The Scoop: Condoms are for everyone, and now there's a fabulous company on the market dedicated to making condoms accessible to women!
Our mission at tabú is to empower young adults to take control of their sexual health. A major component of sexual health? Condoms. Condoms not only protect against STIs, but unwanted pregnancies as well. Historically, the expectation is on guys to have condoms readily available for all potential sexual encounters. Somehow, if a girl carries a condom on her, there are often negative connotations attached to her decision to do so (a decision we like to call… smart 🤓). But the times, they are a changin,’ and we’re here to introduce you to the products and brands that are keeping up (and trailblazing ahead)!
We have to admit, we are thrilled that so many women are the primary drivers behind the movement to foster sex positivity and empowerment for all. One dynamic duo accomplishing just that is Tiffany Gaines and Claire Courtney, the co-founders of Lovability Condoms. We have long-admired their journey, and were excited to chat about their new branding, and the struggles and rewards of entrepreneurship!
Tiffany, what inspired you to start Lovability? Claire, what motivated you to join?
Tiffany: My passion for innovating the condom began when I discovered that a huge percentage of women felt uncomfortable buying, carrying, and providing condoms — and that such discomfort was keeping us from purchasing condoms and being prepared. So many women were relying on men to have condoms, and in many cases they didn’t. This results in more instances of unsafe sex, when women are giving up power over their body and future.
When I discovered this, I was in graduate school studying “Design For Social Innovation,” and I was observing the world through a unique lens. I saw design as a way to solve important social issues.
That’s when I decided to commit the remainder of my graduate program, thesis, and career to improving women’s relationship with condoms, rewriting the narrative surrounding condoms, and redefining the archetype of the condom carrying woman.
Lovability Condoms is all about transforming the condoms into a female-power-tool. A badass symbol of fierce self love, dignity, and confidence. We envision a world where every woman carries condoms in their purse, and feels absolutely fabulous about it.
Claire: I knew I wanted to work in the condom industry at age 18. What I didn’t know was whether I wanted to start my own company or push for change in an already established one.
No company on the market really did it for me; they all felt the same, and the same wasn’t working. When I connected with Tiffany and her vision of launching Lovability into something just for women, I never doubted my next move. I felt so lucky to have the platform she created to support my own love for latex.
It’s wild to think condoms weren’t innovated for decades, really since latex production. With a little creativity and some beautiful design work, Lovability offers something a new market of consumers can connect to. It’s insane to me that fem folks are considered a “new market,” but working with our customers to create something that fits our needs is really awesome. I’m inspired by the challenge.
At what moment did you realize, “wow, this is real?!”?
Claire: Superbowl Sunday 2015. The day our crowd funding campaign went viral and we reached (and quickly passed) our $20,000 goal. For the first time, we felt the relief of full-time employment and total ownership of our cause. Until then, it was a fantasy.
I’ve never worked harder in my life than the month and a half leading up to that day. I’ve never felt more vulnerable, nervous or excited either. It was incredible. I learned to work really hard for my dream and trust in the world to support a solid idea. Not knowing if it would happen was amazing motivation.
A year and a half down the line, our operations depend on that same uncertainty. We thrive in the process of figuring it out and by “it” I mean everything from FDA regulations to coding a website. At the time of our crowd funding campaign, it felt like all or nothing. Now I know we would have found a way to bring Lovability to market, but the loving support of so many people made it a lot easier.
You recently launched your new line of condoms. Congrats! Can you tell us more about the rebrand and messaging?
Claire: Absolutely! Tiffany and I care a lot about how we’re speaking to our audience. As young entrepreneurs, we have a really cool platform to promote a happier, healthier world. We feel a responsibility to spread honest, positive vibes and promote greater equality and opportunity. We can’t do that solely on our own, so we spent the past year working closely with our community. So many people stepped up to join our mission. Their collective feedback and ideas pushed our own understanding of feminism, sexuality and the power of design.
We introduced our first line of condoms right out of college. Our relaunch this September is a summary of what we’ve learned since then. Which is hard to articulate in any other way, to be honest. So I’ll let our tins do the talking: We believe babes hold the power. We believe feminist language and inclusivity is the new sexy. We also believe that fem folks deserve it all: the sex life, the career, the health and the happiness they want.
We don’t know what exactly is next for us, but we know we will always strive to communicate with intention and the utmost respect of our audience. We owe our progression to our customers. If there’s something you’d like to see from us in the future, shoot us a note at email@example.com. We’ll always get back to you.
Alright, we need to know. What exactly is Fuckboy repellent (besides amazing)?
