Today’s session was certainly an interesting one, as we discussed ways to get funding for personal or taboo products and the challenges of bringing them to market. We figured there were no better people than Cindy Santa Cruz, Founder & CEO of Lady Patch; Kimba Williams, Founder & CEO of Kushae; and Jeff Bennett, Founder & CEO of Morari Medical to share their advice!
These innovators have revolutionized personal care through their products targeting female incontinence, feminine hygiene, and sexual health, respectively, and their companies have changed the ways we talk about these “taboo” topics.
They’ve reclaimed a space that had long been under- or misrepresented, and challenged the status quo on personal health and care. They knew breaking into the field and obtaining funding wouldn’t be easy, but were driven by confidence in their products, and persisted until they found people that understood their mission and purpose to grow with. When fundraising stalled, onboarding specialists in their fields gave them credibility and a broader field of expertise which translated to more eager investors.
Sharing with us their personal stories of their ventures and how they’ve disrupted existing markets where they saw clear gaps, the common denominator was passion for their product and the demographic it could help. What may have started as a crazy idea, quickly became something real that could empower, educate, and help a lot of people out there, many of whom were embarrassed or felt alone discussing these topics.
Cindy, Kimba, and Jeff all were inspired by people that needed their product, and it was those people that pushed them through the hard stages of development. It gets easier, Cindy recalled–
the more you talk about it, and the more open you are with what you’re selling, the more your audience opens up to you.
Building trust and connection with your audience is especially beneficial when trying to sell them something that may feel sensitive or embarrassing, but Jeff remarked on how many people suffer from these things and actually want to have these conversations– they’re just waiting for someone to start it!
Check out the full session above for more about these entrepreneurs and hear more about getting funding for your business!
Funding Taboo Products
[00:00:00] Welcome to the show. We’re going to get started in just a moment. Welcome. This is, going to be a great room this evening. Hello, Colin. How are you? How are you doing? Just doing great. Hello, Michelle. This is going to be exciting. I think this is going to be the, probably the most interesting of all of them.
Well, it’s been a pretty busy week, a very active week here on startup club. Uh, and, uh, yeah, this culminates a very busy week with a lot of great rooms. Hello, Jeff. Welcome.
Hello. Uh, so we’re just going to get started in a minute where our guests are coming. Welcome, Jeff. Welcome Cindy and Michelle, are you going to lead us off here? Wow. Let me just, we have a couple of more guests [00:01:00] that will be joining us one Kimba. Let’s go ahead and get started here. So first, thank you everyone.
Who’s joining this afternoon. We’re in Fort Lauderdale, Florida, and we’re going to talk about getting funding. One of our pavements subjects for personal or taboo products and the folks here joining us on the stage, Jeff sending and CAMBA they’re experts in this. So we’re going to have a lot of fun understanding, like how do you talk about these kinds of products?
And you know, we’re going to let Jeff defree here. SAS. Go ahead and get the, get the session going. Okay. Well, thank you, Michelle. And first of all, I want to congratulate, um, Cindy for having won the PNG studio venture challenge with her product, which we’ll learn more about, but congratulations and were excited and honored to have [00:02:00] not only some of the contestants, but the actual winner with us here for this topic tonight.
Um, so congratulations, Cindy, and, uh, welcome Jeff and Kimba. So one of the questions I wanted to ask you before we get into the funding side of things is, you know, each of you are dealing with a product that’s very personal in nature. Uh, and I’m very curious, you know, many startups, many entrepreneurs, you know, start their business, trying to solve a problem.
All are based on some personal experience they had. And I’m curious with each of you, if there’s a personal story behind the creation of your product, um, and Cindy, since you won, why don’t we start with you and then we’ll hear from Kimba and Jeff, if that’s okay. That’s great. Hi guys, everyone. Thank you for, um, including me in today’s, uh, conversation and I’m excited to be here and I consider it a privilege and an honor to speak with you all.
Um, [00:03:00] yeah. Talking to you about, uh, women’s bladder leaks and our body parts. It has been challenging, but you know, once you start, once you start your journey and you start for me personally, you know, talking to women, our product is all about women at all. It’s all girly. Uh, it was easy. It became easy. It became easy.
As I started to talk to the women and. I noticed when I was comfortable about the topic and I was comfortable naming body parts. They were comfortable with opening up and discussing what was going on with that, with their own bodies. And so I think it starts with you being comfortable in your own skin and you being comfortable, you know, with what your product does and how it can help.
And once you get over that milestone, you know, it really, it really allows people to open up to you. [00:04:00] Uh, thank you, Cindy. And was there a personal story? I think I read something about your mom being involved. I’m sorry, the personal story. Yes. Um, yeah, my mom is, um, the inventor of lady patch and she, uh, she had a problem in the early eighties.
With, um, with bladder leaks, she never had a problem before, um, before she joined an aerobics class and, you know, she was just trying to lose some baby weight and she was mortified when she did her first jumping Jack and she struggled with bladder leaks for years, and it was humiliating. It was embarrassing.
She was constantly going back and forth to the bathroom when she was doing aerobics. And she even, you know, how to modify her wardrobe. And, you know, in the early eighties was those bright colors, the TEALS and the magentas, you know, and the leotards she was [00:05:00] wearing all black all the time to hide the leaks.
And so she just prayed and asked God one day, you know, to help her, um, find a solution for this problem. And. You know, through divine inspiration, she just came up with this patch and she, she placed it on her. Clutter is not knowing what she was doing because my mom is a stay at home. Mom, also, no background in medicine, no background in business and place that our clearest went to go do aerobics and was just shocked and amazed that she didn’t leak on herself.
And when she told me what she was doing, almost like, you know, you probably could help more women. You can’t be the only one with this problem. And as I began to research my own, um, you know, my own Googling, right? Uh, there, there was a huge problem that wasn’t being addressed for women. And that’s why I started the.
That’s great. And then thank you for sharing [00:06:00] that. And I’m just curious too, before we get to Kimba, I know that, um, you’re very woman focused and the solution you have now is specific to women, but in truth, you know, men, especially as we get older, also are faced sometimes with similar issues in terms of, of, of urinary leaks and things like that.
