Certifiably Awesome: Meika Hollender, Co-Founder of Sustain Natural
We’ve got a major crush on Meika Hollender, co-founder of Sustain Natural, a sustainable sexual wellness brand. Yup, you read that correctly: a sustainable sexual wellness brand. If that strikes you as an usual categorization, it’s because Sustain Natural – and Meika – are doing some amazing, innovative work in an industry that’s long been in need of some disruption. Hence, the crush.
Let us elaborate: Not only are Sustain’s products created in an environmentally conscious and responsible fashion (for example, they use only fair trade rubber in their condoms) using only non-toxic ingredients, they’re perhaps the only sexual wellness brand that is marketing their products to a bafflingly long-ignored audience: women!
Sustain Natural’s co-founder Meika Hollender
Below, we have Meika field the usual Certifiably Awesome questions, plus discuss the mission and goals of Sustain Natural.
Certifiably Awesome questions…
What is your favorite “I-really-shouldn’t-be-eating-this” food?
There are so many! Ice cream though is something I can’t live without, specifically Blue Marble Cookies N’ Cream.
What is a skincare myth that you have busted on your own?
For my entire life my doctors swore by Cetaphil (sp?). As I got older, I moved on to more high end skincare products naturally but it wasn’t until recently that I read an article in Well + Good that busted all the Cetaphil myths! What a scam!
What percent natural are you?
What is your naked animal? (Oh you don’t know what this is? Allow us to improve your life tremendously. IF posing for naked photos, what animal would you choose to hide your girly parts?)
Good question…I like to think of my ‘spirit animal’ as a Zebra…but I guess this is a bit different. I’ll go with a monkey…
Now, onto Meika…
To start, why did you decide to launch Sustain Natural? What brought you here?
I grew up in the natural products movement and I actually refer to my dad’s previous business, Seventh Generation, as my older sibling. Launching a sustainable products company is something that always imagined I’d might do, although launching a sustainable sexual wellness brand (with my parents!) isn’t something I can say I saw coming!
We started Sustain for two important reasons:
- We noticed there was no condom and sexual wellness brand that really spoke to women. No brand that focused on empowering women to take control of their sexual health and help them understand that there is no shame in being a sexually active young women!
- To create a business that is net positive: What my father realized as he reflected on his time at Seventh Generation was that many green product companies tend to focus on creating something less bad versus something that is good. With condoms, we realized that the waste involved in creating these products is far outweighed by their positive impact of preventing unwanted pregnancies and protecting against STIs and HIV.
You work alongside your mom and dad …in the condom business. Obviously, you have a much cooler relationship with your folks than we do with our parents! What’s it like being a family and working together?
Being able to work with your family is definitely a gift. Family businesses come with so many benefits, but also their own challenges. Funnily enough, the types of products we create don’t really create any awkward situations (at least not two years in). What we focus a lot on is growing and building both our personal and professional relationships, which is critical for any family business.
Back to Sustain: You’re disrupting a pretty archaic and pretty unsustainable industry. What are some ways that you’re changing the game?
The biggest way that we are changing the game is by bringing women into the conversation. We are developing a brand in a category that has only been marketing to and meeting the needs of men since it started. Women buy over 40% of condoms, and make the majority of lubricant purchases, yet brands have left them out of the conversation until now.
Another thing we are focused on is making the most sustainable and safe sexual wellness products out there. For example, 90% of condoms sold today contain a carcinogen in the latex called Nitrosamine – we are one of two brands that does not contain this. With our organic lubricant, we’re educating women about why they don’t want a petroleum or silicon based lubricant, and just as with their personal care products, why they should avoid things like parabens and glycerin when it comes to lubricants as well.
Aside from producing an environmentally and socially responsible product, you’re helping elevate the conversation about sex in a really cool way – particularly for women! What are some of the things Sustain is doing – such as the 10%4 Women initiative – that benefit us chicks?
Since sex and sexual health is such a taboo subject, women in this country are unaware of the fact that 50% of pregnancies in the U.S. are unplanned and that 1 in 4 college (female) freshman will contract an STD. These are scary and disappointing statistics, especially for a developed country.
The stigmas around these issues are what have landed young women in this country in a not-so-great position when it comes to things like sexual health and reproductive rights, so we started 10%4 women to try and help solve these critical issues. 10%4 gives 10% of our profits to women’s health organizations in the U.S. Our goal with the organization is – like 1% for the planet – to get other companies signed up so that together we can start to address the serious underfunding of and issues around women’s health in this country.
What’s next for Sustain condoms? Fill us in!
Post Play Natural Wipes! We’ve launched our third product category because the things that people use to clean up…”post play”…are not super sexy (think paper towels, baby wipes, etc.), so we decided to change that. Plus, there are a ton of nasty ingredients in most vaginal wipes, so as you’d expect, ours contain none of what you don’t want around there.
Image, Sustain Natural Instagram