I founded Sustain almost five years ago with a clear mission: to enable women to take control of their sexual and reproductive health. It started with condoms, because, what else would make more sense than starting a condom company with...your dad? My dad and I teamed up to rethink sexual wellness, with a focus on women, and redefine what you should and should not put inside the most intimate part of your body.
It felt like a pretty straight forward challenge. I couldn’t have been more wrong.
Straight out of the gate, I got slut shamed on the internet. “She should be using condoms, not selling them” the trolls said, in reference to the dark freckle on my lower lip that had to be an STD because any woman who openly talks about sex must get around.
After the slut shaming came the magic. Women (and men) stood up to support me. And in the years that followed you all shared your stories with us. Your challenges, fears, questions, ideas, and frustrations. Together, we explored how this country deals with female sexuality, questioned the products we're putting inside the most intimate part of our bodies, and agreed that it’s time for us to celebrate sex and all that comes with it.
Your support and engagement led Sustain to expand our impact from creating the first full line of sustainable sexual wellness products to a full line of organic cotton period products, and most recently a reusable period cup. It led us to be the first brand of intimate products on the Home Shopping Network. It enabled us to donate thousands of dollars to organizations like Planned Parenthood. It took us to D.C. to demand more transparency around tampons.
And while standing up and speaking out for what we think is right has pissed a few people off along the way, it’s also introduced us to new friends -- strong, passionate and brilliant women who have been making waves alongside us all along. Keech Combe Shetty is one of those pioneers. Keech is the Co-CEO of Combe Inc., a company that, through its Vagisil brand, has been on the forefront of women’s sexual and reproductive health for over 45 years.
As I got to know Keech and spent time with her, I was fascinated to learn more about the hurdles her family had to overcome, and the backlash they faced in the 1970’s when they were bringing Vagisil onto the market. I recognized how her family’s commitment to getting vagina-related products onto the market all those years ago, helped paved the way for brands like Sustain to exist today.
Together, we explored the ways in which a more strategic alignment between our two companies would enhance our collective efforts to improve women’s sexual and reproductive health. Late in 2018, Keech and I agreed to move forward and Combe elected to make a substantial strategic investment in Sustain. With Combe as a partner, our products will become available in more places than ever before because of their expansive retail and international networks. We also get to take advantage of the deep wealth of product development resources and experience that Combe has been developing for almost 40 years. Which means we can bring better products to market faster than ever before.
Partnering with a larger company is not something I took lightly. Our partnership with Combe came to fruition because of a set of shared values. Combe is a privately held family business, just like Sustain. In my family’s experience over the last 30 years, with Sustain and with our former business Seventh Generation, we’ve come to deeply appreciate how family businesses tend to think more long term as they are always thinking about the next generation.
The last few months have been equal parts exciting and challenging while we learn how to work together to amplify our shared mission. While we still operate independently and keep separate offices, it’s been awesome to see how Combe has been encouraging us to be who we are--but even louder, in our efforts, to push boundaries and fight for change.
Sharing this news with all of you, I am overcome with a deep sense of gratitude for all the women who have stood with us, supported us, challenged us, and celebrated with us over the last 5 years. We started Sustain because we believe women should be celebrated not stigmatized for the beautifully sexual and powerful beings we are, and our mission has never been more important. Because of you all who have stood by us, Sustain now gets to soar to new heights, and have an exponentially greater impact.
Thank you all for being on this journey with us. I couldn’t be more excited about what’s to come.
Co-Founder + CEO