Meika Hollender | Champlain College

Meika Hollender | Champlain College


MEIKA:
So hi.
Thank you, Lindsay, for introducing me, and thank you guys for coming. I know some of you are
getting credit for it. I’m very happy that now people are getting credit to listen to me talk. I think that’s pretty exciting. So I just wanted to spend
about thirty minutes talking about my background, how I ended up starting a condom company with my dad, and then just kind of take you
through our product, and why it’s different, and who we’re targeting
with our marketing, and then just spend a good amount of time letting you guys ask me any questions
you have Sorry, let me make sure this is going. Oh, I see it. So just really quickly so I can give you some context, I was actually — I grew up in Vermont. I spent most of my life kind of embedded in my family’s business, Seventh Generation, which they founded almost
thirty years ago. So I grew up completely surrounded by sustainability and green products and, you know, corporate social responsibility
to me wasn’t really something I ever realized wouldn’t be a part of a company. I thought just from spending so much time at Seventh Generation and working in different parts of the business that it was just something that every company, especially consumer products, goods company kind of had. It was just kind of
an essential part of the business. So when I started college, which I also went to NYU as an undergrad and started interning
for a bunch of different companies, I started to realize that wasn’t
really the case. I worked at a lot of big companies that, you know, sustainability wasn’t really important to them, and you know, I saw this huge disconnect, because I saw all these really big companies that could make a huge impact if they’d change such small things in their supply chain, or employee policies, but I didn’t see it really happening. So when I was graduating from college, I kind of decided if I should — I was deciding between joining Seventh Generation and going back to work with my family, which at the time I decided not to do, which obviously things have changed since then, but I decided to go work for
a big ad agency, and work with these Fortune 500 companies because, you know, not to say that you’re not all super ambitious and going to change the world, but as a 21 year old, I thought I could obviously make, you know, big companies like Pepsi and Coke listen to me and change their actions. I was a little naive at the time. I think things are changing, though and I went to work at this branding and ad agency, and was just really kind of — although I was learning this great skill set, which is something
I definitely encourage, you know, young people to do, is go work at these big companies,
because you’ll get trained in a way that you still really can’t at a lot of start ups. I got these skills and then I kind of didn’t really feel like I was having an impact, so I was starting to figure out what I was going to do next. So I decided to go back to school, which I, again, also highly encourage. I think you should spend as much time in school as possible. You’ll see as soon as you graduate
why that’s the case. And so, I decided to go back to school, and get my MBA, and really focus in on what type of business I could be in, and what my role could be
in order to have that impact and make that change that I was kind of always craving
while I was in and after I graduated college, and also just what I was familiar with
from Seventh Generation. So while I was in school, I kind of — I said, “OK, maybe I don’t, I didn’t have that entrepreneurial gene
in me,” or I didn’t think I did yet. So I was trying to kind of, you know, “What can I do within these big companies that might allow me to make
a bigger impact? So I ended up working at a big CPG company in their CSR department over the summer in between my first and second year, and although I felt like I was able to kind of make a little bit more change, what I was noticing was these big corporations
weren’t really incentivizing their employees based on any sustainability actions or efforts, and that just kind of led this disconnect throughout the whole organization. So what I really saw that was clear there was that if the CEO of the company isn’t incentivizing people based on making good, responsible decisions, the rest of the teams, whether it’s marketing, finance,
you know, operations, aren’t really going to function in that sustainable manner because that’s just not how they’re being incentivized, and not how they’re being rewarded. So I learned a good lesson there: CSR at a really big company that wasn’t kind of mission driven wasn’t the place for me. And my father approached me with this idea that he’d had twenty years ago, which was to start a condom company. And I — you know,
we are a very close family, and there are a lot of — you know, we’re very open, but I still felt,
you know I was like, “OK, condoms with my dad.” Also, I didn’t really know if I wanted to start a company, but as I had kind of had this lesson over the summer about CSR, and these other kind of experiences within large companies, I kind of felt like, “All right, well, this seems like the logical next thing. I need to give it a shot. I need to be able to feel really good about what I’m doing, and kind of see the whole company as a big system.” So, sorry that was kind of a long-winded of how I got here but… So that’s when I decided last summer that I would join my dad in