Um, do you see the future expanding to offer a male version of your product as well? Um, you know, I would love. I have, um, funny story. I wanted to see if it worked on men and, um, we’re all adults here. So, um, I asked my husband if he would try it. And he was, he was like, no, there’s no way you’re sticking that on me.
So I got him drunk one night and no, it doesn’t work on men. So if I can find a solution for a man, you best believe I will do my best to get something out there for men, because you know, we love our men too. We want them to feel confident in their own skin too. But right [00:07:00] now I don’t have a solution for men.
Okay. Well, I’ll be, I’ll be standing by as I continue to age and I will wait for, for that time to come. Um, Kemba welcome. Tell us a little bit about yourself and, and your product. And, and is there a personal story behind it is.
Hey, I hope that was me. It got a little glitchy and you guys know you were muted at first, but now we hear you. Fine. Awesome. Thanks Jeff. Thanks Michelle. For having me. Hi everybody. I’m Kimba. I’m the CEO and co-founder of Kusha and since we all are adults here, Cindy mentioned Al Kusha is actually a very fancy way of saying coochie.
So let’s just get into it. So when you talk about personal and taboo products at my co-founder, uh, Dr. Barb, who is board certified OB GYN, uh, when she and I got [00:08:00] around the table, we wanted to make sure that everybody knew what we were talking about, but only if you were kind of colluded. So that’s our brand, uh, cliche is really about, um, creating natural.
To solve the challenges that women have anywhere from administration to menopause. It’s not just about periods and some of the products we have over 14 products in our portfolio right now. And from a personal perspective, one of those products is really near and dear to my heart. Uh, and that being the natural deodorant spray.
So, uh, I am just, you know, similar to Cindy’s mom. I am also a mom. I have, uh, three boys, so go team, boy, mom, that’s me. Uh, and what I’ve found is that as I was, you know, trying to lose baby weight, I started being active a ton. Um, I became an amateur boxer, random story. Uh, I was teaching yoga. I just went from zero to a hundred to get back into being the [00:09:00] fittest version of me.
And I found that I love to sweat and my body loved to release toxic. But then I started realizing that there was odors down there that I had to kind of hurry and manage by showering or changing often. And it was some women that experienced the same thing and some that didn’t. And so for all the sweaty Betties out there, listen, I made sure that we developed a, what is now our number two best-selling product, which is the natural feminine deodorant spray.
So it’s very similar to an armpit, I guess, deodorant, but it is natural without alcohol and anything chemical or aluminum, and it manages sweaty odors down there. So that is sort of the personal side of how one of the products at least really came to market. And it was based off of my own lifestyle. And me looking for ways of managing a hot ass south Florida climate with being an active, you know, outside loving [00:10:00] woman.
So, so yeah, so that’s the story behind, at least that. That’s great. And, and sweat is definitely an issue here in south Florida where we’re in Fort Lauderdale. So I feel, um, absolutely. Well, w we’re going to shift genders now and Jeff, you know, we may, should we share the same name and we share being the only two guys up here at the moment.
So, um, tell us a bit about you and your company and, and the personal story behind. Yeah, well, I go by Jeff, anytime I call Jeffrey that I know I’ve done something wrong. So we, my wife and my mom call me Jeffery. So I go by Jeff. So I hope I don’t offend you there at Jefferson, but you have to, but in clubhouse, for some reason, I called myself Jeffery to remind me of her and just like you.
So, yeah. So thanks again for the opportunity and congratulations, Cindy, and I’m winning the award. It’s an awesome thing. We have the privilege of being a part of the PG innovation challenge a few years ago, and it’s been awesome. [00:11:00] And what we’re doing at Murari medical is we’ve developed a chemical free wearable patch that is worn during intercourse, and it uses neurostimulation to delay in a Jackie elation.
And you know, 30% of men suffer from premature ejaculation, which is defined clinically as less than two minutes after penetration and evacuation of. And many guys are surprised to hear about that because we as men, don’t like to talk about it. Uh, but the reality is it’s more prevalent than rectal dysfunction.
We hear about that all of the time and based on our research, there’s another 40% of men that don’t necessarily meet the clinical definition of premature ejaculation, but are looking to last longer. And then ultimately it’s about partner satisfaction and that’s something we were surprised based on our research.
And we shouldn’t have been surprised, but we were is it’s about partner satisfaction, whether your partner is a male or female, they’re ultimately not getting satisfied with someone that experiences premature ejaculation. So my personal story is I’m one of those 70% of guys that wanted to last longer.
And my [00:12:00] background is medical device marketing. I worked for a company called Medtronic where they have neurostimulation based products that treat a variety of different medical conditions to include chronic pain. So that’s where I got exposed to neurostimulator stimulation as a modality and then moved to another company.
And I spent four years in urology and I had this crazy idea of some sort of wearable that could be. And I approached a friend of mine who at the time was a Harvard based urologist. And he said, Jeff, that’s a brilliant idea. You understand how big of a problem this is? And I’m like, no, I know I want to go longer.
And he told me 30% of guys, and that’s where I’m like, there’s no way. And you look in the research and again, it’s the most prevalent male sexual dysfunction out there. So, you know, my personal desire led to the formation of a company and it honestly took me a while to come to grips with, is this really what I want to do?
Do I want to leave a good paying job? Do I want to get my name out there attached? It’s premature ejaculation. Do I want to tell my friends, how do I call my wife? I want to do this all the time. You know, my kids, my family, but after coming out public, if you will, with this, [00:13:00] it’s been such a lift off of my shoulders and it’s just mind boggling how many people want to engage in those conversations.
And I think Cindy said it better. Well, you need to approach this and fun and humor before people get comfortable talking to you and the stories I’m at CES right now. And I’ve been here for this week and there’s none coming up to my booth and saying, yeah, I struggle with this. How can you help me? It’s it’s inspirational.
It’s motivational. And you know, such as clubhouse, what you guys are doing here now to create this forum, to allow sexual health and wellness to be discussed is super cool CES, allowing it Procter and gamble three years ago, allowing me to be on their stage and say, ejaculation, I think is the forums that we need to normalize discussions around sexual health.
