5 min read
When Rachel Story, a trained sexologist and entrepreneur, went shopping for products that enhanced sex, she was disappointed. “I saw that shopping was really inconvenient in this category. Products had confusing ingredients, and there was also a lack of resources or education for sexual wellness.
So she created Bloomi, a digital marketplace for clean hygiene period and sex products. “With Bloomi I created what I needed: One convenient location for shopping and learning about all things intimacy,” says Story.
We asked her about the business of sexual wellness products–and how CBD can enhance your libido.
How does Bloomi differentiate itself in an increasingly crowded space?
It’s definitely becoming a more popular category, but we’re the only marketplace that offers intimacy products for women. And we take it further by having a clean standard. When Bloomi launched, we screened 5,000 products, and we found that 98 percent of them had vulvar allergens and other toxic ingredients. We have a clean standard, and every product that’s approved for our marketplace is made without ingredients found on the banned list; they’re safe and enjoyable. We’re also the first sex-tech and fem-tech company to raise funds on Republic.
Why did you end up launching with crowd-funding site Republic?
Being a woman, being a woman of color, and having a sexual wellness business, it puts me in a category where it’s very hard to get traditional VC funding. Less than 1 percent of VC funding goes to Latinx founders, and I definitely felt like a statistic. Our team decided we needed to raise funds in unconventional ways, so we have some VC investors, but we also have Latinx celebrities, and philanthropists, and we opened up the crowd-funding on Republic so that the community — our friends, our customers, our supporters — could have the opportunity to invest.
What other barriers or opportunities have you been especially aware of as you launched?
There’s always been a stigma with the “brown community” and cannabis, but that’s been changing with legalization. Now there are these exponential opportunities, and in my opinion, we’re indirectly profiting from being able to have CBD in our products. One thing we learned when we had strong growth in early 2020 is that our merchants were our barrier. We needed to find merchants who could handle a high level of growth. From January to February 2020, we grew 8x, and we probably would’ve grown another 8x from February to March if we had merchants that could handle processing payments from CBD products at high volume. We actually had to take CBD products off the site, and we’ll be relaunching them soon.
Is there still a taboo to talking about sexual wellness, as there can be with cannabis?
When it comes to millennials and Gen Z-ers, not at all. When it comes to investors, that’s a big yes. The sexual wellness industry has been growing quickly the last two years, but there are still problems with stigma and censorship. Sex is private, and investors have a hard time investing in things they can’t see or that they’re not familiar with. I had to make a conscious decision to start pitching to people of color and to women.
What role does CBD play in an arousal oil, and do you see putting CBD into more products down the road?
Sex is better with CBD, and our team openly talks about that. We know that CBD, or hemp oil, is an aphrodisiac, a lot of studies have shown this. It helps to relax the pelvic floor and it facilitates arousal. In our body, we have an endocannabinoid system, and when we masturbate, when we orgasm, we have higher levels of endocannabinoids in the body. The receptors are especially dense in the areas of the body that facilitate pleasure. So when we target these areas with products that use CBD or hemp oil, it can significantly enhance arousal in the body. We’re going to be launching our entire new category of CBD products next month, and the next product we’re launching is a massage oil with CBD. And we’re making it potent, so it’ll have a fairly high level of CBD in it.
Does CBD work on the brain, or is it more about the topical effect?
THC will have an effect on the brain, but CBD will relax the areas topically, and that helps to promote circulation, which promotes arousal. Many times during sex people are in their head too much; CBD helps you to relax and feel calmer, and that helps arousal.
What advice do you have for other entrepreneurs looking to find their place in the industry?
I think the biggest barrier for women of color is the lack of network, so I’d recommend building your network — investors, founders, other experts — so that when you’re ready to create a product or raise funds, you already have a network of people who can support you. We need more women-of-color founders, I highly encourage them.
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