founding Sustain, which I’ll talk to you about now. So a lot of people, you know, about sustainability and business, they ask us,
“Well, why did you choose condoms? There are so many other big issues
in the world. Do you really think condoms is the best way to address all of them?” So when we talk about condoms and we think about condoms and business in general, we think about everything
from a kind of systems thinking perspective. And what we thought about when we were deciding to go with condoms was we realized that condoms
can really address so many different social
and economic issues in the world. You think about something like family planning and AIDS; obviously condoms help prevent AIDS. They also help families plan better and they prevent unexpected pregnancies, but you know, having family planning reduces things like hunger and poverty. It creates greater social and economic equality. So we kind of talk about Sustain as a company that really connects the dots. And I’m happy to, if you have questions later, take you through more of this, but this is just kind of the general overview of
why we decided to go with condoms: because we feel like with that, we can address these six major social and economic issues that are currently —
that currently exist today. So that’s kind of the “why go into
this type of business?”, but then you know, the natural next question is, “Well, what is so sustainable
about your actual product?” So our product is,
in terms of sustainability, it’s different in two major ways. First of all, what my father Jeffrey discovered over twenty years ago when he had this idea about a sustainable condom was that there was this huge deforestation going on in Brazil in all of
these rubber plantations, and what we’ve kind of learned since then is that the rubber industry, although it’s not talked about a lot, is one of the dirtiest industries in the world. There are extreme amounts of child labor, people are dying constantly on these plantations, the conditions are awful. So when you think about
that sort of business and the rubber industry, we obviously didn’t want to go into a dirty industry. So what we’ve found is the only fair trade rubber plantation
in the world, which is in India, and we’re sourcing 100% of our rubber
from there. Latex, which — our condoms are latex, because that’s another kind of natural question that people ask when they think about a sustainable condom — nd the latex is actually
the sap from the rubber trees, so we’re actually tapping these fair trade certified rubber trees to get our latex to then move to our manufacturing facility, which is also in India. The next — so that’s kind of the bigger resource and making sure it’s as sustainable as possible. And then the second thing is we found out that 80% of condoms, based on a study that the government did about a year ago, were found to have extremely high levels of nitrosamines, which are a carcinogen. And this is a carcinogen that exists in a lot of places in the world. It exists in latex. It exists in certain types of food. But we just though it was so ridiculous that a product that was actually supposed to protect you and that’s, for women, really going inside of their body, could actually be causing you harm. So we found someone who had worked for Durex for about
twenty-five years, who had come up with
a manufacturing process that eliminates, or not eliminates, but prevents these nitrosamines from being created in the heating and molding of the latex. So basically what happens, so you can understand
how a condom is made, is you tap rubber trees, the latex pours out, you transport the latex to
the manufacturing facility, and then it’s poured onto
big glass structures that, you know, I’m sure you can imagine what they replicate, and then it’s heated and molded into that structure, and what we’ve done is we’ve added a chemical into that process that’s not toxic, to prevent these carcinogens from occurring in the latex. So those are the two kind of
biggest components to how our product is sustainable, and certainly more sustainable and toxin-free than the other products on the market. We have a lot of other aspects of our business where, you know, employee ownership and the way
we treat our workers, and the way we make sure our manufacturing facility and our rubber plantation are treating their workers, et cetera. But those are
the two fundamental sustainable aspects of the product. Another part, kind of — we also think of this as a system — is we have a better product. I’ll go into kind of, how our — we’re marketing that product, and how we’re kind of empowering women through that product, and then to complete the circle, we’re giving back ten percent of our profits to women’s reproductive health in the US. Because a lot of — what a lot of people don’t realize and which I certainly didn’t realize until about the past year was that a lot of the rates of unplanned pregnancy and STDs are actually worse in some parts of our country,
especially in the south, then in a lot of developing countries. So you have a lot of other condom brands who have, you know, the buy one, give one, Tom’s shoe model,
which is definitely great, but what they’re doing is they’re really just taking these products and kind of dropping them
