One of my goals for 2017 was to try to be more environmentally conscious, this meant trying to use fewer chemicals, minimizing the use of plastic and ensuring that I use biodegradable products. Choosing this approach can be overwhelming for all of us, but like I always say in my blog posts – “it’s about progress and perfection”. I was very excited when my cousin introduced me to Sheba Feminine Hygiene products, as they support this philosophy. I was even more excited to know they are locally produced by a young black entrepreneur.
Tell me about yourself?
Zizipho Ntobongwana was born in Mthatha in the Eastern Cape in 1994 to two beautiful human beings, Fezile and Koliswa Ntobongwana. I am a middle child between six children, my siblings are my life. Although from the Eastern Cape, I went to primary school in Durban and went to boarding school in the Natal Midlands.
I recently graduated with a Bachelor of Social Sciences Honors in African Studies at the University of Cape Town. My thesis was focused on ulwaluko and demonstrated how it excludes women, makes the queer community invisible and subsequently creates and reproduces a problematic isiXhosa hegemonic hypermasculinity. My undergraduate degree is also from UCT, that specialization includes International Relations and Industrial Sociology. I still currently reside in Cape Town.
I would describe myself as an ambitious Womanist, Lover, Pan-Africanist and I try to be as socially aware and conscious as possible.
Tell us about your range of organic feminine hygiene products?
The Sheba organic range consists of organic cotton that is BREATHABLE: admit air to flow easily through the fibers.
PHYSIOLOGICAL BODY’S Ph COMPATIBILITY: it is compatible with the human body’s physiological Ph. It does not alter the natural acidity of the vaginal mucus.
HYPOALLERGENIC: reduce and helps to prevent the risks of irritations, allergy, and infections.
GENTLE ON YOUR SKIN: soft and gentle on your skin, with maximum leakage protection.
Superabsorbent polymers free
No chemicals: No Chlorine or Dioxin used in the bleaching process
100% Wood Pulp free
How did your passion for feminine products originate?
Love inspired me. EVERYTHING I do comes out of a place of love. Sheba is about the love I have for people that menstruate and wanting to make their plight easier but, not only that, I wanted to give them the power to make informed decisions when it comes to their feminine hygiene. I believe that knowledge is power and I have used the combination of knowledge and passion to bring Sheba to life.
What motivates you to keep working/following your passion?
I’m motivated by the need to leave the world better off than I found it.
Tell us a little more about Sheba Feminine Hygiene and how it all came to life?
In 2016, I became frustrated at the realization that most of the things on the African continent were in fact not African at all. Everything I had been taught reiterated the fact that Africa was and still is a goldmine in which the rest of the world loots from. Among being pained by this fact, I was also inspired by my Honours degree. It was whilst I was completing this degree that I realised that there’s still so much work that needs to be done. This is the space in which Sheba Feminine Hygiene is born. I believe we must build the African economy in order for all the other areas of our continent to thrive.
I knew I wanted to make an African economic change, however, the realisation that I wanted to do it in the form of an organic sanitary range came a little later. I decided on Sheba because I needed to make a change that I could relate to and whilst on my period, Sheba came to me. Sitting on the toilet and reading my tampon box, I realised that there was no ingredient label on it.
Upon further research, I unlocked a side to menstruation politics and the feminine hygiene industry that is quite underground. In doing research, I found that in the male-dominated feminine hygiene sector, we women actually had no control over what is being put in our sanitary products or how these chemicals affect our bodies. I wanted, in fact, I needed to change that. Hence the solution of the need to produce 100% organic cotton products. Another point that hit me is that one’s period sometimes sneaks up on them and they’re unable to leave university, their business park or sometimes even their home. We at Sheba do not attempt to force women to love their period because let us be honest, who could love period pains, the worry of soiling their pants and so forth? Instead its an attempt to make our periods more comfortable. Comfortability includes being able to have organic sanitary products delivered to you wherever you are.