Yeah, that’s great, Jeff, and, and it makes perfect sense. And to your point, in some ways, I guess all of the ed ads and the popularity of that category has sort of paved the way for you hopefully, [00:14:00] and made it a little bit easier, uh, to talk about premature ejaculation. So that’s great. I know Michelle has some questions too, and I just want to mention before Michelle speaks that, um, if you have a question for any of our panelists and want to come up, you can raise your hand and, and Rachel, we’ll start bringing you up.
Or you can also back channel your question to Rachel if you don’t want to come on stage and, uh, she will ask on your behalf. Um, so in a few minutes, we’ll be taking questions from you in the audience and for now, Michelle. Awesome. I love your personal stories and how you’re so vulnerable. It, I think that’s, it helps make people feel comfortable, right.
With the discussion and it, you know what you said, Cindy, you have to get comfortable with it yourself. And I see that with you and Jeff and CAMBA. So thank you all three of you for not being afraid. Honestly, I think that’s a big deal. So my first question was how did you deal [00:15:00] with getting funding, given the sensitive nature of your products and was that even your biggest challenge?
Was that the biggest challenge you faced having those conversations, trying to get funding for, you know, products and issues that people normally don’t want to discuss. So let’s start with Kemba. All right. Thanks, Michelle. Good to talk to you again. Uh, so I understand that your question is about, um, funding, if there was challenges in funding and then if not, what was the biggest challenge?
So I’d say that, um, we are actually, we just closed our first round of funding, which is phenomenal and we’re actually making a huge announcement next week. So, uh, stay tuned for that. Um, and I will say in talking with, and we’ve talked a little bit of everybody, you know, venture capitalists, uh, angels and angel investors.
And the only [00:16:00] reason why it was a challenge is because most investors are men. So sorry, Jeff and Jeffrey, but talking to the folks who were writing the checks that don’t have the same anatomy was really the biggest challenge around funding because they didn’t seem to understand the breadth and depth of the challenges around feminine hygiene.
They think, oh listen, you guys it’s. Is it about, you know, your period? And I’m sure you’ve got things for that, but they, they, they aren’t, unfortunately, as privy to some of the daily challenges that women are met with when it comes to, you know, like I said, deodorizing down there and, and managing odors, um, for, for women who are waxing and shaving.
Now there’s an issue with ingrown hairs and the fact that you wanted what we call a pretty kitty and all of a sudden it’s a hot mess. That’s a problem. And women are having to deal with that. Uh, the issues of sort of what we call Chub rub or shaping between the thighs and, and women being self conscious about that [00:17:00] area, being irritated and rashy and not, and not being, you know, pretty to look at.
Uh, there are so many, so many things, um, yeast infection, and then we, we have issues for yeast infections or solutions around yeast infections and even bacterial vaginosis, which occurs in, you know, 33% of women consistently, uh, which is a natural bacterial infection that happens. But it also comes. Very very offensive odors and, and, um, itching and typically solved through antibiotics.
But now we have a natural solution. That’s an over the counter solution that you can get on your own without a prescription. So a lot of those things are things like I said, that men were not privy to because they were writing the checks. It’d be, it was difficult on that end. What we found was that, um, we finally found women that were writing checks, which is phenomenal either, not as many women who are in positions of writing checks.
So I encourage anybody who wants to get on the venture side. We need more women writing checks for that reason. Uh, and then we found that there are some, some, some male led organizations [00:18:00] that got it, but it was really because we were able to do a good job of, of being unashamed and unapologetic about sharing the story.
And then they had women that they could go back and ask questions to and relate to. So I hope that I’m answering your question, uh, but that would certainly have been the biggest challenge for us around. No, that was great. You know, I, I hadn’t thought of that CAMBA, that that would be a huge challenge for a woman selling personal woman products.
So thank you for sharing that. Um, it sounds like there were some interesting conversations. I’m sure. Some awkward ones as well. Yeah. But you know what, they’re only offered for the people who decide that it should be awkward for me, I’m just in the business of vaginas. Not that I signed up to be here, but I couldn’t imagine kind of like Jeff said, being anywhere else at this point in my life, um, half of the world’s population has one and we’re the ones out here that are making the people.
So if there’s anything to be [00:19:00] embarrassed about, I I’d like to kind of understand what it is, you know, I’m just at this point where it’s like, this is a conversation that we should be having, and there’s really no reason to, to be bashful about it. So, and then, and people, I think just the tone that you take are, um, are okay with sort of joining the conversation and the fact that we call it QC.
It makes it easier to even, you know, much more palatable to even say. And so, so we’ve made it to where people are comfortable. That that was brilliant. Thank you. You’re welcome. So next let’s go to Cindy. Hi Michelle. Thank you. Um, again, thank you just for the question. You know, funding for me. Um, it was challenging what, but what I remember when I, when I filed my first patent, I had asked, um, my attorney, I said, I don’t know what to do.
You know, remember I’m a stay at home, mom. I don’t know what to do. I don’t know what I’m doing. What, where do I go point me in a direction? You know, help me here. He said, you know, you’re [00:20:00] not, you don’t have a background in science. You don’t have a background in medicine. No one’s going to take you seriously.
You need to find someone that knows this field. And so, you know, I just started, uh, researching. Urogynecologists. And, um, seeing finding I had found one man in particular, his name is Dr. Theater bender of, and he’s a part of my advisory team. And he is the one that really opened the door for lady pat. She, he, um, he not only took my ideas seriously because he was extremely familiar with the problem.
He had women in his office that struggled with this problem and he, he was struggling and frustrated himself because he had no solution for them. Aside from surgery, aside from medications, he was like, it’d be nice to offer my patients something else. And so he really helped open the door with that. And as we met, um, [00:21:00] potential investors, angel investors, um, it was easy to, for them to take me seriously because I had the credibility of, uh, A scientist backing me up that this is a real problem, and this is potentially a real solution.
