Why you should be WEIRD with Polly Rodriguez, Co-Founder of sexual wellness startup Unbound
Joining me on today’s show is Polly Rodriguez, the founder behind the sexual wellness company Unbound.
Since its start, Unbound has gone from being a labor of love operating out of a tiny NYC apartment to a leader in changing how people explore and enjoy their sex lives. Their mission is to make sexual wellness products that are body safe, affordable and elevated in design.
Polly shares the harsh realities of building this business for the first few years and the kind of sacrifice and commitment that comes with launching a startup.
Her advice on marketing regulated products and what they’ve done to stand out, dealing with the bias that exists between men and women’s sexual health companies, and why it’s important to be weird.
Please note, this transcript has been copy pasted without the lovely touch of a human editor. Please expect some typos!
Polly: Sure. I'm Polly Rodriguez and I'm the CEO and co-founder of Unbound, which is a sexual wellness company. We sell direct to consumer and we design and manufacture over 50 different products spanning vibrators, lubricants and accessories. And our goal has always been to take a category to for a long time has been taboo and in the shadows into the mainstream by designing body safe products at affordable price points that also have elevated design. So, yeah, it's a little bit about what I do every day
Doone: And it's so cool. I really love the branding and the the vibe that you put out there. I want to go back to the very beginning to your life way before unbound, and now you have a really special story. It's very unique. So I was wanting to start from the very beginning and and work our way forward from there.
Polly: Sure, I mean, in terms of my professional career, my personal career or my personal hurt, but I guess my personal life, which is more interesting, I guess.
Doone: Yeah, I think the story that I was reading online, starting from when you were twenty one and you had that life experience that kind of led you to eventually getting into this particular space.
Polly: Yeah. So when I was 21 years old, I was diagnosed with stage three colorectal cancer. At the time I had been living abroad in Spain in way over my head and enrolled in university and from the DNA. And I just was really struggling and then also had these symptoms of every time I go to the bathroom and there was blood. And so when I got back, I immediately got a colonoscopy and found out that I had stage three cancer, which means that it had spread to my surrounding lymph nodes. And so I had to drop out of college and go through treatment for that, which included radiation to shrink the size of the tumor. And before radiation, my doctor sat me down and said, this is going to beam through all of your reproductive organs and as a result, you'll never be able to have children. And that was all that they really said is a twenty one year old. I don't really know what that meant. And it wasn't till I was about a month into treatment that I started having hot flashes and all the symptoms. And so I Googled it and that was how I felt. I was going through menopause. No one told me that I was going to happen.
Polly: No one sat me down and talk to me about the lifelong side effects and consequences. And so I found myself searching on the Internet for what it meant to go through menopause at twenty one. And a lot of the stuff I found so that there be a dip in libido, I would have vaginal dryness like all these very unsexy things, but things that I thought my doctors probably should talk to me about. And so in an effort to try to reclaim my sense of sexuality, I went and bought a vibrator and a lubricant that the only place that sold them in my hometown in St. Louis, Missouri, which was a hustler, Hollywood and a strip mall next to the airport. And it was just a really embarrassing shopping experience. I didn't really know what I was looking for and I felt too awkward to ask the sales associate. So I just thought, first two things I could find. And it was a shopping experience that definitely always stuck with me, but didn't really think too much about it and ended up actually going to work for Senator Claire McCaskill from Missouri, my home state on Capitol Hill, working on the Affordable Care Act, because I also lost health care coverage as a result of having to drop out of school.
And so I was really passionate about working on that reform because it almost financially bankrupt my family. And I did that for about a year or so and then became disillusioned with just the how slow it is to try to create change in D.C.. And so then I went and worked for Deloitte in their strategy practices, management consulting, focusing on growth strategy for Fortune, one hundred companies, and then left that and worked actually at a dating startup that went through Y Combinator called Gruver, where I worked on actually matching their matching algorithm and criteria. And while there really still was passion about starting my own business. And so I started working on Unbanning with my co-founder Sarah-Jane in twenty fourteen with the goal of trying to change the shopping experience. That was really bad for both of us growing up in the Midwest and just creating a destination online that we felt like was the place that we both would have wanted to go to find and StumbleUpon and we were trying to answer questions about our sexuality. So it was a very long winded story. That's kind of the journey as to how I got here.
