Bita Baghestani attended the She Entrepreneurs programme in 2019. A few hours before she got the acceptance letter from Sweden, she had been turned down by a sponsor organisation and was thinking about giving up on her dream.
– For me that was a sign to go on,’ Bita says. ‘Someone in another part of the world thought my work was valuable, which acted like a trigger for me. It was of great meaning to me, and it was also why I decided to name my brand Levva, based on the Swedish word for “live” – leva.
The disappointment from earlier all but vanished, and things would get even better as she started the programme. The following summer, her company started to run their own manufacturing of menstrual cups inside Iran, where access to female hygiene products is scarce due to current difficulties with imports. Having their own manufacturing was crucial. The cups are now available in most online shops in Iran and in physical stores in 27 cities in Iran.
– Before the programme I had different ideas in my mind, but they were not very developed or solid. I knew I should help women and the environment, but I didn’t know how to reach the impact I wanted. She Entrepreneurs helped me divide my company’s impact into three clear categories: women empowerment, entrepreneurial, and environmental.’
The Levva cups provide women with improved health and self-confidence as their customers experience better sleep and better peace of mind at studies or at work. She Entrepreneurs also initiated a change in their marketing efforts, and they are now using more than 30 women ambassadors who make a reasonable income. For the environment, the cup eliminates 99 per cent of non-recyclable waste.
But Levva is about more than the product. The company has also published content to raise women’s awareness about menstruation and their bodies, and to fight taboos. Bita is also running a podcast for other Iranian women entrepreneurs.
– I hadn’t seen many women entrepreneurs in Iran but through the programme I got to see how women can be successful in business and in their lives. The network became priceless for me. With my podcast, I want to pass that experience on to others.
When asked to describe what impact the She Entrepreneurs experience had on her, she says: ‘The programme changed me. It made me better able to lead the company. The soft skills impacted my whole life and how I lead our company. And also, they taught me it is not about devoting myself to my company but to find a balance in my life, to love myself and my company in harmony.’
Going forward, the goal is for the business to grow from tens of thousands of current users into a million Iranian women. ‘It’s also important to me that people know of us as a socially responsible brand that wants to help women and support them. I don’t want every woman to use the menstrual cup, but I do want every woman to have information about them and the option to choose it.’
Whatever the future holds, Bita is happy she did not give up a few hours before getting into She Entrepreneurs.