And so, um, it was a matter of finding the right people because, you know, if, if you go to an investor that’s, that’s not really interested in, in, in, in med tech or, or, you know, female med tech, femme, med tech, you know, it’s, it’s going to be very difficult to get them to connect with you. But once you find someone that’s, you know, finding the right people that are interested in women’s health, finding people that, that are interested or may have family members that have this same problem and you give them samples and they’re, you know, it’s a lot easier for them to invest in something when they know, Hey, [00:22:00] my, you know, my wife tried it, my aunt tried it and it worked for them.
And so. You know, for me, you know, finding funding, um, did have its challenges. It was a matter of finding the right people, but all in all, it was a matter of my own head. I didn’t want to get into my own head and think that I couldn’t do it. I had to remember that, you know, as, uh, as, as a believer in Christ, I had to remember that, you know, God is my center and through him, I can do all things.
And so no matter the challenges, I was ready to go up the hill and conquer the hill.
That’s amazing. I mean, I just can’t even imagine coming up with this invention and pitching it alongside with your mom, it sounds like, I mean, really kudos to you and her for really believing in each other and sticking with it. Thank you. Yeah. Fantastic. [00:23:00] Thank you. And, you know, it is a big problem and something, you know, to be said, Jeff will be next.
I think it’s the same thing is that all three of you are coming up with these amazing, very safe non-pharma solutions. I mean, it’s just really incredible because I think, you know, many of these drugs can be harsh on people. And in many cases, Cindy, right. You know, painful surgeries. Right. Right. My grandmother had one and it was quite, you know, quite painful.
So it’s just amazing that we can, you know, rest a little easier knowing that there’s folks like you out there really, you know, advocating, I would say for a healthy lifestyle in a very health, in a very healthy way. All right. Let’s go to Jeff. Jeff. I’m very intrigued about your product. Um, you know, I [00:24:00] love your candidate.
It’s just amazing. So just tell us, like, what were the challenges that you faced? Yeah, this is my first startup company. If I wasn’t wanting to be an entrepreneur, but when I made the decision to do the startup, I tried to surround myself that had with people that have had experience. And one of my advisors very early on, he said, Jeff, a hundred percent of your time as a CEO is raising money.
50% of your is running the business. And I’m like, oh, it can’t be that difficult. Can it be, I mean, we got a cool product, a big market. It’s pretty much that amount of time. I mean, you’re always fundraising and that’s in this industry can be a challenge. And we were fortunate to, I’ve got two business partners that the three of us invested early on our own money.
And then once we made some traction, then we reached out to friends and family who believed in the mission, believed in us, believed in me more importantly and invested the money. So that was our first external race. Yeah. And that was kind of the challenge, because at that point I decided to go all in on [00:25:00] this.
And my commitment to my early investors was I’m not going to take a salary. I’m not going to use your money to pay me. So for
isn’t that money to drive the business forward. And then we, then we started to reach out to eight additional.
I’m sorry, can you hear me now? Yeah, I’m sitting in the big convention center here in Las Vegas.
So can you hear me being in and out, um, where you were standing before was a better signal maybe.
Yeah, we hear you now. Okay. Sorry about that. No worries. Initially it was friends and family. And to angel investors, and that’s been a V [00:26:00] Emory environments, uh, we’ve been somewhat challenged in finding that venture capital firm that’s willing to make, uh, an investment in us at the stage. They want to see revenue traction, or in some cases they’ve got vice claws that prevent investments in sexual health and wellness products.
Um, so I hope you heard most about, yeah, the vice clause was really interesting. I’ve I’ve heard that term before from VC. So, um, yeah, for those who are listening, so some, some venture firms have a vice clause where their investors don’t want them to invest in anything, you know, gambling and adult products and things like that.
Alcohol in many cases. Um, so that must’ve been a challenge.
Well, great question. It was definitely the venture capital firm has been that’s farms has been the toughest to crack into, but again, you know, we’re going to continue to pursue the angel investor route because you know, a it’s really a relationship. It’s a, it’s a belief team. [00:27:00] And even the diligence processes easier.
You’re all three of you are in lightning. I wouldn’t have thought that, but now I can see how that could be perceived. Your device could be perceived that way. So that’s, that’s a heck of a challenge, Jeff, you know, I I’m amazed. Right? So kudos to you for getting this far also on the funding side, you know, the challenges you guys faced on you guys and gals, I should say, faced on, on funding is interesting, but as a COO myself, um, I’m interested in.
The marketing challenges that you also have faced. And I think, um, Kimba, you know, you talked about having fun with it, you named it. Kusha, I’ve looked at your website and you have fun with the JJ. Uh, and so you definitely took a marketing approach, I think, to have some fun. And Jeff, I noticed, um, you know, I was curious about the patch when I first heard about it and where [00:28:00] it goes, you know, as a male myself.
Um, so I went to your website to see, and I saw that you cleverly have diagrams that remind me of my GI Joe toy when I was a younger boy. Um, so you to show where the, the patch is placed, you’re cleverly using, um, an image of a man that has no actual external genitals, like my GI Joe doll had, but that makes it easy for you to show where the patch is positioned.
And I presume you did that to make it easier to spread those images without, uh, Facing so-called vice, uh, challenges. Um, so I’m curious to what, uh, what were the marketing challenges you all have faced, um, based on the nature of your products? Yeah, I guess, you know, for us, uh, the marketing challenges have been really, how do you, uh, have a brand and a name that you can have fun with to break down those barriers, but also, [00:29:00] uh, you know, signify seriousness and solving a real problem.
And we here this week unveiled our product name, which is more Mor. And it’s really about what’s your more, we’re not as a company that I tell you what you’re interested in. And if you want more time, if you want more intensity, if you want more relationship, you need to decide your more. And we decided to use, uh, the, the rabbit and maternal character.
That’s kind of signifying the struggles that couples go through and make it more fun and interesting and engaging because you need to do that before you get into the serious topics. So that’s really the brand that we’re trying to build is more fun. Uh, you know, this is a relationship issue, and then taking that to events like the consumer electronics show, we’ve been here twice, and it’s been an amazing experience.
Two years ago, they allowed sex tech companies to be here for the first time. And a lot of the headlines coming out of CES were sex related. Uh, and I think CS gives it sex sells. Everybody does it. Everybody likes it. It’s why we’re here. And, uh, again, this year a tremendous amount of response and [00:30:00] really cheap media.