I mean, it's such an interesting story and obviously so much for such a young woman to go through and then to to come back around and to actually work on something in that space that would have helped the younger you, which I just think is so incredible what you're doing for women
Around the world. I want to know
About how you met Sarah Jane and what that kind of light bulb moment was to start a company in sexual wellness and the conversations that led you to getting started.
Yeah, it wasn't. There's so many startup stories of like we met in the school and then we decided we're going to do this and then we based around the funding. Ours was not that at all. We're in the dating startup. It was it was a very divisive environment for women to work there. I think dating startups in general are difficult workplaces because a lot of the algorithm, a lot of the work you're doing is literally trying to quantify people. And as a result, I don't know, there are a lot of things that happen. But basically, overall, it was a tough place to work if you were a woman. And I think coming out of that, I was looking for what I wanted to do next, and I really had no idea. And one of the other women that had worked at Gruver started a group of female. It was just like a startup community, kind of. And through her, I was introduced to Sarah Jane and their janitor working on this kind of like subscription box idea with her friends called Unbound Box. But they were all doing it on nights and weekends. And it was a space that I was really, really passionate about. And so we started working on it together and really bootstrap for the first two and a half years. And I feel like every other month I was contemplating, like, do we shut this down? Like, it's such a slog.
Like Sarah-Jane at the time was a stylist for four big brands. And so she was working on that while also trying we're trying to get a subscription box idea off the ground. And I was working like two other part time jobs. And it was just it was tough. Like we had this idea that we thought there should be a curated place for people to buy these products because there were just you go to a lot of the bigger sites like Adam and Eve Dotcom or Amazon, and they're like thousands of Skewes. And so we started out by just trying to curate because Sarah-Jane had worked at OBRA, working on her favorite things. And so she really had experience in trying to curate the best products. And we thought maybe we can just find the best of what's out there and do the work for people. Then it will be an online destination that resonates. But, you know, I naively thought I had saved up, I think, five thousand dollars at the time. And I thought this will hold me over until we can get the company to where it's generating enough revenue to pay my income, which was a really naive notion. It took years before that was possible.
Oh, my gosh. A hundred percent actually read something that was about you guys, I think it was published last year that you had become profitable. And I think it's something that's really important to talk about, because oftentimes you do naively go into business thinking like, yeah, I'm going to make tons of money, like it's going to be profitable from day, maybe not day one, but early on. And then actually it's such a journey to getting to profitability and, you know, having the right projections and the right plans to actually know when you're going to become profitable.
The other thing is, I think I felt like a failure every day because you see all these PR stories of, you know, I'm in the consumer space. So I would read these stories about Glossy and Warby Parker and Casper and how things just took off. And they launched the product and they had a waiting list of two thousand people. And I'm sitting here, you know, going to every event I can, doing pop ups at random flea markets, like trying to write witty marketing emails to an email list that had maybe like two thousand people on it. And I just felt like no matter what I did, it didn't move the needle. And eventually things started to grow slowly. But like I would listen to podcasts about I would listen to how I built this every single day and felt like that was one that was actually really good because people were really honest about how hard and how long it took for the business to grow. And the other thing that now I realized being six years into this is that so many of these startups that have those Cinderella stories of like we launched and everything took off and it was great, like they usually have millions of dollars in funding and they are putting that into a PR agency that they're paying ten thousand dollars a month to get them in a lot of these big press and magazines. And I think now being on the other side of it, I realized how much money it takes to have that kind of rocket ship growth right out of the gate, which most of us don't have when you start our businesses.
Yeah, absolutely. I definitely fall into that camp of reading all these successful stories, especially when I'm going through the phase of figuring out what brands would be a great fit for the show. And it can be really disheartening because when you're going through that slog and like that daily grind, you like, but anything's going to change. And something we think about on the podcast really, really often. Is that compound effective in the early days, you are sending those emails and being like, oh, it's only two thousand people, but it is that compound effect that a few years in, you wake up one day and you're like, well, hang on, all of that really did make a big difference.
