Did you catch our founder Jeffrey Hollender's Reddit AMA?
No worries, if not.
Find out what inspired Jeffrey to start his own company - and what makes him most proud - in this recap of our favorite moments.
courtiebabe420: What inspired you to start your own business?
Jeffrey Hollender: Once you experience working for yourself and having your own business, it's almost impossible to go back and work for somebody else. My first business, the Skills Exchange of Toronto back in 1976, led to a lifetime of being a social entrepreneur. Most recently, after leaving Seventh Generation, I was trying to think about how to create a business that could have THE MOST positive effect on society & the planet possible. And the idea was to create what we call a "net positive" company - a company that has a more positive effect on society and the planet than it has negative affects. Many green services create products that are less bad than competitive products. Sustain Condoms was inspiring because of all of the positive ways it could impact the farmers, and rubber tappers - so we were able, through fair trade, to create better livelihoods for families that worked on our plantations. And the experience of knowing that thousands of kids were not only going to school but also college because we were supporting Fair Trade labor was very exciting.
courtiebabe420: Follow-Up: What aspect of owning your own business do you like best? What aspect do you dislike most?
JH: My favorite aspect of owning my own business (and now I'm in a unique situation because I'm in a family business, working with both my daughter & wife) is that I get to work with my most favorite people every day.
nickdaisy: Why would a business leader commit to "progressive public policy?" Shouldn't business leaders stick to making profits and leave governing to people in government?
JH: You know, that's a great question. And I think that there's a lot of people who think that business should be separate from public policy and government. Unfortunately, public policy and government is so integrated with business that they really are impossible to separate. We live with the myth that there is such a thing as a "Free market" and there is no such thing. Government programs influence the price of almost every product and service you purchase. The way those government subsidies are designed favors certain businesses and disadvantages other businesses. So it's not advisable or strategic to say we're gonna ignore those government policies, because they may not only put your business at a disadvantage but they may also make it harder for you to be competitive and profitable.
MisterSirRiley: What do you think sets your products apart from others?
JH: So Sustain Condoms specifically have a number of unique features and benefits. First of all, very importantly, they are designed to appeal to women. In our opinion, there really isn't a condom brand that has created a line of products specifically to appeal to women. Beyond that, we're the only brand in the U.S. that is certified to be fair trade, which means the workers in the rubber plantations are not only paid a fair wage but a premium wage, and their kids get free healthcare and free education. The plantation we use is also certified by the Forest Stewardship Council, which means it operates at the highest level of sustainability - limiting the use of pesticides, and protecting the biodiversity of the plants and animals living on the plantation. The product Sustain is also certified to be vegan, not tested on animals, free from GMOs, and we are a B-corporation (a benefit corporation) which means we are committed to not just serve our investors but also our customers, employees, community and the environment.
lula2488: Out of all the things you have been involved in, what are you most proud of?
JH: Wow, that's a great question. I think the thing I'm the MOST proud of is not so much what we've accomplished at Sustain or Seventh Generation, but that we have been a model for business that has been inspirational to thousands of young entrepreneurs.
landlord10ent: I'm sure you get asked this fairly regularly but what's it like working on a condom company with your daughter? Any awkward moments?
JH: While there are the occasional awkward moments, in general, the reason that we're able to do this together is because of our family and our family values that have always encouraged an open and honest dialogue about sex.
kubiedoo: As you moved from paper products into condoms, what were you surprised to find out about the birth control category or about sexual health?
JH: It's been an eye-opening experience, and I'll share 3-4 things that have been the most surprising. First is that only 21% of sexually active single women actually USE condoms. That leads to the statistic that 25% of freshmen women end up after their first year in college with some type of STD. In addition, in America, 50% of all pregnancies are not planned. So clearly, we need to do a better job of education around birth control and condoms.
kubiedoo: I was just on your website and it says that 10% of the profits of Sustain condoms goes towards womens' causes. What types of causes specifically do you support? Thanks!
JH: 10% of our profits support organizations dedicated to improving access to women's reproductive healthcare in the U.S. Organizations we worked with already are Planned Parenthood of the Great Northwest, Planned Parenthood of Northern New England and the Breast Cancer Fund. As we grow we will continue find new partners that can help further our mission to increase access to and education about women's reproductive healthcare.
chooter: what is your mantra?
JH: Well, I have a mantra that I always have taped to the front of my computer & it changes from time-to-time. Right now it says "reflect, speak the truth, and have fun." I would add that my all-time favorite mantra is Mahatma Gandhi's saying "We must be the change we want to see in the world."