We’ve had articles written up in Forbes men’s health and we’ve hired a PR person to help, but the amount of attention and publications that we’ve gotten, it’s been a multi-millions of dollars for very little PR investment. So we’ve been fortunate to get some good marketing, but. Yeah, as we get ready to launch the product, um, then we, we need to continue to expand that, which is social media, which is for all media advertising.
Yeah. I’m losing it again. Uh, Jeff, but yeah. Um, social media, it makes perfect sense. Cause, um, you know, I would imagine you could have some fun on Tik talk with your product as well, and probably all three of you. Um, Cindy, what kind of challenges have you had on the marketing side? Yeah, on the marketing side, we wanted to make sure, um, we wanted to make sure lady patch wasn’t sexualized.
We really wanted to stay in our lane because of, you know, because the general public thinks that the clutter is, is a sex organ and it is, [00:31:00] but it can do other fun stuff, like control your bladder. So we really wanted to stay in our lane and focus in and hone in on incontinence and, and, you know, we, we wanted to.
Um, you know, with our branding, it, it was, it was sexy moms. Um, but we didn’t want to sexualize our product. We wanted women to feel sexy using our product, but we didn’t want to sexualize the product and we didn’t want to sexualize our branding so that it was, it was challenging to really hone in on, um, you know, I think we had to do a lot of, um, and we still have a lot of educating to do so, like, you know, for us with social media, Facebook, Instagram, Pinterest, tick talk, there’s a lot of, of education.
And then there’s the fun side of, you know, um, ladies who [00:32:00] patches boldly. So we wanted to really empower women and not sexualize, um, the. And yeah, it’s still challenging. No, th that makes sense. And I think you touched on something that’s important, which is education, and I’m sure that’s important for, for all three of you.
Um, as a big part of it, um, Kimba, you’ve had a lot of fun and of course, you know, the vagina has been in, um, the mainstream perhaps for longer than a premature ejaculation. We’ve had the vagina monologues and, you know, getting a lot of mainstream media attention. How have you approached marketing and what, what challenges have you faced?
Yeah, but I’ve got to tell you, even though the vagina has had a lot of eyeballs on it, um, for some time, even before the ed, um, you know, epidemic, I suppose, uh, you know, as women, we still tend to not get the attention that, um, [00:33:00] that the, the, the men focused products get, um, you know, case in point, there was a.
Uh, sort of like an EDD similar product for women and that’s, that’s going through a whole heck of a lot of stuff right now. Um, everything from legislature to rules around women’s health, uh, we get a very different side of the story when it comes to women’s health, which is, you know, suits unfair. So we do have a lot of challenges to overcome.
I think the biggest, um, goal for us was to be a cheeky. So we are very cheeky about it. Um, we are grown in sexy though, so we understand that vaginas should be loud and proud and that we should be heard, but in a way that’s classy in a way that’s chic in a way that’s similar to what Cindy mentioned, empowering to women and not at all raunchy.
Not at all. Hyper-sexualized um, and then not at all, you know, um, offensive. And so, you [00:34:00] know, even looking at our website, we’ve got some really cool, um, editorial crotch shots that we do with women and bikini’s and underwear. Um, but it’s, it’s all sexy and it’s all, you know, uh, done very tastefully. And I think that’s even in just the name alone, like I said, Kusha, it’s, it’s almost like people think it’s a French version of coochie, which is fine.
We kind of do what people do with target right. Call it Tarjay. And so we did the same with Kusha. Um, and so using the, sort of the, the idea behind that is just everything should mimic the cool, you know, grown and sexy, chic and classy, very cheeky side of a feminine, highly. Um, because it’s something that women should be talking about every day.
Um, and so, you know, even the name rhymes with, Hey, did you Kushi today or Kusha your way? So we have a ton of fun with it. Uh, everything just happens to rhyme with it. So we’ve been really clever about that and in those ways, so the really the real challenges are around, um, [00:35:00] social ads and making sure that Facebook and Instagram don’t usually shut us down.
It’s hard to advertise when you have, um, some peek-a-boo shots or suggestive shots of women’s bodies. Uh, and that’s, I think been the biggest challenge, but other than that, we found a way to really have a conversation and, and make it exciting and empowering for. Well, I would say touché, which also also rhymes, because you’ve done a, from what I’ve seen, you’ve done a really great job.
And one thing that stood out to me when I visited your website was how effectively you showed the diversity of women. Um, and I mean, diversity in the fullest, meaning from size and shape and ethnicity and, and you really, um, capture virtually every type of woman you could imagine, which I think resonates the fact that this product, um, is really for all women.
So I thought you did a great job with that. Well, thank you, Jeffrey. I appreciate it. Thanks so much. [00:36:00] Great. Well, Michelle, um, did you have any other questions you want to let’s reset questions. We are here with three folks that were part of the Procter and gamble studio venture challenge. That was held this week.
We live streamed it here on clubhouse from start-up club. So if you missed any of those sessions, please go to start-up dot club and you’ll be able to find blog posts that include audio transcripts and little articles. Um, you know, they’ve done a phenomenal job, Jeff, Cindy and CAMBA, and they’re here to candidly share with us, you know, their learnings on introducing and inventing and going to market what’s with products that are normally considered taboo or personal.
So we thank them for joining and I think it’s time Geoff for us to go to [00:37:00] our audience and let them have some. Awesome Michelle. Um, yeah, we have a couple of people on stage and if you’re listening and would like to come up and ask a question, feel free to raise your hand or feel free to back channel to Rachel up on stage.
And you can just send her your question that way. Um, so let’s get started with Suzanne Suzanne, did you have a question for our panelists? Yeah, I did. I’m so happy to be here. My name’s Suzanne Sinatra, I’m the CEO of private packs. Uh, first Kimba, congratulations on getting through to P P and G ventures.
Um, my question for everyone is you’re in a really, how did you go about getting your company funded? So a little background on my company. We make hot and cold therapy packs for the private body parts, and they came after many accidents that I experienced down there. And I’ve had a equity crowd funding campaign.
