Veronica D’Souza is a social entrepreneur with heart and soul who strongly believes in using innovative business solutions to improve the world. In 2011, she co-founded Ruby Cup, which addresses the lack of affordable menstrual hygiene products for women and girls in poverty.
Since then she has been recognized as a ‘Global Shaper’ by the World Economic Forum and was designated as the youngest jury member at INDEX, an award honoring the best sustainable, life-improving designs. With an educational background in international business, politics, languages and culture, she founded CARCEL in 2016, a Copenhagen-based fashion label whose products are produced by women in prison and made from 100% natural materials.
She spoke with Öresundstartups News about her journey as an entrepreneur and aspirations to create sustainable business strategies to address and alleviate global issues.
The power of sustainable business models
Veronica began both of her businesses, Ruby Cup and CARCEL, by identifying an overlooked issue, finding proper solutions for it, and at the same time, making the solution as well as the cause attractive for people so they want to be a part of it. It is with this mindset that Veronica launched Ruby Cup. Founded in 2011 in Nairobi, Kenya, Ruby Cup, a menstrual cup, gives girls the opportunity to go to school during their periods by providing a menstrual cup as well as education about reproductive health. At the time, menstruation was an extremely overlooked issue in the developing world. Veronica is proud to have helped raise awareness for this issue and develop solutions that make real, life changing differences for girls:
“I believe in the power of sustainable business models to address societal challenges and scale these solutions. There is something very dignifying in seeing people as resourceful rather than as victims that need help. It is also my belief that if you provide opportunities for women, you help the entire family”
The idea for her second start-up, CARCEL, was based on her visit to a women’s prison in Kenya, where she identified the main cause – and overlooked issue – of female incarceration: poverty. By establishing a clear and smart business model, she combined her interest in business with her passion for helping women pursue a better future:
“If I could provide these women with new skills and a market, they would be able to make a good salary while serving their many year sentences – this way they could save up for their release as well as support their children.”
One of Veronica’s core beliefs as an entrepreneur is to develop and offer solutions that are both attractive and in demand. With CARCEL, she and designer Louise van Hauen envisioned making a fashion label whose customers do not purchase clothes out of pity for its producers – in this case incarcerated women – but rather because they are convinced the clothes are fashionable and well-designed. In this regard, she has changed the discourse from poverty victims to one of empowerment.
First-hand experience from an entrepreneur
She compares life as an entrepreneur with being an artist, as you are never disconnected from your work. On the one hand, your passion can become completely embedded in your life but on the other hand, there is a lot of insecurity and financial risk involved. For other entrepreneurs who are just starting a business, she recommends being bold and going to market long before you feel you are ready. It is only then that you can find out whether you were right about your business idea and, more importantly, whether you want to spend your life building it. Moreover, it is important to test your idea to ensure that others will love the idea or solution you are so passionate about. Lastly, Veronica D’Souza sees building an engaged and passionate team that contributes to the success of your idea as crucial. Besides, it’s no fun doing this journey all on your own.
In August, CARCEL’s new online store will be launched. Its first collection will be presented during Copenhagen Fashion Week.