Yeah, you just have to keep doing it. And like, the thing that is actually really liberating in the beginning is like you can take as many risks as you want. You don't have to tone the brand down. You don't have to worry about all like as your audience gets bigger, you have to be much more thoughtful about everything and you have to kind of scale it down and tone it down a bit. I mean, not always like we certainly I don't I don't think we're really turning it down anytime soon. But what I do with emails, because, like, anybody can write an email and it's really cheap and effective way to slowly grow your audience base. But I would think about email marketing is like knocking on someone's door. And if you're going to knock on someone's door, you better have something worth opening the door for. And so I started to write weirder and funnier copy that was like really relatable, like stuff that would have happened to me in, like kind of writing that in to the email copy and poking fun at myself about the central truths about sexuality, that maybe all of this is happening to us at one point or another, but we don't talk about it. And I think that was it was when things started to turn a corner where people would be like, oh, my God, I read your emails. They're so funny. I followed them to my friends. And that was one of the things that I realized, like, if I'm going to do this, I should have something to say. And I shouldn't be afraid of like being weird and being funny and just writing what I would want to get into my inbox that would like brighten up my day or make me laugh. And so I highly encourage brands, whether it's social media or email marketing, to just like take a risk and like like be weird because there's so many generic emails out there. You want yours to stand out and it doesn't cost anything.
That is such good advice. And I so love that. And I imagine like that kind of thing, it's like relatable and all women going through these experiences and maybe are too shy to talk about it. And then they're able to open up their inbox and have a bit of a giggle from a story that you'd sent them or something that you're talking about, which I just totally love. That's amazing. So that's when things started to change and you started to, I guess, build like a real sense of community and people really enjoying and opening your content. What happened next and when did you guys decide to kind of branch away from the. Description box of selling other people's products and be like, hey, actually let's build our own brand of our own products and manufacture and that kind of thing.
Yeah, I mean, there are a lot of things that happened. We really focused on growth. I went out initially when I had run out of my five thousand massive savings that I saved up and had no money. I was like, OK, well, now I have to fundraise. And I remember meeting with a founder who is the founder of a subscription box company that was doing well at the time. And he was the only one up until that point out of everyone I met with that had the guts to sit me down and look at my numbers and say, I'm not saying this to deter you. I'm telling you this so that hopefully this company will survive and you don't have the numbers to fundraise. You don't have the traction. You need at least a thousand subscribers before anyone is going to take a meeting with you. You need at least 30 to 50 K and monthly revenue. And at the time, I remember being, like, really flustered and frustrated and being and walking into that meeting kind of being like, well, what does he know? And did it. And then over the next couple of days, I started to really think about it and I was like, he's trying to save me time. He's basically saying because fundraising is a full time job. And he was like, I went out and tried to raise too early and I ended up running myself into the ground because I really didn't have the traction that investors needed to see. And so we focused maniacally on how do we get to a thousand subscribers? How do we get our revenue to the point where we can go and meet with investors and show that there is traction and there is demand in a category that often people write off as like there were a lot of investors that were like, I'm not taking a meeting because this is an advice industry. And a lot of VCs also have what's called a moral hazard
Which means they can invest in anything related to alcohol or sex or drugs. And that was always really frustrating to me because, like, there was nothing about our product that
Harming people, whereas arguably with alcohol and gambling and all those things, like there are addictions associated with that and our products don't don't do that. So I think that was frustrating, but we really focused on trying to like, you know, some very tactical goals, like let's get to 10 percent growth month over month and let's do that for like a year. And then once we were doing close to like 50 K a month in revenue, we started taking meetings with we started begging for meetings, not taking meetings. But we started we started I just started applying for every pitch competition I could because I knew we sold over two thousand products. And in doing that and also being the person that was doing all of our customer service, we noticed that people were paying like one hundred and fifty dollars for these brand name vibrators that were breaking that also had to return policies that were just like, well, you bought it, no returns. And so customers were getting really frustrated with that. So we had a very good sense of what was missing in the market and what we wanted to create, which was a much more affordable product by cutting out distributors, but also making sure it was medical grade because most of the products in this industry aren't regulated by the FDA. And so a lot of the things that people were buying, they were using on one of the most absorbent parts of their body and it had carcinogens in it. So we really did two things. We proved that we could we could build something that had significant traction. And then I was just relentless about fundraising. And it took two and a half years before I raised our seed round of capital.
