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Sexual wellness and intimate care without the stigma.

How did it all begin?

My Co-founder Sarah and I have been friends since school – we met over a bunsen burner! We’ve always got together to vent about the things we want to change in the world. One afternoon over a glass of wine, we were bemoaning our personal experiences with condoms and some of the horror stories from Sarah’s time working in the NHS. We realised that the standard product offering on the shelves just wasn’t speaking to women. For a start, it featured garish, stereotypically ‘masculine,’ penis-centric messaging that made us feel like an afterthought in the equation (and embarrassed to be seen slipping them into our shopping basket). The product itself wasn’t working for us either, with many of the mainstream brands using ingredients including glycerine as a lubricant, which can cause vaginal yeast infections. We decided it was time for sexual wellness products designed with women’s needs in mind, with the ultimate aim of empowering people to own their sexuality.

What sets your business apart?

We have a unique perspective and expertise that’s allowed us to reimagine products specifically to be vagina-friendly, unlike the mainstream brands. Sarah is a gynaecology doctor and has seen first-hand the rise in hard-to-treat STIs, and vaginal soreness from inadequate condoms and lube. This really helped us to develop our own sensitive condoms which exclude unnecessary ingredients which can cause irritation or contribute to UTIs. Alongside this, our attitude really sets us apart from the heritage brands on shelf. Education and conversation are key parts of our brand, and our tone of voice is your best mate’s older sister. Down-to-earth, real, relatable – and no topic is too TMI. You’ll find us talking about everything from post-partum sex to summer vaginal health tips on our blog, and forum.

What is the concept behind your business or the problem you’re solving?

We believe it’s time the world stopped being weird about our sex lives. That starts with quality, doctor-designed products that are as natural as possible and goes hand-in-hand with shifting perspectives on a cultural level. There’s a great deal of internalised shame and confusion around our bodies and what we do with them, so we’re using our platform to demystify that. Our campaign Let’s Open Up is the perfect example of that – on Valentine’s Day, we took over billboards around the UK with punchy messaging to open up the conversation around the taboo condition, vaginismus. It can make sex painful or even impossible, and is more common than people think but simply isn’t discussed. We had incredible feedback from those who are experiencing the condition, their partners and friends who felt seen and empowered by the project.

Where to next/What is your brand vision?

We’ve just released our first ever pleasure partner, Cindy, which is a clitoral stimulator. It’s been our most-requested product since day one of HANX, so we teamed up with our community to co-design it and the reviews are amazing so far! There’s lots in the pipeline still to come both in the pleasure and intimate care arenas – we want to be there for our community from their first time to their first child and beyond, so this is a really exciting move in a new direction for us. Beyond that, our lips are sealed…

Farah Kabir

Founder of

HANX

What do you feel passionate about/what drives you?

I’m passionate about campaigning for more opportunities and support for women in the innovation industry. Since starting HANX, I’ve experienced how mentors and advocates can help you along the way, and I’d love to see more of this especially in the investment sector. Less words, more action! It’s easy to highlight dire statistics on the lack of funding for female founders, but harder to make the commitment to create tangible change within institutions. I believe VCs really need a more inclusive mindset when it comes to making investments as a limited world view inevitably results in missed opportunities. One way to do this would be to bring more women, especially women of colour, into decision-making roles in VC, who truly understand the need for businesses outside the stereotype of an ‘investable’ proposition.

Share an example of early life that has shaped you?

I’ve always had a business mindset – even as a child! My family used to work at the Nestle factory and would bring home bulk packs of cheap chocolate bars from the factory shop. I’d take them to school to sell on the playground to my friends for an outrageous mark-up! It was my first step into entrepreneurship and I loved the thrill of making a sale – I still do.

Highlights of your business journey so far?

Trust is so key when it comes to influencing consumers’ decisions when it comes to contraception, and for us, getting into some of the UK’s biggest retailers was crucial to our future success. We’re beyond proud to be stocked in thousands of high street stores with Boots, Tesco, Sainsburys, Superdrug and WHSmith (and more to come!). Launching our direct-to-consumer offering in the US after much organic demand earlier this year was a major moment, too.

Key lessons you have learned along the way?

Embrace the mistakes! There’s always a lesson to be learned once the dust has settled. Back when we started, we couldn’t believe it when we managed to convince Boots to stock us in-store and online. We totally under-estimated how much stock they’d want in their first order, so it was just the two of us packing thousands of condoms throughout the night in a freezing shipping container. It was worth it but I really learnt the value of not under-estimating ourselves, and also bringing in resource where it’s really necessary.

Best piece of advice you have received?

Back yourself if you have an idea. Research the market, understand if there are any other players doing it already and build your own data bank. When we had the idea for HANX, we surveyed over 2000 women about what they really wanted from condoms, and used their responses to prove the case for a new female-focused brand in the market. Those 2000 women actually went on to become our early adopters when we launched the product.

Advice to an aspiring entrepreneur or woman just starting her career?

You often hear that you should keep your idea under wraps for as long as possible, but we did the opposite. We spoke to absolutely everyone about our plan to disrupt the sexual wellness market and we had some incredible advice, met mentors and picked up invaluable contacts from doing this. It also build real organic buzz about your business – people become invested in what you’re doing with it and want to help any way they can.

What funding route have you chosen for your business and why?

We’re currently at Seed stage, however, we don’t like putting labels on funding stages. The definitions are so different for everyone and it encourages unhealthy comparison. Our fundraising journey was never going to be the norm, as a female-founded and led DTC focused brand in a taboo sector: sexual wellness. We’ve focused on finding our people who get us and the opportunity for HANX – and we’ve built a passionate community of Angel investors, male and female, some of whom were actually among our first customers.

Some of the challenges you have faced and how you overcame them?

When it comes to investment, we’ve encountered outdated attitudes. We’ve built a passionate community of Angel investors, as at the start, VCs weren’t willing to take a chance on two girls who had no background in the condom industry whatsoever. We don’t fit the typical founder stereotype, we don’t work in trendy tech industries and as a woman from a Bangladeshi Muslim background, I find myself challenging preconceptions every single day. I’ve encountered assumptions that I don’t understand how valuation works, despite my background in investment banking, and even a sexual proposition in a pitch. It all just makes us more determined to find our people who get us and what we’re building – and we’re lucky to have some incredible backers, both male and female.

Why is it important to support women-led business?

More new all-women-led companies were started in the last 12 months than ever before – and with the right support and access to funding, we could all add £250bn to the economy. Supporting female founders can also have a really positive impact societally, as the more we showcase and spotlight a more inclusive view of entrepreneurship, the more we’ll inspire the next generation.

60

Seconds

with

Farah Kabir

My inspiration is...

My mother.

My greatest fear is...

Failure.

The most courageous thing I’ve ever done is...

Putting my life savings into condoms!

Guilty pleasure?

Watching trashy reality shows to relax! We love debating the Kardashians at HANX.

Mantra you live by?

Trust your gut.

Female role model?

Ashleigh Hinde of Waldo.

Women-led brand you love?

Little Moons.

Top productivity tool?

Notion.

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