Claire: Fuckboy repellent is an all-natural body spray with a touch of gold glitter. But really, it functions as a reminder that YOU don’t deserve to be fucked with, by the patriarchy or someone who doesn’t respect your desires. One spray keeps the fuckboys away. Because most assholes don’t like being covered in gold glitter.
What is the greatest challenge you have faced as women entrepreneurs in the field of sexual health?
Claire: Slut-shaming on a corporate level.
Challenges in this industry seem to work to our benefit. They push us to evolve, ask new questions, seek the support of our customers and grow stronger and more unified. When we get pushed around by the big boys (take JP Morgan Chase for example, who slut shamed us out of a service agreement), we band together with thousands of other people to stand up and make waves. It’s awesome to see that any change you want to create is manageable. The support exists and the internet connects you to it.
I often wonder what it would have been like for my mother to run this company at age 23. I think she’d face even more bullshit than we do. Less online trolls, but less support too. I’m grateful to be a sex entrepreneur in 2016, I can say that much.
What drives you/ keeps you up at night? What advice do you have for young entrepreneurs?
Claire: A fear of using language that hurts someone can keep me up at night. I don’t want anyone to feel excluded from what we’re doing. Unfortunately, founding a condom company “for women” is exclusive in itself.
I’m moving away from gendered language, but the change isn’t graceful. Which feels like a failure in itself. Some of the most amazing people we work with are non-binary, and they deserve a space to be themselves without pressure. Language is pressure. So yeah, communicating insensitively and hurting people who join our conversation is a big fear of mine.
The advice I have for other young entrepreneurs is probably something they’ve already figured out: people want to help you! Building real relationships with the people you look up to in your industry and in the press is super rewarding, both for yourself and your business. It's easy to feel isolated when you're spending long hours at your laptop or working from home, but there are so many people you can connect to for inspiration, guidance and ultimately, exposure.
I think you also have to be willing to help other people succeed. Relationships are mutual, but that’s what makes them so enjoyable. Being a part of Lovability’s community is my favorite part of the job.
How have you evolved both individually and as a company over the last three years?
Claire: Lovability started as a passion project. A way to transform a vision of a condom-loving world into a product that would help fem folks enjoy safe sex. In the beginning, we were working from the floor of our apartments, hiring friends to help with assembly, not knowing if we’d still be running next month.
Our crowd-funding success caught us by surprise. Overnight, we needed to ship condoms to 30+ countries, expedite assembly and handle a lot of press. We stumbled to keep up with our growth in the beginning. Now we have efficient systems in place, a solid supply chain, and a new site and product line to celebrate. It’s been a journey to get to a place of confidence as entrepreneurs, but we’re both enjoying a bit more security these days.
We realized about a year ago that our movement needed more stories and faces of representation. We’ve always depended on our customers to challenge our ideas, submit tons of feedback and shape our next move, but collaborating to create change is the best part.
I’m grateful to have stumbled with this company from the beginning. It’s forced me to think deeply about how I spend my time and what I care about accomplishing in a day. Some days that’s nailing a press piece or new partner, but other days that’s taking the time to forget about work. And boy is that hard. Balancing an unpaid, full time entrepreneurship career with paid side gigs and the things I love in life hasn't been a glamorous picture.
This year, I experimented with a different approach to work. Working from the road, instead of my apartment floor. I rented out my apartment, hitched a trailer to my boyfriend’s pickup, and spent about half of the summer running Lovability from a wifi hotspot on the road. When life supports you to enjoy yourself and work for something you believe in, everything else falls in line. I’ve evolved individually to believe that hard work and an honest cause pays off.
What is your vision for Lovability?
Claire: Creating a space where anyone can feel awesome stepping up to talk about their sexuality, their health and their goals.
Right now, I’m really passionate about highlighting the connection between a happy, healthy sex life and a happy, healthy future.
Family planning impacts career goals, income level, job satisfaction, mental wellbeing, physical health, your relationships and your future child’s outcomes too. It’s insane how much difference a rad sex ed curriculum and accessible birth control can make. Being prepared for sex changes your life!
My vision is to keep pushing for women’s futures by improving access to healthy conversations and reproductive care. This isn’t just about the bedroom. It’s about the boardroom, the classroom, and as we’re seeing this year, even the White House. Women with opportunities can run the world. Family planning is about ensuring that every woman has those opportunities.
Image source: Lovability
So much #girlpower. Thanks, Claire and Tiffany! You are both truly inspirational. We look forward to seeing what you will come up with next!
tabú connects young adults with trustworthy and engaging answers to their sex ed questions by connecting them to certified health experts and peer to peer support.