I got over
Three hundred rejections from investors before I got my first. Yes. Which was just morally debilitating. I mean, there were days where I could even get out of bed. So I was just like, I'm wasting my time. This is never going to happen. Meanwhile, I was like twenty five grand in credit card debt because I was buying all of the inventory myself. And there were lots of days where I was just like, I am, I'm an idiot. What am I doing? This is I'm digging myself further and further into that.
But there was
Just I don't know, I would talk to our customers and they would talk about how much they love the brand and how much it meant to them. And so I just had this gut feeling that I had to keep going. But there were so many days and I wanted to give up.
Wow. That is relentless hustle. That's so crazy. Three hundred nights. I can't even imagine what that must have been like mentally to be having to go home and deal with that, like when you finished for the day. And it's crazy. What kind of reaction like what were people actually saying to you in those meetings? Like what were the investors coming back with and will you pitching obviously to like a white v.c, older men who didn't get it? Or was it a mix of women as well?
Yeah, it's a great question. So in the beginning, I just applied to every pitch competition I could I was going to like and in New York it was much more competitive. And because we were still seen as like a really taboo industry, a lot of times what would happen is people would allow some of the competition because it was like an interesting, controversial company. But then like. A Q&A would come around and nobody would ask any questions, like people just were so scared to engage, which I think is almost even worse than if people had like very colorful reactions. So I started traveling to Baltimore and D.C. and cities where if we had 50 a month in revenue in New York, people were kind of like, OK, yeah, that's them. But then when I go to places like Baltimore, D.C., they were much more impressed with those numbers. So the first real tracks that I closed were actually the Baltimore Angels, which is an angel group out of Baltimore. And I remember leading up to that pitch competition. I was taking the Amtrak at four in the morning, like down to Baltimore to pitch. And then I'd go back to New York to work by two part time jobs and then I work on inbound at night. And so it was just that kind of relentless hustle of like applying for everything that I could.
And it was exhausting. But eventually we started to get some angel checks and that allowed us to start because the biggest push back these guys had was they were like, OK, so you built a D and E Commerce website selling other people's products. You haven't demonstrated at all that you can actually manufacture. And it's kind of like, well, how can I can I demonstrate that I can manufacture? I don't have the money to actually make a product because all the money is going towards trying to keep more inventory on shelves to prove traction. Do you guys feel like getting those first Baltimore Angels tracks that I close, like one hundred sixty five thousand across 12 different investors in that group, and I had to lobby each individual angel to get them to come in. But then that small amount of money allowed us to make these Bingel handcuffs that I've been wanting to make forever, which are just like basically gold bangles that you would wear that also could transform into handcuffs. So they were a fashion forward item that didn't cost a ton of money to manufacture because they didn't have electronics in them like it wasn't a vibrator. That requires a lot more money because those are more expensive to make. And by doing that, we were able to get a lot of PR because people were like, oh, this is so cool.
It's jewelry, but it's also handcuffs. And then that part in turn created more of a growth funnel. We were like, look, these Bingel handcuffs have been in Cosmo, man in all these different publications, like clearly we're able to manufacture a product that resonates with people. And so we just kind of releasing these small jewelry items one by one until about a year after I raise my first angel checks, I was able to actually close like a formal v.C enterprise storage. But like that year was brutal because we were still having to buy more inventory, trying to find the money to manufacture our own products while also trying to fundraise and continuing to prove out that we had traction and that we were growing. And it was just from the outside looking in. I remember if you would be like, oh, my God, you guys are crushing it. I saw you on BuzzFeed or like wherever it was big. This was like twenty seventeen at the time and like. Meanwhile, I'm in credit card debt, like on Medicaid living, I was 30 at the time, living with two twenty two year olds in a shitty apartment next to mine at Madison Square Garden. And just it was miserable, but I could tell it like things were trending in the right direction.
You can see that future was definitely there. Were you still working part time jobs at that time as well, or had you been able to take the shift and to work full time on on Unbound?
