Maria is the dynamic and charismatic founder of SHEVA, which she also lovingly calls The World’s First Vagina Store. She is a Guatemalan “Knowmad” determined to empower girls and women around the world, and SHEVA is one step closer to that with its buy-one-give-one model in the area of feminine hygiene. She speaks to us about what drives her and her hopes for women everywhere.
What’s your six-word memoir? (A question recently asked of me by The Traveling Cup @markwg0uay. I answered: Celebrating visual poetry in cultural stories)
Never take no for an answer!
Share with us the story around the world’s first vagina store, and why you call it that…!
About 2 years ago, I spent three months in Kolkata, India teaching English to kids of low-income communities. After some time, I noticed that girls would skip class 4 to 5 days during the month when they were on their period, because they had no access to sanitary pads. I could not stop thinking about this problem and how unfair it was that these girls who really want to learn and go to school, can’t because of their period.
When I returned to Guatemala, I found out girls in low-income communities suffer from the same problem here. It was then that I decided I had to do something to empower these girls so they would not have to miss school due to their period and this is when SHEVA was born.
SHEVA is THE first store for vaginas in the world, where we sell all types feminine hygiene products for all types of vaginas and for many occasions all of us women can relate to. Every time someone purchases at www.SHEVA.com , she or he becomes part of the GIVING CYCLE, which means that through their purchase, they also help provide tools (sanitary pads) and education to women and girls in need. My goal is to provide the opportunity for people to help someone in need by purchasing products they need to purchase every month.
How do you introduce yourself when asked what you do?
I am in the business of Empowering Women Worldwide through SHEVA, which provides tools and education to girls and women in need through online retail of consumer goods, collaborations, and partnerships.
Your energy and passion for what you do is admirable. Any words of advice for those starting out to combine profit and purpose?
Thank you! I can tell you it might be a tough ride but when you are passionate about something it’s definitely worth every second of it. NEVER be afraid to step out of your comfort zone and pursue what you truly believe in. Nothing is more powerful than knowing you are making this world a better place.
What’s an experience that has been instrumental to you being where you are today, but that you hated at the time?
From an emotional perspective, realizing that girls are missing school every month is horrible, and realizing they do not know why they get their period is worse. However, I took this challenge and made it an opportunity. Now I work hard for girls to get to know how and why their bodies work in a certain way.
From a business perspective at the beginning when it was only myself: I had to multitask and be the accountant, designer, developer, read contracts, etc. At that time I was not happy that I was doing all of them, however I learned SO much, that I now understand each area better.
You’ve talked about wanting to extend SHEVA into all areas of a woman’s life. Tell us your vision for the Giving Cycle.
SHEVA intends to change the lives of 1 Million women by 2025. We want to create the largest community of Women helping Women Worldwide. SHEVA will have a curated catalog for everyone, not only for young women.
What motivates you everyday?
The three things that motivate me the most are:
1. The fact that I am changing the lives of many girls and improving the world ONE period at a time.
2. I work in something I do not need a vacation from. I wake up every day doing something I am passionate about and that makes me very happy. I do not need a break from it.
3. The SHEVA Team. We are a truly rockstar-unstoppable team, and I am so happy that we are on a mission to change the lives of girls in need, because I know we will!
Maria Isabel Ruiz is the founder of SHEVA as well as a member of The Global Shapers Community. A powerhouse and compassionate humanitarian all at once, she is on a mission to empower 1 million girls by 2025.
We are inspired by Maria’s passion and ambition, and are proud to have her as Fieldtester, a group a group of inspiring friends that regularly test MATTER products in their workplace and travels to help us improve durability and design. Maria wears The Reworked Harem in Chakri Seafoam, Size 1.