in certain places in Africa, or parts of the developing world, and they’re not really educating them on how to use them, so if you give condoms to women or men in places where they don’t know why they should be using them, they tend not to use them. So by focusing on the US, we figure we can put our efforts and resources towards education, awareness, and also product, so to really kind of complete that circle. So this is just kind of taking you through what I talked about. How our condoms are made, and then how they enter the market, and then how we’re kind of taking that and giving back to complete the loop. So something, you know, as this is — as we were coming up with this idea, we were looking — you know, something that I did in my previous life in marketing was looking at kind of the marketplace, and looking at the other brands out there, and figuring out where we could kind of come in and really make a big difference. So if you go currently into a drugstore, pharmacy or supermarket or wherever, you buy your condoms, which I hope you do. You’ll notice the shelf is completely
male-oriented. Everything is really bold, everything is really aggressive. Everything is kind of about the guy, and it’s interesting, because what we also discovered was 40% of condoms in the US are actually bought by women, but they’re bought by women, and these women are having these really terrible experiences when they’re buying condoms. So you know, from all the research
that we did, and all the women we’ve talked to, women are uncomfortable when they’re going into the store. They’re standing under
the fluorescent lighting, they have some like young guy
who’s in high school working behind the counter, kind of like laughing at them while they buy the product, and we just thought this
was a huge disconnect, because we were like these women are doing something really great. They’re protecting themselves, and they’re, you know, being responsible when it comes to their sexual health, and then they’re feeling really embarrassed, or ashamed about it when they’re actually going
to make the purchase, which is probably going to discourage them a little bit from doing it again. So we were like this is obviously a huge opportunity. We didn’t feel like any of the brands
out there are really addressing women’s needs, whether the packaging, the messaging,
the actual product. So we figured from a marketing perspective, women were a great idea. And then we kind of took it a step further, because of kind of
what I was talking about before. We felt like, you know, over time this has all been
the guy’s responsibility. The guy is the one that’s supposed to have the condom. Women are supposed
to just kind of sit back and expect the guy to take care of this. And we felt like, and I especially
as a woman, felt really irritated by this, because guys buy condoms, they carry condoms, and they’re kind of rewarded for it. They’re seen as really cool and, you know, they’re getting laid. Sorry, excuse my language. And they’re really, you know, it’s something to be, like, feel good about. And then women buy and carry condoms, and they’re looked at as being sluts, or if they’re being kind of promiscuous. And I just thought, “You know, it’s 2014, this is completely ridiculous. Women are so empowered at work, you know. They’re eating well. They’re doing all these different things in their lives to make themselves
feel great, and then when it comes to sex, they’re still kind of ashamed about it. So that was kind of my personal reason for another reason that we were going to focus on women. So kind of going back for a minute to the packaging and kind of the shelf set, because I kind of walked away
from that mentally when I was talking, so we went in and we looked at the shelf, and I was like,
“OK, this is a huge problem, our most important thing is going to be our packaging, so I’m just going to show you. I don’t know if anybody
has seen it already. So hold on one second. I guess you can see it; it’s big. So basically what we did with the packaging was like based on this insight that women are embarrassed to carry condoms and a lot of guys don’t like carrying them either, we wanted to put something together that looked totally different, something that would grab your attention, but also something that you would
feel really good about carrying in your bag. I mean, our dream is to have like a condom in every single woman’s purse in the US, and we figured
they’re not going to do that with these kind of big, bulky, loud, masculine condoms
that are currently out there So obviously, our packaging is completely made from
recycled material, and how it works is that you kind of have these really beautiful condom foils that don’t look like condoms at all with these natural patterns on them, so that if it happens to fall out of your bag eventually, we wouldn’t want you
to be embarrassed at all. But we know we can’t change consumer behavior tomorrow. You wouldn’t feel like this. It’s not like a tampon falling
out of your bag. It’s kind of like this beautiful thing that you feel comfortable carrying. So that’s kind of — there are a lot of other ways that we’re talking to women, and a lot of other ideas that we have, but I’ll kind of wait till questions so that you can kind of ask me as many as you want, but basically — Oh sorry. Almost there. Basically, that’s kind of why we decided to focus on women and those are the insights that we kind of took into entering this category, and I think that’s all I’m going to say for now and then wait. I’d rather you guys ask me questions because I know I’ve covered a lot of different areas of the business and what we’re doing and my life, so I’ll kind of end it there and then let you guys ask me any questions you have. (inaudible) So great question, wish I had an answer for you. So we’re… no, you can’t buy them yet. If you could buy them, I would have a big box of them and just be handing them out to everyone. Basically, condoms
