As the world’s only fair trade, vegan, chemical-free condom company that donates 10% of their profits to women in need, Sustain sells sex with a radical twist. The founders of the company are equally unique: father-daughter team Jeffrey and Meika Hollender started Sustain with more than money in mind. As their website declares: “We believe in birth control, without stigma and free of toxic chemicals. Using sex as a conversation starter—is there a better topic?—our goal is to get people to think about sustainability, justice, and equity every time they open a condom, even though they’re understandably distracted.” It’s a pretty high-minded goal for a condom company, but if their politically charged in-ter-course blog is any indication, they are serious about spreading the sex positive gospel. We were pretty psyched to come across this new breed of condom purveyor, and sought out the woman behind Sustain to find out more about her background and her vision for this new movement.
Not every woman goes into the condom business with her father, how did that partnership begin?
That’s definitely true! But once you meet Jeffrey Hollender, you quickly understand why going into business with him, regardless of the nature of the business, is a great decision. Jeffrey is the wisest, most passionate business leader I know so starting something together was really one of the most incredible opportunities that has been presented to me. Condoms? Yeah, people tend to think a father-daughter condom duo is a bit strange, but honestly it’s part of who we are. We are an open and honest family committed to supporting each other and parents need to talk to their kids about sex, and unfortunately it’s not done nearly enough in this country. This failure for parents to talk to their kids about sex and sexual health is part of the reason I believe my generation is facing a sexual health crisis. If parents teach their kids that talking about or engaging in sex is wrong, then that’s where the stigma attached to sex, condoms, etc. starts. Jeffrey and I are here to change this.
Did you have a sex positive feminist upbringing that allowed you to communicate openly about sex, sexuality, sexual health and women’s rights with your parents? What impact did that have on your career choice and political beliefs?
Yes, I definitely grew up in a sex-positive parenting household. When I was ready to have sex, I talked to my dad about it and he made sure I was certain about my decision and understood how to protect myself. My mother has been involved with Planned Parenthood since before I can remember, so I grew up surrounded by dialogues around sexual health issues, and raised by a pretty strong feminist. It is definitely because of my parents’ dedication to sustainability and social responsibility that I decided to start this business with them. From an early age I was taught about why doing good is good for business, and that’s why I am doing what I do. I’m here to start a movement, to empower women to get on top of their sexual health by providing them with a more sustainable product, education, and the inspiration to do so.
One of Sustain’s goals is “to educate and help people connect the dots between condoms and hunger, health care, poverty, and climate change.” It seems you’re already making those links by participating in events like The People’s Climate March. What was your experience last week? What other summits or events will you take part in to raise awareness about these issues?
The People’s Climate March totally blew my mind. I had never participated in a movement that large. The city expected 100,000 people to march, and 400,000 showed up. That goes to show you that climate change is a reality and that people are finally understanding on a large-scale that it’s up to all of us, businesses, individuals, politicians, to implement change. I spend a portion of my time attending conferences and summits such as Social Venture Network, the Bcorp Annual Retreat, and the Natural Product’s Expo where I meet with like minded leaders in a variety of sectors in order to determine the best way to address issues such as climate change.
Which entrepreneurs/activists inspire you?
Jeffrey Hollender, my father, boss and business partner, inspires me the most. I have never met someone who is more passionate about using business as a way to address some of the largest social and economic issues our world faces. He always puts the cause first and always does the right thing. He is truly incredible (and I’m not just saying that because he is my dad, I promise).
Lena Dunham – Lena is hands down the only celebrity that openly addresses sex, sexual health, and the importance of organizations like Planned Parenthood in an honest, straight-forward and positive way. She just gets it, and she uses her fame and talent to address issues that truly matter and affect her peers. I really admire her.
If you had a fantasy spokesperson for Sustain who would it be?
Sustain tackles tough subjects in the “in-ter-course” blog, from childhood sex education to the Hobby Lobby decision and more. What’s you vision for the Sustain movement as an ethical, open channel providing news about informed, empowered sexual health?
Sustain is about celebrating, educating and inspiring women to get on top of their sexual health. We want to do this by providing a forum where we discuss everything from sex, reproductive health laws, badass female entrepreneurs, people and movements that turn us on, and STDs. Sustain is here to remove the stigma around women buying and carrying condoms. We’re here to break the taboo.
What do you think Millennials are doing right (or wrong) when it comes to sex?
There is so much I have to say when it comes to this. I have written an article about this for our blog intercourse, “No I don’t sell Condos. I sell Condoms. Karley Sciortino, a personal hero of mine, also captures what we’re doing wrong when it comes to safe sex in her article for Vogue, “Roughly 1 Person Every 10 Minutes Is Diagnosed with HIV in the U.S., so Why Aren’t We Taking AIDS More Seriously?”
Have you picked a favorite product yet or do you not play favorites? :)
Yes! I totally do. My favorite is our Comfort Fit 3-pack :)