Women We’re Watching: Amber Fawson & Cherie Hoeger of Menstrual Cup Saalt
Amber Fawson and Cherie Hoeger are the co-founders of Saalt, makers of medical grade, sustainable menstrual cups. They’re also passionate advocates for global menstrual health. Their commitments to accessible period care, education surrounding period stigma and thoughtful sustainability practices are empowering women worldwide to take control of their bodies, while helping to end the marginalization of menstruation—making them women we’re watching.
Tell us how you both landed here, co-founding Saalt.
It started with a phone call that Cherie made to an aunt in Venezuela. During the conversation, Cherie learned that pads and tampons have not been available on store shelves for years. Cherie immediately thought of her five daughters and what she would do if she found herself in the same situation. It began to keep her up at night thinking about the dependence she felt on disposables and the possibility of ever not having any options for her daughters.
Cherie began researching menstrual cups and bought several to try out. She was sold on the cup right away. She loved that it was reusable for up to 10 years, that it can be worn for 12 hours at a time, and that it was more comfortable and healthier than tampons. Cherie has an insatiable penchant for the practical, and felt strongly about empowering not just her family but other people as well to take care of themselves. Three months later, Cherie was sourcing reusable menstrual pads for hundreds of friends, just to be nice. (These kinds of things are Cherie’s idea of a hobby. Not joking.) Her intention was to also source a bulk order of a good menstrual cup, but she couldn’t find one that met her ideal criteria. So she started custom designing her idea of the perfect cup.
Meanwhile, Amber had recently sold her own business, a chocolate shop, and had no plans to start another business ever again (it’s a big job!). However, she began to understand that something as simple as a period cup could give people a healthier way to care for their periods, could divert waste, and could help keep girls everywhere in school. Amber felt that it was worth every effort to get the word out and to take the cup mainstream; she came up with the name Saalt to represent something that is essential for our bodies, and also natural.
Why is having plastic-free period care important to you?
Using the cup is one of the simplest ways to divert an incredible amount of waste. We have noticed in ourselves and others that converting to the cup is one of those great, simple, satisfying successes that often make you look around you for more opportunities to replace plastics with reusables you love.
What do you want people to know about using a Saalt menstrual cup?
So many people, after they commit to the two or three cycles it takes to get the hang of using the cup, transform into cup evangelists. And the best part is that having a conversation with someone about a cup somehow breaks down walls, and you end up having this great little heart-to-heart. It is the best perk. Beyond that, we love the cup because:
- You can wear for up to 12 hours.
- It lasts for up to 10 years.
- It is made of medical-grade silicone, so there are no toxins, your vaginal pH level is preserved and there is no danger of micro-tears like you can get from pulling out a dry tampon.
- The freedom from the tampon aisle is a great feeling.
- You can wear the cup when you’re expecting your period but haven’t started yet.
- There is no odor with a cup because the menstrual fluid does not come in contact with oxygen.
- Swimming with a cup is way better than swimming with a tampon. Trust us.
- The affordability of the cup can be a life changer for many people around the world who lack proper menstrual care and find themselves staying home and close to a bathroom while on their period.
Tell us about your exciting initiatives to empower women and girls through education. Here in the United States, most of us are fortunate enough to have easy access to personal hygiene products, and while the “pink tax” is a real thing, we don’t have to deal with shame or stigma surrounding menstruation. Can you give our readers an idea of what this might look like elsewhere in the world? How are women affected by getting their periods? What are the repercussions of not having access to hygiene products?
Living in the United States, it’s hard for us to imagine a world where education could be limited by something as basic as your period. We’re so fortunate to have 83 percent of American school girls graduate from high school, and 72 percent going on to attend college or university.
But in developing nations, lack of good menstrual hygiene—known as “period poverty”—has 300 million girls and women using unhygienic methods like scraps of clothing, mattress padding, paper torn from school books, or even soil and ash to manage their periods. Girls will often miss 20 percent of the school year because of their period, and many will eventually drop out.
When we started Saalt, we knew that supporting girls’ education would be a key pillar to our social mission. Education opportunity has done more to shape our confidence, prosperity and fulfillment in our personal lives, as women, than any other single factor. Yet so many girls and women are halted early in their educational pursuits. The loss of potential is heartbreaking, and yet the solution is so simple. We’re passionate about the power one menstrual cup has to afford a girl the opportunity to finish school, provide for her family and break the cycle of poverty for generations. Each additional year of school can increase a girl’s lifetime earnings as by as much as 25 percent!
Most importantly, it empowers a girl to care for herself and increase her feelings of self-worth. We want our daughters (Amber has two daughters and Cherie has five) and every young girl to grow up in a world where they are limited by nothing but their own hard work and resolve to accomplish their dreams. To think that we could do something to help create that world is worth any effort we can give.
Since our launch in February 2018, Saalt has donated more than 2,000 menstrual cups through domestic and international charity partners in the U.S., Nepal, Venezuela, Bangladesh, Costa Rica, Guatemala, Kenya and Uganda. And that’s just the beginning!
How does Saalt’s mission feed your overall definition of wellness?
We love how using the cup empowers people to not only care for themselves in a healthier and more sustainable way, but to also get to know their own bodies. Using the cup introduces many people for the first time to their cervix height, changes in menstrual flow during their cycle, uterus position and more. And because it helps them become more aware of menstrual health, we see cup users taking a more active role to improve their own health and become advocates for others.
What brings you joy in your daily life?
Amber: Being outdoors, especially at sunrise and sunset, skateboarding with my kids and finding little patches of wilderness with them, exercising with friends, calling my grandmother and visiting my adopted grandmother here in my own town.
Cherie: Anytime I get to watch my kids grow and excel in their education and talents—there’s nothing that makes me happier than seeing people rise to their potential. Close seconds are Thai dishes piled with veggies, quiet moments with a good book or bike rides along the Boise River greenbelt.
How do you incorporate wellness into your life while still growing Saalt?
Amber: We have been fortunate to rope in both of our husbands to Saalt and have been able to hire a wonderful, committed little team of talented people. Having a cause we believe in so strongly has made it easy to find wonderful team members along the way. And to be honest, this go-around has been different than my first business because we set aside a larger amount of personal funds to start and grow the business. Having more hands do the work has allowed all of us time to live our lives and be there for our friends and families and our own self-care. We all know how to give and ask for help.
Cherie: I like to start each day off with time devoted to grounding and connecting my inner self through meditation, study and exercise. The work never ends when growing a start-up! When I take the time to fill my own cup before diving into work, I find I’m much more equipped to handle each task with purpose and perspective while also giving quality time in my day to my wonderful children and husband (who is my anchor).
What advice would you give to a woman wanting to change the world with her ideas?
Catch the wave. If there is something you are passionate about, it is likely that many others are passionate about it as well, and are looking for someone who is willing to dedicate their time and effort to being a voice for that cause. Just start somewhere. New doors will open and you will find other evangelists who believe as you do. And get support!
If you could wave a magic wand and make a change in the world right now, what would it be?
We wish we could keep every girl in school through primary and secondary school. Studies show that even when instruction is less than optimal, girls reap incredible benefits just by being in school for those years, and they pass those benefits on to their own children and communities for generations.
What’s one myth surrounding periods you’ve come across that you’d like to dispel?
That your vagina, cervix and uterus are a mystery that only your OBGYN needs to worry about. Getting to know the landscape is actually pretty easy. It’s amazing how effortless it is to become familiar with your body just by becoming a cup user.
Looking to regulate your menstrual cycle? Learn how to balance your period with this natural tonic.