are a class two medical device, so in going through our production and manufacturing, we’re going through the FDA, so it’s not really a product that we could kind of have the idea and produce tomorrow. So we’re hoping to be in the market by the end of May. (inaudible) I mean, we’re — there are a few niche brands out there. We really look at our competitors as Trojan and Durex, I think. And it’s — I think some of the othe small brands are doing a really good job of, you know, having these new brands in this category, and kind of changing the game, but something that one of the retailers we met with said,
which was really interesting, is that a lot of new brands enter this category as just kind of trendy brands. Like, “Oh, they have really cool packaging, or a really cool ad campaign, but there’s no longevity to it.” So I think since we’re focusing on women, I think that we don’t have as many competitors when you look at it that way. (inaudible) So Trojan did try and do this. I think it was like four or five years ago, and they failed. I think the first part of your question in terms of what they would do
to rip this off when we polled women — and we talked to about five hundred women and then about two hundred more kind of in focus groups. Trojan and Durex have such
strong brand names and they’re so, you know,
it’s such a male brand that I’m not sure if Trojan just kind of had a sub brand of Trojan and positioned themselves as appealing towards women, that would necessarily feel authentic, and that women would kind of appreciate that or respond to that, but I’m sure if they came up with a totally new brand. I think — something that we talk about at Sustain is also that you know, what’s the word, imitation is the biggest form of flattery. I think we would love for women to become completely empowered when it comes to their sexuality and their sexual health, so if Trojan and Durex want to do that, great. Trojan already has about seventy percent of the market, so we’re not — and they, you know, their biggest concern is just kind of protecting their shelf space, so I’m not sure they’re going
to go into this but I think, I mean, hopefully that day comes and I don’t really know what my answer would be at that point. First, just want to get the product onto the market, so I can tell her where she can buy it. (inaudible) Yeah. So condoms are actually the only form of contraception that prevent all types of STDs. (inaudible) Right.
So I think right now we’re staying — We haven’t really thought about that. We’re staying focused on this trend that as more and more girls are using the pill and using the IUD, they’re sort of forgetting to use condoms when they’re having casual sex. Or even when they’re having sex with partners that with partners that they are dating. Condoms have kind of fallen
out of the equation, so our first battle is kind of recreating this awareness and the reality that STDs are going up. Twenty-five percent of all women will get an STD in their first year of college, and you know, informing them that the pill, although is great and will help you prevent unplanned pregnancy, it’s not going to protect you from anything else. (inaudible) So the great thing about this category, which is not the case
with Seventh Generation, is that the margins are really high. Condoms are really inexpensive to make, and when you add in the sustainable aspects of the brand you’re still only adding about half a cent to a cent more per condom, so we aren’t actually going to be priced at a premium compared to Trojan and Durex, which are actually already
priced pretty highly. (inaudible) Yeah, it’s — there are so many aspects that we want to educate about, I think, and something that we constantly struggle with is what’s
the most compelling messaging point. I think when it comes to marketing, it’s really tricky because you don’t want to scare people. I mean the last thing that we want to do is create this whole campaign around nitrosamines in condoms, and then people have another reason that they don’t need to and shouldn’t use condoms, so we’re being really careful about how we message and how we educate around the toxicity issue, the kind of women’s reproductive
health issues, STDs, and also all of our sustainability things, but most — I mean, we’re — not all of our marketing money
will go towards, like, online, social media, online advertising, videos, that type of stuff. Or, what we learned in our research is that women, in particular, aren’t — the people they trust the most when it comes to trying
new personal care products, or like sexual wellness products is family and friends. So we’re really trying to figure out who these really —
we call them influencers within kind of the millennial age category, that women will trust in order to kind of try this new brand. And also just listen to the kind of issues that we’re trying to get across. (inaudible) — are you doing any carbon-offsetting, considering that you’re making it in India, and that it’s traveling either by barge, or by plane to the United States, that’s where your market is? MEIKA:
Yeah, so, that was, you know, obviously we couldn’t find rubber trees
in the US, so that wasn’t really an option. And the reason why we had
to do our manufacturing also in India is because the latex, once it’s tapped from the tree, can’t travel very far before it’s heated,
and molded. Yeah, everything will be shipped by boat
