Jeffrey Hollender left Seventh Generation, the green products company he founded, in 2010. It wasn't a happy split. But now he's back. And again, he's looking to find a niche for a commodity product that's more sustainable than the mainstream.
The product: condoms that are sustainably produced, Fair Trade, and lack some of the nasty chemicals found in popular brands. Hollender says his Sustain condoms will be the most natural and ethical products on the market when they're released next February.
He claims there's a "significant amount of child labor in most of the rubber plantations" where other companies source their rubber. By contrast, Sustain's latex comes from a plantation in southern India that's Forest Stewardship Council-certified. "Our approach is to ensure the conditions these condoms were made in are ones that they can feel good about," he says.
Joining the elder Hollender is his daughter Meika, who recently graduated with an MBA from NYU’s Stern School of Business. Meika will look after marketing Sustain to the target demographic of millennial women. "I am the wrong person to sell condoms to young women," says Jeffrey. "I couldn't really do this without Meika. She understands the market, because she is the market."
The Hollenders think there's a gap for a more female-friendly product (as does this entrepreneur that we featured previously). Women already make 40% of purchases, but aren't great fans of the experience, Meika says. "They hate the purchasing process. They find everything about it uncomfortable, from the packaging that only talks to men, to standing under fluorescent lighting in a drug store, and having the guy behind the register snicker at them."
Sustain's packaging is noticeably toned down, lacking in the normal dark, thrusting imagery. As for the product itself, it comes with less of the protein content that causes allergic reactions. And there are no N-Nitrosamines, which were linked with increased cancer risk in a recent German study.
Jeffrey Hollender says the price will be on a par with mainstream brands ("The margins in this category are so large, we think we can comfortably operate with smaller margins", he says). In addition, 10% of profits will go to U.S. organizations offering reproductive health care in low-income communities.
Meika admits that selling sex products with your dad can sometimes "lead to conversations that are out of the ordinary." But mostly they are close and open with one another, she says.
Jeffrey says working with his daughter makes for a refreshing change from some of the sharks he's dealt with during four decades in business. "Although it can be challenging, there's a very positive side to working with a family member you have a good relationship with."