The finalists in the 2020 Inspiring Hertfordshire Awards (IHA) have been announced. Normally we would be celebrating all the finalists and winners at the fabulous gala dinner next month, but due to the pandemic, the event has been postponed until the autumn. So in the meantime, we thought it would be nice to look back at last year and celebrate 2019’s overall winner WUKA Wear. As headline sponsor, we have the difficult task of judging the Inspiring Business of the Year from all the category winners. Last year, we chose Wuka Wear, winner of the Entrepreneur of the Year award. We spoke to founder, Ruby Raut, founder about her truly inspiring business and her tips for entering business awards.
Wuka (Wake Up Kick Ass), maker of the UKs first eco-friendly period pants, is on a mission to help girls. Ruby’s dream was to create a community interest company that improves quality of life for girls, alleviates period poverty and is good for the environment. The pants replace the need to purchase expensive, plastic laden, disposable sanitary products and the company works with social causes throughout the world to benefit girls.
Growing up in Nepal, Ruby saw first-hand the effects of period poverty and outdated attitudes. A natural risk taker and highly competitive, Ruby remembers being asked at a young age what she wanted to be when she grew up, her response was “to beat the boys”. Coming to the UK on her own as a teenager was a huge risk, but as a self-confessed “super hustler” Ruby was always on the lookout for her next challenge. It was whilst studying Environmental Science at university she spotted a gap in the market for a reusable menstrual product – all the stars aligned and WUKA was born.
Since then Ruby has won a stream of local and national business awards and knows what it takes to write a winning entry.
Why did you first decide to enter a business award?
“I was working with a copywriter on a project and she encouraged me to do it. The first award entry we did was very hard, it took a week, we had lots of content, but we didn’t have any accounts as the business was so new, so we had to use projections. It pushed us into forecasting and setting targets and goals for the business. Those goals worked, as since that first year we have doubled our web traffic and revenue.”
How did you go about putting your awards entry together?
“We started by reading through the criteria to make sure we met them. Then we read the process carefully and went through the questions talking each one through. My copywriter wrote so many notes during that brainstorming stage but we ended up with a large pool of information to draw from. The next thing we did was to look at each question, and listed the bullet points to address each one. Then you can structure your answers. It’s so important to gather feedback from your customers too, it really helps your entry and it’s good for your business. The application process gives you a chance to reflect on your business, what’s gone well and not so well. Also analysing your figures means you understand who’s buying your product.
What do you think are the magic ingredients in your entry that makes them so successful?
“It’s my personal story, it shows that there’s a person behind the business. I think you have to show what motivates you and try to get across your passion.”
What advice would you give a first time award entrant?
“Don’t assume that the people judging know your business. Don’t do it yourself, you will assume too many things. Get help from someone outside of the business – they will ask you more questions and challenge everything. It could be a friend or spouse. Also, take time out to reflect when doing your application. Get feedback from the judges too, I always talk to them after the awards – if you didn’t win this time you can improve your entry for next time.”
What have been the benefits of winning awards?
“It has increased our visibility and the traffic to our site, lots of social media too. I’ve used the information in my entries for investment pitches and it’s useful for interviews and press releases. Also, it’s a huge morale boost when you are working on our own – I sometimes feel like I’ve no idea what I’m doing but then you get an award you think, yeah I am on to something good.”
What’s next for WUKA?
“We have launched a new line of products to offer customers even more choice. This new line uses a different fabric and can be sold at a lower price point. We’ve taken on board customer feedback and produced them in a light grey which means the pants aren’t visible under lighter coloured clothing. We’ve also launched a bikini high rise without the branding which is what our incontinence wearers wanted. WUKA is keeping me busy with a constant stream of challenges.”
A word from the judges
Two of our team, Neil Cundale and Liz Wicks, were on the judging panel that chose WUKA from all the winners last year. Neil explained why WUKA had a winning entry. “The competition is tough, all the entries were so strong last year, but Ruby’s entry really stood out to us. She clearly demonstrated what set WUKA apart, it showcased their innovation and the fact that they are clearly a commercially successful business whilst at the same time tackling some of the big environmental and social problems of our time. Her entry told a story and her energy, drive and desire to help really came through loud and clear.” Neil Cundale, Principal at Hillier Hopkins.
To find out more about WUKA wear, visit them at www.wuka.co.uk
How to enter the Inspiring Hertfordshire Awards
The Inspiring Hertfordshire Awards is organised by the Hertfordshire Chamber of Commerce. For more information on the awards entry process and gala dinner at the amazing St Albans Cathedral visit www.hertschamber.com/inspiring-hertfordshire-awards-2020 .