Yeah. So when we closed the angel round, I was able to go full time in the summer of twenty. So I'm trying to think it was like the end of twenty sixteen and I started working on the company in twenty fourteen. So it was two years, it was two solid years of just part time jobs and trying to make ends meet. But I remember when I quit full time I gave myself a salary. I think of the first year it was like maybe thirty five thousand forty thousand living in New York City, which I mean is nothing and was really hard. But it was enough to at least allow me to focus full time on the business. But I was the only full time higher. Sarah-Jane was still doing a lot of her styling stuff because we couldn't afford for both of us to be full time. So I made the leap and did it alone for about a year and a half. And I would just hire like contractors or have friends that would help me for equity, I would give one percent here, five percent there, because you just didn't have the money to pay. And I am still eternally grateful to those people who were willing to just take one of my best friends from Gruber came on and build out our entire customer experience platform for equity. And it was probably like three months of solid work. And you have to ask for a lot of favors, which is uncomfortable. That's why you have to do in the beginning,
My gosh, it's just crazy to think that, again, like the Sarah Jane having to spend like three and a half years working multiple jobs to be able to then get to a point where she can actually focus on her own business full time. Obviously, you were a bit sooner than that, but it's just a long time. I guess you just kind of don't realize that from when you look into a brand now, like however many years down the track it's been and you're like, oh, yeah, you know, success story. That's amazing. But you forget that hustle of people having to be like, yeah, like there was a lot of sacrifice and a lot of commitment to to get to this point.
Yeah. I mean, it's also just. It really forces you to look at the opportunity that you're working on and decide, am I willing to give up everything for this dream? Do I do I love it that much? And I think for us, it really was like from a values perspective, important to us. Like we even still see all of the money that the erectile dysfunction companies raise, like hymns and Roman and no company that focuses on sexual wellness for women has come within like even five percent of that amount of funding. And I think it's what fuels us because it's kind of like if you're going to spend 10 years of your life building this startup, it has to like it has to feed your personal worldly views that you have to believe at night that you're sacrificing everything for something that you genuinely believe is going to in some way make the world a bit better. Otherwise you won't be able to get through it because it asks so much of you that you have to sacrifice so much in order to make this thing real. So, yeah, I think I think that I think believing that this was like a really important issue allowed us to get through those many years of just misery.
Misery. Oh, gosh, that's awful. I want to talk about I want to shift to talk a little bit about marketing. I know you guys had a really great campaign that was the approved, not approved advertising quiz thing that you did. Could you talk a little bit about that and especially obviously around that bias that there is between, you know, women's sexual health companies versus men's health companies and. Yeah, and what kind of happened with that?
Yeah. So I had no idea how many rules there were around this category when I got into it. I think that's part of the reason why there isn't a big brand name in the way that we have Ms. Roman Viag or Playboy Hustla Manscape. Like there's so many brands that cater to men's view of sexuality and they're very little, if any, mainstream brands that cater to women, feminine binary people. And that's largely because of the barriers that are put on those companies versus ones that focus on men. So we weren't allowed to and we still aren't allowed to advertise on Facebook,
Pinterest, Twitter, Snapchat, the subway TV, like all of these platforms. Consider us an inappropriate business to advertise. Meanwhile, all of us grew up seeing Viagra ads all over TV and we walk on the subway and you see that they're everywhere. And so I think for us it was really frustrating to see this double standard that existed where we went. We commissioned artwork from five incredible artists and we were really thoughtful in the creative. There was no products, no product photography, no nudity, none of that. They were really beautiful illustrations. And they rejected them the same week that they put up the ads that had cactuses everywhere. And it was infuriating to see that like that was OK. But what we put this beautiful art that had been created was deemed morally offensive by the MTA. And so I'm friends with Alex Fine, who's the CEO and co-founder of Game Products, which is another incredible company in the space. And they had run into the same issues. And so we decided to create a website which was approved, not approved dotcom in which people could they would. It was basically a game where we would show you an ad and you would have to guess whether it was approved or rejected. And overwhelmingly, people who played the game, most of them scored below 50 percent
It's so subjective and there's no real rhyme or reason and it just highlights the double standard. We also organized a protest outside of the Facebook offices in New York, and this campaign was rooted in trying to stand up to these biased policies. But from a business perspective, it also garnered a lot of PR coverage and that helped with sales. And so I've always been of the mindset that, like, if you're going to build a company and you're doing it in a hard space, it's hard for a reason. But you have to kind of use those disadvantages to turn them into advantages like make the fact that you can't advertise a public thing because it's bullshit and other people who believe in what you're doing are going to speak out. I mean, things did pioneer this things period underwear when they submitted subway ads and they were rejected and it turned into this huge PR blitz of the subway, not allowing a period products to advertise. So, yeah, that was also a very long winded answer. But unfortunately, we did get a lot of coverage. But they still don't allow us to advertise on the subway.