to the US, and I believe we are off-setting
everything we do. But again, the great thing
about this product is that it’s so light,
so the environmental impact of shipping it is actually pretty small, compared to other types of product. (inaudible) MEIKA:
Yeah, there’s a lot of things
that we’re looking at, so we’re trying to also make our product
hypo-allergenics, so that even if you have
an allergy to latex, we’re reducing the protein levels
in the latex in order to prevent that from happening. We’re not there yet. Um, and we also did look into that. Only about three percent of women, or I think three percent
of the population total is allergic to latex, so we’re also kind of wondering if guys sort of sometimes say they’re allergic to latex when they’re not. But yeah, those are all definitely, like, improving the product is definitely one of the most important things than coming up with more options for our target audience. FEMALE STUDENT:
So I know that protection and safety is a really big thing, like, when buying condoms. So how are you going to teach the public that your brand is just as safe as Trojan or Durex? That’s a good question. One that — we were hearing that question a lot, kind of, in the beginning, but I haven’t heard that in a while, but I guess I can’t ignore that from being a reality. Um, so it is an FDA-approved product. So, I don’t know how much people trust the FDA anymore, but um, to the extent that they do, it is, you know, it’s tested by the FDA. It goes through the same testing standards of any other condom sold on the market. Every single condom is actually placed on, um, a device before it gets packaged that sends an electric shock through it. And if any of the shock gets out, the condom’s thrown out. But I think, you know, I guess we’re hoping and assuming a little bit that by saying it’s an FDA-approved product and by being on a shelf next to
Trojan and Durex, there isn’t really that question, but it’s definitely — it’s, it’s a tough one. Something that I haven’t exactly figured out how to communicate that; mainly because people
haven’t been asking it recently, so it’s kind of fallen off my radar,
to be honest, but, um, it’s a really good question. And I’m — I’m hoping that by just saying “FDA-approved,” that kind of
gets us somewhere. (inaudible) MAN:
— the fact that you’re a young woman working with your father
on a business like this help get you some additional marketing
in-roads? I mean, it’s in itself an interesting story, so does that help you get more publicity? MEIKA:
Yeah, I mean, I think just having, um, my dad be who he is has been pretty helpful,
to be honest. People ask me all — to be honest, I don’t know if I would have
started a business completely on my own. I don’t have as big of a risk-taking ability
as he does. So, it’s definitely helped us, and it’s kind of — we’re actually at this really weird point where we don’t want to talk too much about the product, because we don’t have an exact date that it’s going to be on the market, um, but I’m hoping that
once we kind of push forward with all of our PR efforts, that story,
which it has to a certain extent, will just, kind of, help get us attention,
definitely. WOMAN:
You talk a lot about the experience that women have when they buy condoms, and how it’s a very negative experience, but if your condoms are right next to Trojan and Durex, you’re still walking
into the grocery store, or pharmacy. “Okay, I picked the prepackaged one
that looks nicer, and I still have that –” MEIKA:
Right. How do you expect this to really change that checkout experience? MEIKA:
So, um, yeah, something
that I didn’t talk about is our retail strategy. So there’s sort of three parts to it. One is just
these traditional condom retailers, like Walgreen’s, CVS, any drug store or supermarket. And then, a huge part
of what I’m thinking about constantly is finding these — we call them “non-traditional retail partners,” like a Sephora, like an Urban Outfitters, like an American Apparel. These aren’t people
we’re definitely selling to, but they’re people I hope to be. We’re, we’re placing the product in an environment
where women feel more comfortable, where they comfortable
asking the salesperson about the product, where they feel like the salesperson’s a little more knowledgeable, and basically not forcing them to go into that section in the drugstore. And then the third part is online. Women have said to us that they would love to buy their product online. When it comes to condoms, they just haven’t thought about it. It’s still, unfortunately,
a big impulse purchase among most women and men. So it’s not something
you’re planning ahead for. But we’re hoping to,
by selling on our site, by selling on Amazon, by selling in other, kind of,
e-commerce locations where millennials are, change that behavior, making them plan a little bit more when it comes to purchasing the product. (inaudible) WOMAN:
— market is younger people, not older,
not people who are 40s, 50s, 60s, where there’s increase in HIV and a whole bunch of issues on an older level — MEIKA:
Right, yes. WOMAN:
— and they’re still single — (inaudible) MEIKA:
Oh, I know they are. Especially in the homes
all over the country, where the STD rates are rising. No, I mean, I think that’s great, and I hope to target them one day, but I think one thing that I’ve also had to teach myself is to focus. So right now, our focus is, which is somewhat, you know, based on me being a millennial, to target myself is obviously a little bit of an easier exercise. So right now we’re focusing on women, 18 to 34, and then maybe down the line, focusing on the older demographics. But I think right now, as the one person on the marketing team, I can’t focus on all of those audiences. (inaudible) Sure! It’s, well, that’s, again one of those things where I’m trying to resist a little bit, until we know when we’re going
