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Women’s sexual health and wellbeing have been neglected too long, so women are developing innovative products and creating new business models for this market. They are also disrupting the way these products are marketed and funded.
Treating erectile dysfunction is projected to be a $4.25 billion market worldwide by 2022, according to Research and Markets. Because there is a gender orgasm gap, it stands to reason that ensuring sexual pleasure is an even larger market for women. More than 90% of men reported that they had an orgasm after their last sexual encounter, but only 64% of women did so, according to the National Survey of Sexual Health and Behavior. Women’s sexual dysfunction is more complicated than men’s. Because the problem can be caused by pain, desire, arousal and satisfaction, an array of solutions may be required.
Rachel Braun Scherl is using her business degree from Stanford and her experience in brand management to tap that market. In 2008, she and her cofounder, Mary Wallace Jansch, and a venture capital partner created Semprae Laboratories to market Zestra, the first non-prescription product clinically proven to increase satisfaction in women. The company was sold in 2013 to Innovus Pharmaceuticals. Braun Scherl also wrote the book on the subject, Orgasmic Leadership: Profiting from the Coming Surge in Women’s Sexual Health and Wellness.
Braun Scherl is part of a growing number of vagipreners. Her book highlights others who are taking a holistic and systematic approach to legitimize products for women’s sexual health. This article focuses on five strategies female founders are using to expand the market and capture market share.
1. Product innovations: To avoid hormones and their side effects, women like Braun Scher and Wendy Strgar — founder of Good Clean Love — focus on using other ingredients in gels and lubricants that improve sexual satisfaction.
Women like Holly Rockweiler, co-founder and CEO of Madorra, Karen Long, co-founder of Nuelle, Colette Courtion, CEO and cofounder of Joylux, and Alexandra Fine, CEO and co-founder of Dame Products, are developing devices that improve sexual satisfaction. Joylux’s device also helps with urinary incontinence.
2. Education as marketing: Porn has been the de facto sex education vehicle, noticed Cindy Gallop, founder of MakeLoveNotPorn.tv. And, porn leads to unrealistic expectations as well as unhealthy and risky behavior. She is changing that by encouraging people to talk openly and honestly about women’s sexuality. Her site shares videos of real-world people having sex. Gallop is using thought leadership to put herself in the news.
How do you acquire customers for products you can’t advertise? “Produce interesting and engaging educational content,” said Polly Rodriguez, CEO and cofounder of Unbound, which is elevating the conversation. Her company sells sexual aids. “There is wide variation in knowledge about female sexuality and there’s enormous curiosity.” Unbound creates content about life events, such as the wedding night, childbirth and menopause.
When women (and men) search for information about these topics, Unbound’s content rises to the top of the search results, driving people to the site. After reading an article, visitors explore the rest of the site and sometimes make a purchase.
3. Business models: When people rent videos, Gallop shares revenue 50/50 with content creators. In contrast, the porn industry pays a flat one-time fee per scene or per day.
Direct consumer subscriptions provide a predictable, recurring revenue stream, which helps manage cash flow. So Unbound has a quarterly subscription box.
4. Marketing messaging: “We still do not talk about women’s needs without shame or guilt or that familiar uncomfortable giggle,” said Long in Orgasmic Leadership. “But these needs or concerns are affecting the quality of life.” Her company, Nuelle, created a humorous social campaign called “Legalize V,” which encourages the destigmatization of the word “vagina.”
5. Women funding women: Tracy Warren, founder of Astarte Ventures, invests in companies that target women, specifically in the healthcare sector. “We need to move from pure treatment to wellness, prevention and early intervention,” she said in Orgasmic Leadership. “And, I realize the women’s health space will have to be driven by consumer choice and behavior … If I don’t have something to do with figuring it out, then someone else will figure it out.”
Not covered in the book but important to know if you’re raising money or investing in this space.
- Project Sage, a report by Wharton Social Impact Initiative, provides a list of venture funds focused on gender-lens investing and more, specifically, includes a list of those in the healthcare sector.
- Trish Costello, CEO of Portfolia, has a goal to activate 100,000 women as investors in entrepreneurial ventures by 2022. First-time investors can invest as little as $10,000 in micro-venture capital funds. An investment in a Portfolia fund is spread among six to nine companies over 12 months. A series of funds opening quarterly will focus on industries that matter to women, including first-time women investors, active aging, sustainability, and inclusion. It recently closed a fund in femtech.
What’s the future of the women’s sexual health and wellbeing market? As women become more educated about solutions to their problems, for sure the sector will continue to grow. However, Braun Scherl predicts other changes as well, such as the creation of larger companies that have a family of products. Smaller companies that could benefit from economies of scale will be purchased and rolled up into a larger company, she continued.
How will you take advantage of changes in the women’s sexual health sector?
December 26, 2018 at 11:45AM
Forbes – Entrepreneurs