Either. So we're still fighting that fight. And I'm hopeful that. Maybe it'll change one day soon if there's a woman or non binary founder in charge of one of these social media networks. Unfortunately, almost all of them are all run by white dudes who ultimately get to write the policies and the rules.
I mean, it's kind of unbelievable. I mean, 20, 20 is just unbelievable in general. But like where we are that you're not able to market something that's just totally normal and for half of the population just blows my mind. How do you combat and keep fighting that? Because obviously you've tried certain things. It hasn't worked. So what else do you have to do? Is it about like partnering with the men's companies and trying to get them to add their voice as well? Like that might be a really weird thought there, but what do you do to keep fighting?
Yeah, I mean, I'll say that Zacharia Roman has reached out multiple times and offered help to try to to support us. I have different thoughts about chems and hers. They have not. But I think, you know, I think you have to pursue other channels. And for us, we got really smart around content. And so because we knew a lot of people were turning to Google to answer questions like, I have painful sex, what can I do? Or I want to watch porn. But I don't know. Is there such thing as feminist porn or just writing, really digging in deep to understand, because I remember people kept talking about it and I was like, I have no idea what this really means from like an algorithm perspective. And so I dedicated myself for like three weeks to studying everything I could about and learning how to create content with specific keyword searches and longtail searches, which was basically just means very specific searches and then writing content around those that had high search traffic. And that's converted really while also working with influencers on Instagram, who when we first started, we reach out to people to say if we send you a vibrator and pay you to post about it, will you do it? People are like, absolutely not. Like my mom's on my Instagram. I would never do that thing. You know, with the election, Donald Trump, people just got more vocal about their rights because they were their rights were threatened by this administration. So I think working with influencers has done quite well. And I think ultimately just continuing to create innovative products is the thing that moves the needle more than anything, really trying to think about how do we make what is our next product going to be? How is it going to be great, possibly make it affordable? And how do we make the creative and the brand inventory loud? Because there are only a few places where where we can actually be seen and be visual. And so that brand imagery has to be loud because otherwise nobody would know about us.
Yeah, you definitely need the word of mouth. Filton, a friend of mine. Actually, I, I really love her, her content and I think she's posted about you guys before is Lilyan Fleck's mommy. I just love the the voice that she has on Instagram around sex toys and what she's using and what's fun. And it's refreshing to see a lot more influences do that kind of thing now so that women everywhere like this, a little space on the Internet that is having open conversations about this in a cool way.
Yeah. And the thing is, for the influencers and press, like those developer publications, their sex content is the best performing content. So it's like, you know, because, again, it's not people don't have a lot of conversations on it. And so I remember talking to some of the people at Refinery29 and they're like, oh yeah, whenever we write articles that are related to sex, they perform way better than anything else on the site. And so it's offering those stats where it's like, you know, you have to position it when you're working with somebody else to amplify your company. It has to be beneficial for both parties. It can't just be promote this and you get nothing out of it. It has to be like paying people for their work as well as trying to come up with authentic. I mean, flexitime is one of the best examples because it's about authenticity and how if they don't actually really like what you're doing, people can tell immediately. So you have to seek out people that actually truly believe in what you're building as opposed to just, oh, let's try to get one of the productions to post about this on their Instagram story. And it's like that's that's not where you want to go. That's not where you want to focus. And most likely you'll pay an exorbitant amount of money and it'll be for like, what, two seconds on someone's Instagram story? Like, you're much better off looking for smaller communities that have really developed followings that are going to engage more. And so don't go after those. The big names that have a million followers, because they're never going to take the time to care about what you're building in a way that somebody that maybe only has like ten thousand followers.
