09 Mar Be the Change | Q&A with Sheba Feminine Founder Zizipho Ntobongwana
In 2017, instead of getting frustrated and simply stopping there, Zizipho Ntobongwana got curious. As she began to learn more about the harsh chemicals and plastics used in the production of most commercial menstrual care products she realised that an alternative was needed in South Africa. Enter Sheba Feminine, founded four years ago to provide easy access to safe and sustainable feminine hygiene products. The company’s complementary aim is education, as a scroll through Sheba’s Instagram will quickly reveal – geared towards sparking conversations and providing the knowledge essential to empowered decision-making. As the Instagram Heroes “1000 Grams of Likes” winner for February 2021, we caught up with Zizipho to learn more about her brand and how she’s built it.
Sheba was founded in 2017 to provide a sustainable alternative to commercial menstrual care products. What inspired you to step in to fill this gap?
My own experience with menstruation inspired me to fill in the gap. I was tired of hearing and seeing the same misguided narrative. Sitting on the toilet during my period, I realised that If I wanted to see change, I had to get up and be the change I wanted to see.
In a few words, what does Sheba stand for?
Community and education. Sustainability and ethics. Health and wellness. Empowerment and self-care.
How has the brand grown since launching in 2017 and what has this journey been like for you?
The vision is a lot more succinct. I think with anything, when you begin something completely new, you stumble along the way, you are unsure of yourself and oftentimes don’t trust your own vision. As a brand, we are a lot more unapologetic about our politics and what we want to achieve. But this has been a trying journey and there’s still much to learn.
Over and above your product line, Sheba provides education through workshops, videos and blog posts. Why was this important to you from the get to?
We believe in menstruation rights – the RIGHT to menstrual health education, hygienic toilet facilities, and menstrual care products. This is important to us because menstruation isn’t a choice. As people that menstruate, our rights should include access to knowledge. I remember how difficult It was for me to find inclusive information that removed shame from the conversation. I don’t think anyone should struggle to find empowering information.
Sheba’s Instagram is both visually beautiful and filled with valuable resources. Tell us about the ways in which you use Instagram to grow your brand and build a community?
We use Instagram to connect with our audience and listen to what they need and want from us. Using Stories we receive feedback through polls and questions and through our feed and our ‘Menstruation Matters’ Instagram Lives we share knowledge. We use our IG to create a mutually beneficial space where we share and receive as a community.
What does winning the “1000 Grams of Likes” award mean to you?
Winning the “1000 Gram of Likes” award means everything to us. It’s so eye-opening when industry leaders such as Suzie Bowling, Carissa Cupido and Aviv Weil are impressed with the work you do. It allows you to slowly chip away at the imposter syndrome and accept that your vision does not go unnoticed.
Do you have any tips for local businesses just starting out – both in terms of their product or offering, and how they go about marketing this?
I think the biggest lesson I’ve learnt so far is RESEARCH RESEARCH RESEARCH and never stop learning about your industry and your audience. Digital marketing and social media has made it much easier to gain insight into your community. USE IT!
What is something that 10and5 readers may not know about you as a person?
I mentor aspiring young black woman entrepreneurs. It is so beautiful and revolutionary to see black-owned products taking up space.
What can we expect from Sheba in 2021? Any projects or collaborations to keep an eye out for?
2021 is the year of growth for us! We have just finished rebranding and launching our new website! We’ll also be expanding our product range and collaborating with SA artist Phila Hillie with the product packaging!
Follow @shebafeminine on Instagram.