to be on the market, because I’ve seen a lot of brands, or companies of friends of mine, where they start talking a lot, and then the product kind of
keeps getting delayed, and then people tend to lose interest. But I think one of the most exciting things that we’re doing is, ah, I don’t know if you’re familiar
with the website Upworthy. They are a viral video site, and they get, you know,
up to 10 million views on the videos that they recommend. So, an interesting way that we’re using our marketing money,
rather than traditional advertising, is trying to work with them to — they will help us with everything from creating the content of the video and the concept. And then, since they’re kind of this approved place where people assume anything they’re posting
is interesting, we hope that, like, through them, amplify our audience and get people into the Sustain community. Because that’s another thing that I’ve learned and started to struggle with, is whenever we do launch, like, who are we telling? Because right now, we have obviously have a very small audience of whoever’s kind of signed up through our website. So that’s — I’m working to find these kind of new strategic partners in social media that will help us get the word across, or you know, finding somebody on Instagram that has 10,000 followers, and having them post
a picture of our product could actually be a lot more impactful than running Facebook ads, which I know that I don’t pay attention to. Is that — should — I can keep — okay. (inaudible) WOMAN:
So have you guys thought about partnering up with, like, women’s health offices across the country at different colleges, and like, because we give out
so many condoms at UVM and Champlain (inaudible) all around here (inaudible). And that’s a really great market. And then you’re creating consumers later in life as millennials grow up. (inaudible) Because I know that sometimes, a lot of the free condoms that are given out
aren’t that great quality. I’ve heard that from a lot of people. So have you thought about, um, focusing on that niche market? MEIKA:
Yeah, I mean I think the difficult — Yeah, that’s obviously something one of the first things we thought about. The difficult thing with that is giveaways are really expensive, which I didn’t know
before I started a company. And I’m just like,
“you want to give away your product all the time.” But there’s kind of that, like, “Okay, if you give a hundred away, maybe one person, best case scenario, is kind of going to go follow up and want to learn about that product.” So we’re looking for, and we have somebody in mind, who, an organization that has, kind of, these women ambassadors on campus that host events, and through these events, give out product, give out condoms, give out, kind of, like, sex and sexual health-related products. So I think that we are definitely thinking about it, but we’re trying to go into it a little more strategically, so that we know, at least, half the people that get our products will have at least heard something about the product, and heard why it’s important, and why we’re such a great brand, rather than just picking it up. (inaudible) Um, but yeah, no, that’s the, you know, doctor’s offices, college campuses, are all kind of part of
our distribution strategy, whether it’ll be this year or next year, is kind of TBD. (inaudible) WOMAN:
— the most important thing you learned from your previous work experience that you’ve applied to (inaudible). MEIKA:
I think it’s really those kind of specific skill sets that I learned. So, you know, I worked in — it was an ad branding agency, and a lot of the work we did was redesigning packaging, which was kind of random, and I didn’t think I would necessarily be able to apply it later in life, but I spent so much time going into stores, going into stores with consumers, seeing how they shopped, seeing why they shopped, why they made decisions, kind of what they focused on. That’s just an example of something really specific, which is why I think a lot of — there’s a lot of value in going to work for a big company where you’re going to learn a really specific kind of how — you know, like, when I came to Sustain, and started Sustain, and I was like, you know — my dad said, “Write a marketing plan.” And I was like,
“I’ve never done that before. I don’t really know what to do.” Those are the kind of, like, hard skills that I think you can learn at these bigger companies that will help you at a more entrepreneurial startup setting. (inaudible) MAN:
— Dollar Shave Club model, where they’re very focused on consumable. And they seem to be getting some traction —
(inaudible) And the other one is, uh, your comments about the store experience, having been a teenage boy working
in a drugstore when these products were sold
behind the counter — MEIKA:
Right. MAN:
— I can tell you
it was just as embarrassing for us as it was for the customer. MEIKA:
Yeah, no, I — that — I mean, they’re still in some stores locked up, which is because they’re actually stolen a lot. People take, steal condoms very regularly. And yes, Dollar Shave Club is definitely — when we’re thinking about building out our own e-commerce store, which we are doing, we’ve definitely looked to them as a great model. (inaudible) WOMAN:
— and how you kind of battle with, or I don’t know, reconcile some of the religious influences and things like that. MEIKA:
Yeah, I mean, to be completely honest, we haven’t built up our organization totally yet. We’ve already made some small donations, but my other partner, which is my mother, who’s here with me supporting me, is actually running the organization 10% for Women. And we focus on the South because of a report that Planned Parenthood put out, I think about a year ago, of the STD rates in the South and the unplanned pregnancy rates. I, you know, in terms of what exactly we’ll be doing there and who we’ll be donating to,
I think that depends. I think, in a way, it’s really interesting
for us, because there’s so much attention right now on women’s reproductive healthcare and women’s rights that it will only help us kind of think of more ways that we can support this conversation and make it more of a conversation, and give women the option. But yes, I’m sure we will face — there have been so many articles about women and organizations that are donating to these causes and the kind of religious right that they’re facing. And, you know, that —
I came into this business very, like, risk-averse. Like, “I don’t want to upset everyone. I don’t want to upset anyone.” And the one thing my dad
has really taught me is that to be a really mission-driven brand you’re going to upset some people a lot of the time. And you kind of just have
to be okay with that, and really own who you are to become a more authentic brand. I hope that was a good enough answer. You can ask her if you have more questions. (inaudible) WOMAN:
— giving the money to organizations that help support
reproductive health services. So not just about pregnancy, not just about condoms, but just trying to get services to women to go into, you know, health services, so they can have a breast exam, they can have a pap smear, that they can have the complete package of what they need. So it’s not — it’s not just going to be about getting women
to use the condoms. It’s more about supporting them in their reproductive health services in a larger sense. WOMAN:
So, ah, based on your growth strategy and where you are now as a very small startup, at what point are you going to be ready to take on interns from places like, say, Champlain? (audience laughs) MEIKA:
Um, it’s soon. I — it’s funny. Something you never think of
as a manager now is that when you have an intern, you have basically another job that you’re also doing, which is kind of, you know — I would never want to take somebody in and just kind of send them off on their own. I think in order for myself
to have an intern, I would be able — I would want to spend a lot of time teaching them, training them, making sure that they’re learning as much
as we’re getting. I think since our launch has been pushed — you know, we were hoping early 2014 and now it’s looking more mid-2014, probably around the fall would be, like, the time that we would think of taking on more people, because a lot of like our finance and operation people are still only on a consulting basis. Okay, well, thank you so — oh, sorry. (inaudible) LINDSAY:
— one of the big things — I mean your — this organization — there’s so many different things
you’re doing, in terms of from the marketing to the supply chain, and one thing I know Seventh Generation talked about, and I think in reading,
you know, some of the materials for this (inaudible) the importance of business not just being less bad, but actually being good. And so, there’s so many good things. Are there anything going forward that you hope even to — less not bad? I mean, are there other things
going forward that you see yourself willing to change, or you’re feeling like all the things you’re doing are really — we talked about, like, businesses being like an agent for world benefit, and really creating positive outcomes. So is there anything else that you’re hoping to (inaudible) MEIKA:
Yeah, I think there are definitely small things, like, for example, there — the FDA has yet to approve any organic lubricant, our lubricant in our condom is actually not completely organic at all. So like that’s a small thing. We’re constantly criticizing ourselves and seeing where we have places to improve, from everything from the product, um. I think we’re having our first board meeting in a few weeks, so I’m sure we’ll find a lot of other things
we need to improve, too. But, I mean, something that I actually didn’t get any questions on, which I tend to get a lot of on is, like, what’s it like working with your dad? So I think that’s another area, kind of in the structure of the business that we’re constantly working to improve. I mean, it’s very, you know, keeping our personal relationship
really positive, keeping our professional relationship
really positive, making other employees in the company not feel like there’s this kind of crazy, intense relationship going on between him and I in meetings and, like, making sure we’re being professional, you know. There’s constant improvement in all aspects of the business. Well, thank you so much for having me. (audience applauds) If you have any questions, or ideas, or anything, you can totally email me. I will respond. And if you, hopefully — and you can email me when we launch, and remind me that you were at this talk, and I will definitely make sure you get some free condoms. (inaudible) Thank you so much.

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