Do around with a few angels. I have a check coming from Andreessen Horowitz and we’re in CVS and we’re just a year old. And I like to know, [00:38:00] like, if any, one of you have had that level of traction and two did funding help because I’m having a horrible time raising funds, especially from women because they are so risk averse compared to men.
So I’d love to, excuse me. I’d love to jump in. First of all, Suzanne. Hi, you on here. Hi sweetheart. I actually know Suzanne. That’s so funny. So thank you for the kudos we heart. Um, yeah, I’m happy to jump in. So, you know, the last year we, like I said, we just closed our first, uh, round of fundraising and, uh, this is our seed series.
Again, I can’t get into too much detail, but we actually making the announcement next week. So you heard it here first guys right here on startup club. Right? Very good. Um, and so exclusive content all the way. But, um, I think your question is around, you know, traction. So we’ve been in no attraction. Sorry.
How did you [00:39:00] get the funding? Like how did you get the money in? Because for instance, on my traction, just getting into retail less than a year old making back 33% of my investors’ money through revenue and doing an equity crowdfunding campaign and getting money from injuries and Horwitz, it doesn’t seem to be working and like I keep getting the goalposts moved so hard to do, keep the goalpost still enough to get money in.
Right. Okay. So fair question. I think when we went after the race, we started the race and probably may of last year. And again, we just closed in December. So, um, didn’t take us as long as I thought it would, but I was super, super hyper-focused on, uh, two types of investors, you know, as a, as a F of another black woman yourself, I would be very.
Intentional about going after funders who are looking to fund black women. First of all, that was one of my targets, um, because there’s still huge disparity, uh, in the funding world, you know, it just is what it is. [00:40:00] Okay. And then on the other end, going after funders who were specifically looking at, um, women owned businesses.
So outside of being a minority woman, also then just looking for women owned businesses or women, health, businesses, forget anybody else. Right? So that way you can really narrow down the ocean into a bit of a pond and, you know, saturate the heck out of that pond. And so being hyper-focused about your targets will save you a lot of time, frustration, energy, resources, um, and being consistent with following up with them.
You know, you’re lucky right now that everything can be done by zoom. You don’t have to travel and waste tickets and time and money to travel, to meet. Um, but stay on them, stay consistent, keep being tenacious. Um, and that’ll, that’ll get you in the door. Most of my funders, as a point, um, have come from cold emails, I literally just was like, Hey guys, how’s it going?
Here’s who I am. Here’s why I’m amazing. Here’s why you should fund me. Um, I had a few warm [00:41:00] intros, but didn’t get traction from those. Got all my traction from cold emails, which was phenomenal. So it can be done and I wish you all the best and you and I can connect for sure. And you have a co-founder, right?
Yes. I have a co-founder um, who’s a physician also. And so maybe that even lent some credibility, but I think, I mean, we were in market for about three years before we started funding. So we have phenomenal traction. Like, are you guys DTC or retail as well? We’re both, we’re both due to see and retail. So we’ve got an amazing partnership with whole foods market and then we, our D to C through our e-commerce channels, so, okay.
Yeah. We had a, we had a story to tell, right? So you’ve got to have a story, right? Okay. Particularly with a products company, you know, a pre-concept usually isn’t enough for the thunders. Uh, oh yeah. We’re not pre-concept right. Yeah. We’re not, we’re not pre-concept okay. Thank you. Good. So you’re welcome. I hope that helps honey.
Great. Thank you. Kimba. And thank you for the question, Suzanne. Um, Lance, did you have a question for our panelists? I did. [00:42:00] Yes. Thank you for selecting me. Um, my company, I, for the last three years, it’s been mostly research and development and essentially what we started getting into was skin disease and illness detection, and then cataract using machine learning.
And then we kind of moved over to some of the more taboo stuff like STI STDs, being able to detect herpes and things like that. And I’ll tell you, even though we have a pretty good track record of being able to detect these things, it’s been super hard to find anybody looking we’re willing to invest in us.
And I didn’t know if maybe you got. Provide any kind of suggestions of how to maybe, um, travel down that route to get investors, to be kind of interested in this new type of technology that doesn’t exist right now. And doesn’t require a physician.
Sure I can chime in there. Uh, it’s a [00:43:00] great question. Lands will be struggled with what you’re talking about. And one of the things that we did, which was really helpful was become a part of an accelerator program and they really helped us, uh, kind of refine that pitch deck, tell the story. You know, very simple story.
You know, I went in with my PowerPoints and they’re like, yeah, no, no, no, this is way too complicated. You’ve got to simplify the message. So that was really, really helpful. And then it was the introductions that they had within their network. So, uh, unfortunately we haven’t had much luck, like Kimba has in cold emails.
Our investors have been made through introductions of others. So one investor introduced us, us to others and that’s how we’ve been able to succeed. But it’s really a numbers game. I mean, you’re going to hear 99 nos to one. Yes. But you just need that one. Yes. Uh, for that partner. And then obviously they have a network that they could expand on, but, uh, my recommendation would be, you know, find an accelerators, all kinds of them around the country, um, that can really help you get that message and get that pitch deck because the pitch decks really [00:44:00] important.
Right. I mean, it’s gotta be super simple for people to understand. And we went down a path of making it too complicated initially, and it’s paid dividends by simplifying it for us.
Thank you very much. Kim, but I saw you on mute. Did you have something you wanted to add for Lance? No, I think Jeff did an amazing job. Thanks though. I appreciate it. Great. Well, thank you, Lance. I hope that was helpful. Thank you guys, Michelle. Yeah. I have a question for Jeff. Um, Lance had asked for, you know, like specific places and you said incubators, right?
Jeff. So accelerators, excuse me. So, you know, flats or anyone else in the audience is doing that search. Are they looking for accelerators that are in the medical space? Like what is it specifically, you know, what category, what would they call themselves to help, you know, [00:45:00] help Lance find them locate these people?
Yeah. So for us, um, we’ve lived in the Minneapolis area and it’s a very med tech focused. And there was an accelerator locally called the G beta med tech. So a specifically for med tech related companies, and we don’t consider yourself a med tech company, uh, per se, but, uh, the community understands the data and the science behind what we’re doing.
