Vili Petrova, founder and CEO of LENA, studies female health and well-being and how the understanding and acceptance of menstruation is reshaping female identity and empowerment.
Q: WHY DID YOU LAUNCH THE LENA CUP?
A: Living in harmony with nature and with my own body has long been at the heart of my life – instinctively, I have always been searching for and choosing healthy ways of being and consuming. Years ago, when I started to use a menstrual cup I was amazed at the freedom it gave me – the idea of a cup also aligned with my expectations of a product that did not harm, pollute or compromise my own health.
I was never able to find a cup that worked perfectly for me though, some were too aggressive or stiff, others were too flimsy, or they were made by questionable companies from unregulated materials – factors that every cup user knows are essential. Prompted by a dear friend, I started to entertain the idea of conceptualizing the perfect menstrual cup – a cup that would work for both first-time and experienced users, cup that would open easily yet would be undetectable once inside of the body, a cup that was made using as many conscious and sustainable practices as there are available on the market.
Q: WHAT IS IT ABOUT MENSTRUATION THAT EXCITES YOU?
A: I was raised in a family with more females than males so menstruation was a very normal, somewhat talked-about, bodily process but it was never celebrated or appreciated in any sort. Both my parents and my older sister had a very matter-of-fact approach to menstruation so when I first got my period I was given a pad and sent off to school.
Instinctively, I knew that there was more to it, that it is something that we should speak of, yes, but in an even more open, supportive and appreciative way.
There is something about menstruation that connects me to all of the women that are now, have been before me, and will be after. Menstruation gives life and even if women choose not to celebrate it openly, it should not be shunned as a curse. If we all have access to healthy and conscious period products, like LENA, I believe that we will feel much more empowered by our periods.
Q: DO YOU NOT WORRY ABOUT THE TABOO?
A: Not at all. I openly speak of menstruation and what I do, as I believe that every conversation, every acknowledgment of our period, is a building block towards a freer and more open dialogue and understanding of menstruation.
Q: YOU COME FROM A STRONG FASHION, PRODUCT DEVELOPMENT AND TREND RESEARCH BACKGROUND. WHAT DID YOU LEARN IN THESE FIELDS THAT PREPARED YOU FOR LENA?
A: Up until I started to develop LENA, I felt that I was tapping into a lot of different fields of work that offered me seemingly disconnected skill set and opportunities. When I started to work on LENA, it all came together – every experience, small or big, every skill and everything I had learned at my previous jobs came into place. Having graphic and product design helped me work on the design of our cups and every creative piece we do as a company, my trend and consumer research background shaped my understanding of the market and the direction of change, and my fashion sense has defined the LENA brand, its look and what we stand for.
In a way, I feel that my past experiences were all a preparation for what was to come, for LENA.
Q: HOW DID YOU FIRST HEAR ABOUT MENSTRUAL CUPS?
A: My partner's sisters and his Mom had used menstrual cups for decades before I met them. Menstrual cups were just the norm in their family and the girls had never even entertained the idea of using disposables. Inspired by them, I tried a cup but had a terrible first experience. It took me two years to give another brand a try that I eventually succeed with and fell in love with the concept. This bad first experience of mine has paved the way for LENA's Customer Support – I made it my mission that no woman would ever not use a cup because of the lack of information or support. LENA's Customer Support team are all females with extensive cup use experience so we offer new and existing customers all of the guidance and support we possibly can.
Q: WHERE DO YOU SEE LENA TEN YEARS FROM NOW?
A: We recently launched our LENA Donations program in Cameroon where we donated hundreds of LENA cups to adolescent girls so that they can stay in school and build a better future for themselves, and for their communities and country. My vision is to extend this program to as many communities and countries as possible so that no girl ever misses on school or an opportunity, due to her period.
My vision is for LENA to continue to improve women's lives and periods all across the globe.
Q: WHY LENA? WHAT IS IT IN THE NAME?
A: From the start, I knew that LENA was a girl. I was born and raised in Bulgaria where in the Slavic tradition, every female name ends with the letter "a" (my full first name is Vilislava). Once I defined the end letter, I started to look for meaningful names with a strong tradition and heritage – this was very important to me as I felt that just like menstruation, LENA's name was something rooted in the past, present and the future. Lena, and the word's root, means different things in different languages – it means moonlight and sunlight in Greek , tender and devoted in Arabic, and torch - something that leads and illuminates the path in the Scandinavian languages.
Q: WHAT IS IT LIKE BEING A FEMALE ENTREPRENEUR?
A: Developing, launching and seeing how LENA is changing women's lives has been a dream come true. I am redefining what it means to be a head of a company every single day – I always felt that I didn't have to fall into expectations, or norms, and that I could define what LENA stands for and how we operate to fully align with my own personal values and beliefs. I love being a female entrepreneur and am having a lot of fun.