,000 hours of practice to become a master of something. This idea has served both to push Raut to where she is now and never to be satisfied with enough.
“‘Turning up’ is another keyphrase that has helped me along the way. It is said that your chance of success depends on you turning up – to events, to networking, to meetings,” Raut explains, adding, “As a Nepalese woman, there are few role-models for me in business. I value the support and inspiration I get from other women, who I only meet if I turn up!”
As for hustling, Raut says she quickly learned business success is, in many ways, dependent on your ability not to take no for an answer, to hold your ground and fight for what you want, whether haggling with advertisers or standing your ground on quality from manufacturers.
“We approached the London Underground to advertise WUKA. We could never have done this for the first price offered; but my persistence paid off, and we believe that our adverts were the first time that the word ‘period’ had been seen on the tube network – an achievement I’m proud of.”
WUKA in the Future
Beyond the time and the turning up and the hustling, Raut says she holds one aspect of her business to be paramount for customer service success. As a company built on the idea of opening up communication about periods and tearing away the veils of mystery and taboo, WUKA’s ability to succeed relies on customer trust.
“It’s true that having this kind of passion for giving excellent customer service can mean I work a lot of hours sometimes,” Raut says, adding, “There’s no job too big or too small for me to do, and helping customers feel good about the service is at the heart of building for success.”
Despite the reluctance to change in the feminine hygiene sector, Raut’s hard work has recently paid off in a big way. This year, WUKA signed a contract with UK grocer Sainsbury’s to stock their products in over 200 stores. Unfortunately, this launch came in the same week as the UK’s Covid-19 shutdown. However, throughout Covid-19 closings, WUKA remains open with a small, tight-knit team prepared to get you to toss the tampons or overnight a pair of underwear for a customer’s first period.
“Periods don’t stop for the pandemic, so I didn’t stop for a single day working,” Raut says.