And we’re founding, you know, basing everything that we’re doing on science and data. So locally we had that resource, but I think it’s just a matter of, you know, doing a search and trying to find that accelerator that has a focus or an interest in what you’re trying to do, Lance and, and there’s, there’s many of them around the country.
I mean, one of the big ones is Techstars there’s Y Combinator. Uh, there’s a number of them out there. And for us, we were fortunate. We didn’t have to, you know, leave the Minneapolis area to be a part of it. As I know, some of them require at least some onsite participation during the accelerator accelerator program.
Great. I’d like to jump into and just [00:46:00] say, thanks. Uh, you know, kind of echoing Jeff’s statements, you might want to look for accelerators that are industry acknowledge. Uh, we were a part of early on mass challenge, which is, I think the largest, uh, right behind Techstars, one of the largest global accelerator.
So they’re all over the world now. Um, but they are industry agnostic and they have everything from tech to feminine hygiene and how to, you know, everything in between. So either industry agnostic or something, that’s a little bit more, uh, specifically geared to what you’re doing. Great advice. Thank you, Jeff and Kimba Atlanta, hopefully this information was helpful for you.
Um, if you have a question from the audience, feel free to raise your hand or back channel. Rachel, I have a question, you know, we’ve talked a lot tonight about the challenges you faced with these very personal products, but I want to flip the coin and ask you, was there anything that you found to be an advantage because you were [00:47:00] dealing in this very personal space, something that gave you sort of a super power as opposed to a channel.
Can I chime in on this one? Yeah. Um, yeah, I think for me, my superpower that, that I tapped into was the women period, the women who didn’t have a voice, the women who, who were ashamed, the women who were embarrassed, the women who were, were afraid to leave their homes, the women who couldn’t travel, the women who were always looking for a bathroom, they were my superpower.
They were my superpower. I just, I connected. I feel like I connect with each and every one of my customers it’s really weird, but I mean, When, you know your customers when you know your consumers, um, and you, and you’re willing to put yourself out there to get to know them, to have conversations with them, [00:48:00] you know, that can be your fuel.
You can use that. You can use their stories as your fuel to really push you, you know, the extra mile. That’s what that, for me, that was my super powers is the women. That’s awesome. Jeff, what Kimba, was there something that you found that was an advantage because of the type of product and space you’re in Jeff?
Yeah. It’s for us, uh, I’ll go back to the consumer electronic show. Um, the fact that, you know, it’s, it’s an area of unmet need people. Don’t talk about. And for an organization like CES to embrace it and allow companies that exhibit they’re really kind of supercharged, you know, our database that we’re building, it allowed us to do customer insight research.
And it just, again, provided that forum where it would be okay to talk about it. And, you know, our product will be a direct to consumer launch. So, you know, here in Las Vegas, what better than the consumer electronic show, sexual health and wellness and Las Vegas to be able to spread the word and get awareness out.
And I mean, literally these two [00:49:00] meetings that we’ve been at here at sea. I have generated so much PR for us that I’d encourage anybody that’s looking to get in the sexual health and wellness space to consider CES as a forum for that. Now they’ve got very strict guidelines about what you can display and what you can’t and what the content is.
And we have to acknowledge that and deal with it. It’s just a reality. And part of that reality is also social media. As, as others have mentioned, that’s been a challenge getting Facebook to approve. We tried to recruit a feasibility study patients using social media and all of our ads got rejected. So we turned to radio in the Minneapolis market.
And that actually was a very good, uh, response for us. And this was kind of during the COVID early stages. So the rates were real low, but we were able to get two radio stations in the Minneapolis area that are owned by iHeart radio. One of which we said the word evacuation in the ad. So that’s just, again, another example of it.
If we take a different tactic, if social media is a barrier, you know, what else can you try to, uh, to get that supercharged? And for us radio allowed us to get those patients. [00:50:00] That’s great. And I would imagine, um, being in the sexual, uh, um, product section of CES, you can stand out more readily because I would imagine there were fewer, um, people in that category as compared to laptops and mobile phones and all the other, you know, consumer technology categories where there’s just so many players.
Is that, was that the case? Yeah. Well, Ashley Jeffrey. Good, good question. Because what I think CS has done a great job of is worse dispersed within the health and wellness area. We’re not all in some back corner dimly lit area it’s within the health and wellness, which is great. Cause this is what it’s all about.
It’s wellness products and there’s one company here. I won’t name their name, but it’s a female vibrator company they’re giving out free vibrators the lungs. Is ridiculously long. I’d never seen minds that long before to, for guys to go up there and spin a wheel to win a free vibrator. But it just, again, it shows you the interests that people have on sexual health and wellness and these taboo topics and [00:51:00] this company, there’s just their genius geniuses to be able to do that because they’re getting all this press and its attention of the long lines that people have.
That’s great. Kimbo. What’s your super power. What was the advantage you saw? Yeah. So first of all, I’m like blown away by the free vibrator line. I’m like, wow, people are doing that.
Right. It looks like a little bit of, everybody’s trying to get in on the, in the, you know, they want to know what all the buzz is about. Right. Very good. Potent pun intended there. Um, but yeah, the super power for us, I think. It was really being in a niche market. There were not when we launched in 2018. So it sounds like forever ago, but it was really only just four years ago.
Now, uh, there weren’t a lot of players in this market, uh, at all, you know, they, you might’ve had a couple that you either had the 40 year old, you know, oldies, but goodies that were trying to do their best, but not really providing natural solutions. And then you had maybe one or two folks that were trying to do new things.
So it was such a niche market that there [00:52:00] was not a lot of players, not a lot of noise. Uh, and so you’re able to come in and if you blow your horn just right and play the right song, you get the attention that, you know, you deserve and that you’ve been looking for. Uh, and then I think on top of that, you know, we were really, really lucky, um, that we, the partnership worked the way it did because of course my co-founder is a women’s health expert, right.
