Nicole Sanchez

Kathy Pham, BAA Communications Committee Volunteer - 15 February 2022

Nicole Sanchez ‘(20 Bcom) is the Co-Founder of Ruth and Ecommerce Coordinator at Mosaic North America. While attending the Alberta School of Business, Nicole was a part of several student groups being the project manager and business developer for Hempact in Enactus University of Alberta, the VP finance for the University of Alberta Human Resources Management Association, and the social media coordinator for Philippines Students’ Association. She and her team also won the 2019 World’s Challenge Challenge University of Alberta finals winning $10,000 towards their sustainable menstrual waste project. From an idea that created a student-led project, to a successful business that empowers women, Nicole now operates Ruth with her business partner, Anka.


BAA: Can you tell us about your journey since graduating from university?

Since graduating from the University of Alberta, I have become an entrepreneur. After finishing off my last final in April 2020, my co-founder and I decided to finally turn the project that we were working on through Enactus UAB called Hempact into a business. At that point, COVID just hit, and I was still quite confused with what I wanted to do professionally. Luckily, we were gaining some traction in our idea, so I decided to take it on full-time. Even in my last year of university, I always knew I wanted to take the opportunity of fully realizing the project and turning it into a business because I started to see the need for the product that we were developing, and I knew how big of an impact we would be able to make with the idea.

Since then, we have rebranded and reincorporated as Ruth in January 2021, and I have also taken on a full-time marketing position in April 2021 to give me some financial stability while still working on the business. I also participated in the world’s largest pre-seed accelerator program called Founder Institute Western Canada in Vancouver (although our cohort was virtual) in September 2020. I finished the program in January 2021 as one of the top entrepreneurs.

BAA: How was student life for you? What student groups were you involved in?

I treasure my time at the Alberta School of Business very much, I think the biggest reason for that is Enactus. I have made so many incredible friends not only from the University of Alberta but also across Canada and even the world! One of the friends I made through Enactus World Cup, which I attended in September 2018 in San Jose, came to visit to expand his business here in Alberta (he’s from Singapore!). We are thinking of doing some collaborations in the future as he’s also a social entrepreneur but how cool is it that I got to meet someone with the same mindset from across the world through one of the student groups in school?

I also owe part of the values that we have at Ruth now to Enactus and how I really got started and became passionate with the business that we have now. The idea of sustainable and disposable menstrual pads was first developed here, and it was the push to make an impact that really made a difference in switching from a student project to a business. Needless to say, my student life has helped me shape who I am now as a person, and it gave me the opportunity to become an entrepreneur which I never thought was a career option. But here I am now, two years later and our business is now up and running.

BAA: Tell us about your undergraduate experience at the Alberta School of Business. What are your favourite memories?

I would once again go back to my Enactus family and the memories we made. My undergraduate experience very likely would not have been the same if it wasn’t for my involvement with Enactus. I was surrounded by like-minded people who shared the same value – of making an impact – and that was really special. I grew so much as a person being involved in something that wasn’t just for me. We were going out of our way trying to look for ways to solve problems for communities in need. And we were having so much fun while doing it. We went to Regional competitions in Calgary and National competitions in either Toronto or Vancouver every year. The year I was part of Enactus, we also won quite a bit of awards which was unprecedented for the U of A team, but we worked really hard to get ourselves on the map.

My favourite memory was my last year in school, which was also my last year with Enactus. We were at regionals in Calgary, but it was the night before the competitions and the competitions team were practicing their pitch. We were all huddled in one hotel room trying our very best to not disturb the rest of the guests (we definitely failed) but there were about 15 people in that one room, watching the competitions team practice, asking them possible questions that the judges will ask, and giving them feedback on their pitch. It was an intense and stressful night (as it always is the night before the competitions), but imagine a group of students caring that much about every word, every line of the pitch, perfecting it til 2-3 AM and getting up the next morning at 6 AM to compete. Everyone was making sure the competitions team felt supported, confident, and ready – you don’t really get that with other student organizations. It was a commitment we were all willing to make and were very excited to do it. Every single year. Like I said, these people are people that I still have in my life and the memories I created with them will forever be cherished.

BAA: Tell us a bit about your business. How did you start it and what was the inspiration behind it? 

I touched on this a little bit already but for more context, the idea actually started at a competition in Drayton Valley. The concept was to divert the hemp stalk waste here in Alberta into something useful. The people who pitched the idea came up with a hemp-based menstrual pad. A few months after that pitch, Enactus UAlberta took it on as one of its projects.

I didn’t get involved until February 2018 and my role was in business development – I went to high schools and started conversations about periods and helped with event planning. My now co-founder Anka, joined the team a month after I did, and she was in Research and Development. After a couple of months, most of the team members were graduating so the Project Leads at the time made us the Project Managers for the next school year and the rest was history (kidding, it was actually more of a REALLY long journey).

It took us a while to really understand what the team was trying to do and we had to essentially figure out the mission and the goals of the team very quickly. Again, it was a long journey from then to now. We entered into this competition called World’s Challenge Challenge in 2019 and won $10,000, which was kind of the turning point and got us thinking that we might be onto something and to start getting serious about the idea. We started to shift our mindset so we reached out to the community, industry professionals, and people who can help us turn this project into something we can actually work on.

The more Anka and I worked on it, the more we became passionate about it, less so about the product but more about the mission – to make sustainable periods easy (Ruth’s mission now). From hemp-based pads into Ruth pads. Now, here we are fulfilling that mission. We had a successful crowdfunding campaign in the summer last year and launched our e-Commerce store in October. We’re making our moves and we are really excited about our plans for this year including reaching out to employers, restaurants, and hotels to provide FREE menstrual products to everyone because it’s about time we do that.

BAA: What competitions have you participated in? How did this contribute to your company’s growth? 

I participated in a few myself, Anka also participated in a couple, and some of the team members of Hempact also did. I mentioned being a part of World’s Challenge Challenge run by the U of A International. We won the competition at the U of A and we were sent to compete at Western University. As I mentioned earlier, this was the turning point for us and it made us think about the idea more seriously.

I also competed at Falling Walls, winning 2nd place at the U of A competition and was sent to Berlin, Germany to compete internationally. This was particularly interesting because one, I was the youngest competitor and one of the very few people in their undergrad who competed and two, I was one of the very few who was in business. Everyone else in the room were scientists and I was surrounded by researchers which was kind of strange at first, but it was such a different atmosphere and it definitely challenged me in a more technical way.

The project itself was entered into a few competitions and this resulted in some prize money that we used to start the business. It funded our first few months as a startup and the competitions also helped us with our idea validation as well as enhancing it. Through these competitions, our network also started growing which became such a key component of our journey.

BAA: Do you have any advice for others looking to pursue entrepreneurship?

It’s scary, especially in the beginning but it is so worth it. I think now, being an entrepreneur is a little bit easier, it’s more normal these days but when we started, no one I knew from my graduating year or my peers was doing this so I was so scared to actually take the leap. Not to mention, the risk and the financial instability behind it, but being an entrepreneur is so fulfilling. You get to work on what you love; you work on your own hours (although disclaimer, you’re also working 24/7), but the learnings and the experience you gain along the way are so valuable. Even if your startup/business doesn’t make it, you learn a lot and you grow so much as an individual. I guess the real advice here is to not hesitate to reach out. People, especially fellow entrepreneurs here in Edmonton, are so eager to help other entrepreneurs out. It took us a while to realize this but once we did, that was when things started to really pick up. The lows can get really low, so you need to surround yourself with a community that supports and knows what you’re going through because whatever that is, trust that another entrepreneur has been through it, you just need to reach out and ask for help.

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