Meika Hollender | Sustain
I started Sustain because I wanted to start a national conversation about women’s sexual and reproductive health. Once my co-founder, Jeffrey/my dad/the man, and I developed our all natural, non-toxic condoms we started to think about who we were creating them for and who we wanted to focus building our business with and after looking at the facts and figures around women and sexual health (ex. Only 21% of single women use condoms regularly) we decided on women.
I think there are times when I can be creative at work, but also times that I can’t. Business sometimes is business, and everything at the end of the day needs to drive sales to keep your business afloat, but at the same time creativity is more critical now than ever. When it comes to sexual wellness products, I’ve been able to be really creative because after all, sex is fun. Also, for me, sometimes it’s just about doing the right thing. For example, I recently launched the campaign #GetOnTop, because I knew that for women’s health week (when this launched) I need to stand up and speak out about how and why sexual health MUST be a part of the women’s wellness conversation.
There is definitely a lot of pressure, daily, when running a new business, but something that I really believe is that if you’re doing something that you love, that you feel like is making the world a better, fairer, brighter place you can feel successful every day. Every day that Sustain exists is a day where women everywhere have access to better, safer products that help them take control of their sexual health, and for me, that’s what it’s all about.
Starting my own business has definitely been a learning process for me. Everything from financials to creative has been stuff I’ve learned ‘on the job’. I went to business school right before founding Sustain, and although I met an incredible network of other peers and founders, all the tools I’ve needed to build Sustain have come through learned experience, a not too shabby business partner, and other entrepreneurs I’ve met.
"One of the things I wish I knew before starting this job was how incredibly taboo sex is in this country! I knew that fundamentally our society stigmatizes any woman who attaches herself to anything sexual (i.e. the slut-shaming Gwyneth Paltrow faced when she started educating women about organic lube), but I really didn’t understand the extent of it until starting Sustain."
I will never forget the first time I experience public slut-shaming after starting Sustain. About two years ago, I was sitting at my parents' dining room table, browsing through emails. For the previous eight months, I'd been working on launching Sustain, so you can imagine my excitement when I came across an email in my inbox that said, "ABC News article ran!!” I read through the article quickly, and then started looking at the comments.
“She appears to have a growth on her lower lip…it must be…”
A reply to that comment said, “herpes”
My stomach flipped.
So, you should know that I have a huge, dark freckle on my lower lip. Up until that point in time, it had been something I’d grown to love. It was part of me, my mark. In my headshot, which appeared at the beginning of the article, my freckle was front and center on my bottom lip as I smiled a big smile.
I kept reading the comments. “She should be using condoms not selling condoms.” I burst into tears, and immediately picked up the phone to call my mom. “I need to go to the dermatologist this week and get my lip freckle removed,” I said to her, after explaining what I'd read. But my mom thought different. No, she told me — do not get the lip freckle removed; instead, realize that this is likely just the beginning of ignorant, nasty comments.
This one of so many personal and professional obstacles I’ve faced because I’m a young woman selling condoms. However, I want to be remembered as women who helped women everywhere stand up for their sexual health and not feel stigmatized for being the incredible, vibrant, sexual beings they are.
Oh, and the girl who knocked Trojan off their horse :)
Join Meika by taking the pledge to stand up for your sexual health and practice safe sex here - #getontop