This piece originally appeared earlier this week in the Boinkology101 collection on Medium. We had some encouragement to post it here as well for our readers and to share a bit about the experience of building Unbound. Thank you for reading and I hope you enjoy.
xx(x), Sarah Jayne (Co Founder, Editorial Director for Unbound)
Over the last year, some close friends and I formed and grew a company. We, like every other company from Apple to Zappos, had an idea, a customer in mind, and a product. Our idea: a sexual brand for women. Our customer: well, women. And our product: a quarterly box of curated (it’s more work than it sounds) and desirable erotic products. While I’m sure Apple, Zappos, and every other mainstream company has faced more than a few headaches, I sometimes find myself lusting (in the professional sense) over the appeal of starting a company in a “clean” or safe industry. You know, like a bakery or an app, or an app for finding cupcakes! As much as we’ve told ourselves that sex should be a part of health and wellness, the fact remains that it might be easier to build a startup if we weren’t a company traditionally classified as a “sin business.” How much easier would it be to talk openly about Unbound at every dinner party or when engaging in small talk on a train ride without worrying, “Is anyone uncomfortable with this?”
I’ve learned sexuality is a topic that polarizes even people who seem to agree. I don’t need to be the one to tell you that female sexuality is something that our society not only views as a topic but also as an issue. Everyone has an opinion, but not everyone is equally qualified to opine based on first person experience. Unfortunately, that experience is often undervalued and from a commercial aspect; it’s wildly underserved — and that’s where we decided to get involved. We knew there should be more out there for women: more resources, more encouragement, and more new ideas. We thought that it could be fun, not overly saccharine, and come with plenty of honest content. No lists promising “5,978 Ways to Please Your Man in the Next 10 Minutes,” and no assumptions that our customer is using the products with a male partner. Still, Unbound may not be for absolutely everyone (what fun would that be anyway?) and that’s okay too.
When I tell friends and family (and any stranger who will listen) about my startup, there’s always the proverbial “How do your parents feel about this? Do they even know?” Of course they know. Luckily, I grew up in a family where the correct terminology for anatomy was used and sex was considered something natural and certainly not shameful. It also didn’t hurt that I revealed plans to enter the erotic product industry the same week that 50 Shades of Grey hit the New York Times Bestseller List. For any of us who have to make a compelling argument that there is money and a future in a seemingly unstable field: you might want to time that declaration with a major moment of cultural (and fiscal) recognition. Today you could make the argument that there’s even opportunity in duck call production. From a business perspective it doesn’t hurt at least.
What else have I learned? The most encouraging thing I’ve found is that most people desire better outlets to process and enjoy their sexuality. Even the slightest mention of starting a company that seeks to champion sexual product discovery gets eyes lighting up, admissions unfolding, and barriers lifted. I’ve learned that people are willing to talk about sex very openly if given social permission to do so — even the eighty-eight-year-old woman sitting next to you on the Amtrak reminiscing about the eight men and three women she bedded prior to her husband of fifty years, and maybe especially her. When we feel safe and included, we share, we learn, and we expand our depth. We probably — no, definitely — have better sex, too.