Well, yes, searcher on that note of products and where you've been going, where are you now and what are your best sellers? What does the future look like? Are the new products coming? And are you said you really love to innovate and create new things?
Yeah. So right now we have about 50 products that we make. We did hit profitability last year. We're releasing a new product in two weeks on October twenty eight. So Déby is our latest product. We've been working on it for a very long time. It is a wearable remote vibrator, so it weighs zero point two pounds, incredibly light. And it comes with a remote that the harder you squeeze the remote, the harder the vibrator strength is and you can create your own patterns. It's meant both for solo play and for couples to use. And I'm really excited. We just have to work on this a long time. And we got feedback from people, especially different able bodied people, that a lot of times when using vibrators, people's hands will go numb. And so we wanted to create something that you could use and you could control without having to actually physically hold the product. So, yeah, I'm really excited. Déby is going to be an original creation that we've been working on for a very long time.
Oh, that's so cool. Congrats. I can't wait to see see it come out on October twenty eight. Amazing. What advice do you have for women who have a big idea and want to start their own business?
Well, I mean, so I think there are two things, I think one. Amelia Earhart said this and she was like, the best way to do something is to just do it, like I think it's so easy. I think women as women on binary people, we tend to be perfectionists where we want everything to be done the right way. And it can be really scary to put something out into the world when it's half baked or not fully perfected. And you have to get really comfortable with doing that because it's never going to be perfect. And the most important thing is just to get it done. And that can feel scary because we are people that constantly have to bend and stand up for our ideas. And when they are flawed, often we feel like we can't bring them out into the world and share them. So I would encourage people to just just start do a little bit every day, keep working on it, be consistent. It's not going to happen overnight.
And then the second
Piece of advice I would have is to really try to surround yourself with a community of people that are similarly going through, whether it's other founders or artists or creatives or whoever
Trying to start a business in my thirties, a lot of my friends were getting married and having kids and I was really happy for them. But like, I felt like I didn't have anyone to talk to about the reality of life. So today I filed for Medicaid and this is really hard and I'm struggling. And so I worked really hard to build a community of other founders and creatives who similarly were trying to create something and put something into the world that hadn't existed before. And it's a very lonely journey. And so I think having other people that you can lean on that are going through something similar is so essential so that you don't feel so alone every day.
Searcher So we are up to the six quick questions part of the episode. Are you ready? Yes, great question. Number one is what's your why?
My y my y is women and men on binary people everywhere, but in particular those on our team or team of 10 women and getting to work with them and getting for the first time in my life to be on a team of all women is just so deeply fulfilling to me.
I'm sure we'll hire
Men one day, but getting to excite them, I think, is why I get up every day.
Must be really refreshing. I've I've never worked in an office of all women.
Yeah, it's great. I personally like I love it.
I do think we need
To hire a man soon, but it works well.
Yeah, I'm sure. So question number two is what's been the number one marketing moment that made your business, pop?
A really good question. I don't know that there was a single on the one that probably put us on the map the most was when we did vibes for Congress in twenty seventeen where we did a campaign. This was when Trump was attacking Planned Parenthood and wanted to shut down all the Planned Parenthood. And so we launched a campaign that allowed you to put in your address and it would look up your local politicians and and federal politicians and you can send a vibrator for 15 dollars to any politician. And all the proceeds would go to Planned Parenthood. And so we thought maybe a couple hundred people would do it and thousands and thousands of people did it. We got a lot of PR coverage as the company that was sending we spent like four hundred vibrators to Mitch McConnell. So, yeah, that was that was a pretty big PR moment for sure.
That is so cool. What a great idea. Did you come up with that?
Yeah, I mean, we do as a team. I think one of the things with a PR stunts like that is you have to think about like, is this something that's going to that are like actual community you will care about? Is it enabling them to take action on a value that they believe in? And I think also we just saw in the news every day about how all these Planned Parenthood, we're shutting down. And I grew up in a state that only had one Planned Parenthood where you can get an abortion in the entire state. And so it's something that's also deeply personal to me. And I think we realized it was deeply personal to a lot of women. And so that was why we did that campaign.