Our product range includes:
- Digital (Non-applicator) Regular Tampons (18)
- Digital Super Tampons (18)
- Digital Super Plus Tampons (15)
- Anatomical Pantyliners (30)
- Ultra-thin Day Pads (10)
- Night Pads (10)
What does being a GirlBoss mean to you?
Being a GirlBoss means achieving. It’s a conundrum of fierceness, humility, ambition, being socially conscious, a quiet humming strength, and honestly any other words you could use to describe people like my mother, Phumzile Mlambo-Ngcuka, Khanyi Dhlomo, Ramaphele Maphela, Bonang Matheba etc. Those women epitomise a GirlBoss. They are bulldozers!
What is the main difference between Sheba and ordinary sanitary products?
In a survey we recently conducted on our Facebook page (@shebafeminine) as well as our Twitter page (@sheba_feminine) we found that on average, 99% of menstruators do not know what goes into their sanitary products.
On average menstruators will use between 11,000 and 16,000 sanitary products in their lifetime and many of the sanitary products we use contain substances you wouldn’t want to be absorbed into your bloodstream. The vagina is one of the most absorbent areas of your body, which means you are absorbing those toxic chemicals straight into your bloodstream!
It is in this space that Sheba came into existence. I was tired of being forced to buy sanitary products that were not only bad for me, but the environment as well. So Sheba is good for your body and doesn’t have the generic ingredients rayon, chlorine, dioxin, and it’s fragrance-free. The Sheba products are all made from certified 100% Organic cotton and they are biodegradable. The cardboard used in the packaging is recycled as well.
The last thing you googled?
This is embarrassing. I was trying to find a word that was on the tip of my tongue in order to describe myself. I googled, “To do something in a hurry and without much thought”, the word I was looking for was ‘Impulsive”… I’m not proud of this.
Describe your dream holiday.
Firstly, it would definitely be with my girls. We would leave South Africa mid-December, and do a world tour of Vanuatu, South East Asia, Greek Islands, a bit of Europe, then lastly we would relax on the beaches of Nassau or Coco Cay in the Bahamas.
If you were stranded on a desert or island, what three items would you want to have with you?
My favorite TV shows are Naked and Afraid and The Bear Grylls franchises, so, I would definitely be practical about it and bring a pot, a machete, and a fire starter. You need water, shelter, and food to survive in any survival situation.
Your absolute worst habit/trait?
I’m impulsive and lack patience. These are things I absolutely hate about myself and I am working on them. But I always give myself spaces to make mistakes.
Name of the last movie you watched?
Wow, I don’t really watch movies. But I think the last movie I watched was The JungleBook. I usually fall asleep to it because It’s one of the only movies I have on my laptop.
What is your favorite junk food?
Wow, I’m a junkaholic, but I think pizza and Mountain Dew would have to take the cake! Hahahaha.
What is your secret to networking and growing your business?
Being comfortable with being uncomfortable is the biggest lesson I’ve learned with regards to networking and growing Sheba. I’m a very reserved person that prefers being by themselves. So networking and growing my business have forced me to get out of my comfort zone. Sometimes I struggle to go and introduce myself or even feel slightly awkward about it. I’m still not comfortable with being called a business owner or an entrepreneur. So the moment I realised that I was this person and accepted that it would all be uncomfortable, I got a bit more comfortable in my own skin. So getting to the point of being comfortable in my discomfort has been my secret to networking. But it would be different for each person.
What would be your advice or parting thoughts be to young entrepreneurs?
I think it would have to be that the business sector is not an easy journey, there are challenges that sometimes get in your way; there are really good days and sometimes really bad days but it’s about trusting the process and having belief in what you are ‘selling’ to a point of sticking with it and never giving up on it. There are so many successful people who got rejected not only on their first try but also on their second and third but their determination of wanting success got them through. These I try to have with Sheba.
Where can we find you?