She’s an OB GYN. And so saying that, Hey, not only are we blowing this horn and calling attention to what women need to be paying attention to, but we’ve got a women’s health expert. Uh, is absolutely, you know, um, you know, excellent in her field and, and certainly in authority, uh, in this realm. And so, you know, no one, no one can combat that.
And so that gave us credibility to really just sort of take off, uh, like, like maybe many other brands could not. So, so that’s what worked for us. That’s great. Um, I think, um, in this cluttered world being, being in a space, that’s not that [00:53:00] crowded can definitely be an advantage. And I love Cindy would you said about, you know, the women that you were serving, um, you know, and all that women power was, was really behind a lot of your success.
Um, so this, this has been a really interesting and great discussion. And I wonder if you think, do you think, you know, all of you seem to have started a few of you started your companies a few years ago or started on this journey. Do you think things are getting. Easier now, or, or harder or more or less the same in terms of acceptance, you know, why mainstream acceptance of products that are dealing with personal hygiene, sexual it’s a personal hygiene, excuse me, sexual health, et cetera.
Have you seen any changes from the time you started your business to now? I absolutely. I mean, I just learned two months ago and I live in Minneapolis. Best buy is headquartered Minneapolis best buy. Now online is selling sexual health and wellness products. They’ve got like 40 different vibrators that [00:54:00] you can buy.
Who would’ve ever thought that best buy would be doing that target Walmart, you go online and search sexual health and wellness. There’s a whole host of sexual health and wellness products. So big box retailers like that, allowing those products to be sold is definitely a sign of the times. There’s a company in New York that has been working with, uh, the subway, uh, team MTA.
They finally got ads that they can run on subways. So it’s absolutely changing. Now, it’s going to take time, but, uh, all the signs are pointing in the right direction for sure. In my opinion. Yeah, I would definitely agree. Jeff and I heard about that company in New York. I mean, it was unprecedented that MTA never allowed the Metro transit authority never allowed a sexual wellness company to advertise on their buses and their subways until this year.
So kudos to them for sort of fighting. I believe it was a four year battle for them to get the rights to do that. Um, and I agree. I mean, there are places like anthropology that sells really cool hip clothes, urban Outfitters that are now selling vibrators and sexual. [00:55:00] Products, you’ve got Nordstrom and even the fancy retailers that are getting in on this game as well.
So yeah, it’s definitely a conversation that people are more willing to have and which means there’s more opportunity for us to get into the hands of the consumers that need us the most. So, yeah, and that regards definitely getting easier, but I think that’s great. And it’s a good sign. So I think 20, 22 was going to be a very positive year for all three of you.
Um, I think starting it off with the success you’ve all had in this challenge from Proctor and gamble is great. Cindy, of course, congratulations for winning it. We’ve got about six minutes left before we wind up. So do any of you have any sort of final remarks or things you want to mention that we didn’t ask you tonight?
Uh, you know, I, I would just kind of reiterate what I mentioned earlier. I know it had some technical difficulties connection, but you know, really think about [00:56:00] who is the ultimate benefactor of any of these technologies. And we went into our product thinking, well, this is a guy issue, right? We got to solve this problem with a guy, but we very quickly learned that.
No, yes, it’s, it’s the male that wears it. Uh, but it’s, it’s their partner again, whether it’s male or female, that’s not getting the satisfaction. So it’s a really kind of think broadly as to who your target user is and customer, uh, so that you’re not isolating someone. And I I’d even argue, you know, for what Cindy’s doing with the urge incontinence product.
That’s a male issue too. If your partner has heavy bladder, bladder leakage, um, you know, that that can affect the, the sexual relationship. Um, so again, there’s think holistically about who that, who those, uh, impactors are and where those on need unmet needs. Really great advice, Jeff, I agree with you, Jeff too.
Yes. Um, you know, when it comes to incontinence, it’s not just a women’s problem. There are men that loves, that [00:57:00] love their women and when their women are hurting, you know, it hurts their, you know, the men hurt too. And so it w it really takes a toll on a relationship, you know, imagine a new mom. Uh, recovering from laborers six months later is, is wanting to be intimate with her husband, but she wakes up in the middle of night and the pool of urine.
Nobody wants that. That’s not sexy. It really does damper a relationship. And to think that, you know, your product really can help change someone’s life in such an intimate way and a powerful way, um, is huge. Yes, you, you know, as, as entrepreneurs, we really need to focus on our, our consumers and that has to be your target.
That has to be your goal is to, um, impact people’s lives positively. So when you have something that, that can do that, um, man, it’s, it’s, it’s a feel good. It’s a feel it’s a win-win, it’s a win-win that’s awesome Kimba. Any final remarks? Yeah. I mean, you know, death and [00:58:00] Sidney did a great job at being really eloquent about their remarks.
And, you know, I echo some of the statements that Cindy mentioned, you know, just understanding your consumers. And using that understanding that there are people who need you and need your solution and going after funding going after partnerships on apologetically, knowing that there’s nothing to be ashamed of or embarrassed about people are experiencing this and you are in the business of making money with a problem that people have been trying to solve.
So I encourage all of you. I’m excited for all of you who have great ideas and, uh, you know, I’m, I’m on LinkedIn, reach out. I’m happy to help you find. Good luck to everyone. I love that CAMBA. And it’s a great way to wrap up tonight. And I think you said it at the very beginning of the hour, we’re all adults here, right?
So why wouldn’t you want to have products that are going to improve people’s lives in a personal way, whether that’s incontinence, sexual health, [00:59:00] uh, et cetera. So, I mean, it’s really great. This has been a really inspiring discussion and I hope no matter what business you’re thinking about starting or have started, if you’re here in startup club, uh, that this has been very informative and inspiring too.
I want to thank Jeff and Cindy and Kimba and correct congratulate all three of you again, and Michelle take us home. Awesome. This is the last panel of our series with Proctor and gamble. So thank you. And again, if you missed any of the sessions, please just go to www stat startup.com. And you’ll be able to find blog posts, recordings, and transcripts, as well as join our email list where you’ll get notifications about coal panels like this, as well as special exclusive content.
So thank you everyone, and have a wonderful safe weekend. Thanks. Bye everyone. Bye-bye [01:00:00] bye-bye.