And you were really right for sure. So cool. I love that question. Number three is where do you hang out to get smarter? Can be listening to what you're reading. Who you chatting with?
I read. It's a trick question, I mean, I'm an avid New York Times like paper reader, I love reading the paper on the weekends. I also read a lot of biographies. I think I try to read as many of the business books as I can. I've read a lot of them in the startup world. I think one of the better ones is the hard thing about hard
Things by Ben
Horowitz. It's just a brutally honest book about how tough it is to be a leader at times and having to do the hard thing, which often is laying people off. Being honest about someone's poor performance. And it definitely made me feel less alone. But I think, yeah, I love biographies to.
That book comes up a lot on the show, a lot of founders recommend it.
It's a really honest it's a lot of times in business books are so fluffy, like I love the glamorous girl. Must be is kind of like I don't know about this, whereas I think I think that heritage is really honest about failure.
That's why people
Like it so much.
Yeah, it's definitely on my list. Question number four is how do you win the day? And that can be around your AMPM rituals or the things that you do that keep you feeling happy and productive and successful.
Yeah, this is a really hard during covid, I used to be a pretty big runner and athlete and I think during covid there was just so much work that had to be done in order to take our team one hundred percent remote. And at the end of the day, I just I was like, I don't have the energy to run and have an energy to exercise. And now I've been trying to get up in the morning and run. And that's been really, really helpful because it kind of forces me to, like, just get that burst of energy in the morning when I think we're all feeling about seven months into this. Like I wake up and my first thought is like, OK, back to sing in front of my screen for another 12 hours today. And I think getting outside, whether it's walking or running or taking the dog for a walk,
Important, especially on the days where I just really don't want
To be doing
Some type of human connection that isn't through screen.
Yeah, totally, I so feel that I think a lot of people feel that way at the moment. Question number five is if you only had a thousand dollars left in your business bank account, how would you spend it?
Only a thousand
Dollars. Well, for us, I probably have spent it on inventory because you have to have something to sell in order to make money, but assuming I had inventory on the shelves, I would probably commission the weirdest Instagram like micro people I could find that would that would I would pick like four that would do it for two hundred fifty bucks. And I would do like the weirdest names possible.
I love that circle. And question number six. Last question is, how do you deal with failure.
Who therapy or in all sincerity we did. We hired a therapist slash business coach. She's like a licensed therapist for our company a year
Ago because I
Think we're a team of ten, which is pretty small. And I realize that, like, I kind of like our executive team had to kind of become the de facto team team therapist, which was like really emotionally exhausting and draining. And so I think, one, having a professional to help me and the team talk through the days where we really feel low. But I think
Also just becoming
More comfortable with failure in the sense that, like, if you're failing, it means you're trying and trying is the most important thing. I mean, we fail every single day.
I fail and you
Just get a little more comfortable with knowing that something's going to work and some things aren't. And it's not a reflection on you personally. If anything, it's a reflection on you trying to do something different, but something different in the world.
And there's nothing to
Feel bad about when you're doing something that difficult.
Mhm. Yeah, totally. I love that you hired a therapist. Does she come to work every day. She's there like a few times a week. How does it work.
We used to do I mean we can't do anything interesting because of it, but basically our executive team, the three of us, we do a session every other week together with her or we can talk through just difficult things. Or if there are like emotionally charged conversations, we'll reserve them for that space in that time. And then everyone on the team has an individual session with the therapist once a month. And if people are going through stuff and they're like, I really could use a session, then we allow them to do that whenever they may need, because during covid there's so much stuff that people are going on. It's going on people's personal lives that can be deeply impacting their ability to work. And so we want to have a resource available so that if somebody is going through something, they have a place to talk through that and encourage, encourage that type of mental health in taking care of your mental health and taking care of yourself, because these are really difficult times that we're living in.
I love that so much, I haven't heard that
Before on the show,
It feels like a really impactful way to support your team and yourselves, which I think is just really beautiful.
Thank you. I think the team likes it, too, so it's good.
Amazing, Polly, thank you so much for taking the time to be on Female Startup Club today, I have absolutely loved talking to you and understanding more about your business and how it got started. Yeah.
Thank you so much for having me. It was