12 Sep Batya Raff’s online business links necessity with female empowerment
Batya Raff is into health, wellness and fitness – particularity when it comes to women. Her business Every28 provides a simple service by delivering monthly personal care products to customers who order online. Its aim is two-fold; firstly, it’s convenient and helps busy women save time and secondly, it plays an important role in keeping young women in school during their monthly cycle. In South Africa, many female students abstain from school because they can’t afford proper hygiene products. With just a click, Every28 contributes towards the empowerment of young women and is a perfect example of how businesses can meet the real needs of communities and link their customers to philanthropic causes.
Inspired by Clinique’s current Difference Makers campaign that profiles 6 amazing women, we spoke with Batya to learn more about her much-needed initiative.
What inspired you to start Every28?
As a busy mom with a career, I was looking for ways to automate the ‘hassle’ aspects of my life. I found a lot of apps and tools to make things easier, but I saw a gap in the market when it came to hassle free monthly shopping. That is how Every28 was born.
10% of all the sales at Every28 go towards the 28Reasons charity. Can you tell us about the outreach and how it aims to make a difference?
28Reasons is the charity that runs alongside Every28. 28Reasons works tirelessly to keep girls in school by providing school girls in rural areas with the sanitary products they need as well as equip them with hygiene and health education. Girls are currently resorting to using newspaper, leaves, sand and cardboard, or they’re staying away from school altogether.
We have also created the 28Reasons Care Package. This is a package bought straight off the Every28 store and for R89 per month you sponsor a school girl and send her a package with everything she needs for the month. This includes sanitary pads, soap, pain relief and a rotating item such as deodorant, moisturizer or a pair of panties. Every girl deserves dignity and health as she becomes a woman.
Starting a business can be challenging. What has been most rewarding so far?
I have had amazing feedback from women across South Africa who are so excited about Every28 and the convenience and discretion it offers. I receive daily emails thanking me for opening this subscription service and it’s those offerings of support that assure me I am on the right track and need to carry on grinding and hustling.
Before Every28 you worked as community manager for MOAD BETA, which facilitated design focused projects. What did you take away from the experience and how did it influence your career aspirations?
I ran creative programming and outreach at the Museum of African Design and I was privileged to collaborate, work with and learn from incredible South African makers and creatives. There is a wealth of super talented people in South Africa, trained and self taught, and if we start opening ourselves up to collaboration we can compete with and surpass what is being done internationally.
We cannot all be experts at everything, but we can find the experts and draw on their knowledge and skills. I practice this continually. I have sought out advice from everyone and anyone who could help me grow Every28, and avoid the mistakes they had to make and learn from. I am now in the position where I get emails and calls asking for advice around online shopping and it is my duty to pass on the knowledge and skills I have learned.
What’s the best business and life advice you’ve received and will always carry with you?
The best business advice I received, which I share with everyone, is don’t start off with a financial backer. It will take you longer to launch and it may seem a lot harder, but without the money to fall back on you will come up with creative solutions to the problems which often give a much better result. You also don’t need the extra pressure to succeed quickly, financial backing means the weight of an investor breathing down your neck.
The best life advice I have received is to love what you do professionally, as it takes up so much of your time. How can we separate our life and profession when we spend so much of our waking hours working?
As a business owner, how important do you think it is to empower others while growing your own venture?
A truly successful business can’t only be measured on profit, we have to consider its impactful purpose. We live in a country with needs, if we are not even partly in the business of solving real-world problems, then we mustn’t be in business. We have made a conscious decision at Every28 to up-skill and train our staff instead of outsourcing to larger companies. One example is our packing facilities. We have not gone to an external packer, but rather we are training and employing female staff as the company grows.
In what ways do you think businesses can have better relationships with the communities they provide services or products for?
A business has to understand and have absolute sensitivity to the community it finds itself in. In this way the business will be able to service that community as well as uplift it. The best thing a business could do for its own productivity is to integrate and understand the real needs of its community.
We saw this so clearly with 28Reasons. Initially we built relationships with schools with the purpose of delivering sanitary products on a monthly basis. What we soon discovered as we spent time with the girls is the lack of knowledge around physical, sexual, and emotional health. It became obvious that if we want to help these communities of girls, we need to start providing this information and create a structure and support system.
How has utilising a digital platform enabled you to make a greater difference?
For us, utilising a digital platform has been the ‘secret sauce’. We have seen a lot of support from an international audience around 28Reasons and purchasing Care Packages. A digital platform shrinks this world so that someone across the ocean can easily sponsor a South African school girl and make a huge impact and difference in her life with absolute minimal effort. Regarding Every28, the appeal lies in the convenience and discretion it offers. A digital platform allows us to market to women across South Africa while keeping the user experience easy, time flexible and discreet.
What has been most the surprising about Every28?
The most surprising thing is our large volume of male customers. I didn’t realise that in many homes it is the boyfriend/husband’s job to buy his partner’s monthly products. They are all so happy to sign up to Every28.
What’s the biggest change you’d like to see and be part of when it comes to empowering young women?
Our aim is to make sure that all South African girls are never hindered in school, university, and life due to lack of sanitary products. We have also started a campaign to eradicate ‘Pink Tax’ which is the high tax women pay on sanitary pads and tampons. These are basic necessity products which should be tax free, lowering costs and making it affordable to be a woman.
We want to see support from government, sanitary dispensers in all public bathrooms. We see free condoms across university campuses, public restrooms and events, but where are the sanitary pads? A woman cannot ‘abstain’ from her monthly cycle.