April Musing - Vastitude | Innovation for the adults in the room
Updated: Apr 24, 2018
The Vast Undertaking of Building an Inclusive Startup Company
Building a business is the hardest thing I’ve ever done. I believe the main thing that makes it so difficult is assembling the proper resources to make a vision come to reality. Good ideas are a dime a dozen I’ve come to find. Even a truly unique idea that solves a real problem is far from assurance that you’ll be successful. Every business faces a unique set of challenges coupled with some universal obstacles they must overcome.
For us one of our biggest hurdles to clear is being a female-founded company in the industry of sexual wellness, because both of these make fundraising much harder (women got 2% of VC funding last year, for example). But I think our biggest challenge ahead is the monumental task of building an inclusive product and brand due to the delicate topic of ‘sex’. Before we go into that though, a little background on our situation.
I met Deanna, founder of The It Collection, 2 years ago at Startup Week in Dallas. I have been involved in some form with the company for nearly as long. My interest is not a simple thing to sum it up, ranging from personal to practical. I admire her tenacity create a solution to a personal problem that arose when she temporarily lost the use of her right arm due to a pinched nerve, but also to turn it into a business with the opportunity to help people attain the right to pursue their sexual freedom and happiness.
This very right was encroached when Deanna realized her options were now limited and she was faced with the question, “What does one do when they physically can’t express themselves or engage with a partner?” What other limitations might people have that held them back? It was these questions that led to the creation of the Perfect Pleasure cushion, a hands-free mount that radically improves accessibility compared to current market solutions.
This question also revealed the scale of the potential to help countless individuals and couples enjoy a better sex life. Over 600 million people in this world suffer from some type of disability, and for a large portion it affects their sex life. Scores of others are plagued with other issues when it comes to sexual dysfunction. We all deserve the right to a healthy pleasure-filled life, it is a fundamental need that affects everyone! But while sexuality is an incredibly important topic it is often tricky to talk about, especially when you want to reach a mass audience.
They say in marketing to not market to everyone, you need to pick a niche to target. Fundamentally yes, you can’t sell to everyone. But how should products and services be marketed? Should we consider making them feel accessible to everyone? Or should we market in a certain way that only appeals to specific people?
The answers will often depend on the business, but in our case we’re talking sex, and every one has sex. How do you show everyone? This is the main riddle we struggle with. We have a universal solution and we must be inclusive because sex is universal! But marketing a truly inclusive and somewhat complex product is a massive undertaking, especially when you’re a bootstrapped startup. We want to reach thousands and eventually millions of people, and this we’re coming to find is where the real challenge lies.
I’m experiencing this with my other business as well, a web show about harnessing the power of user experience (UX) for startups called ProjectUX. Creating it is by no means easy, but reaching the audience we want is the bigger challenge. I love the concepts of UX research and design. They fuel my desire to build something of this nature, because universal design and accessibility should be cornerstones of everything! But thinking and creating this way is no easy feat.
Because the truth is I’m a white, able-bodied male. It is my goal to see outside of this identity, but that is the second hardest thing in life, for me anyways. I am working on myself and trying to see past the ego of who “I” am, because it is an important personal effort and also plays into my career and business life as well. The best designs break through the walls of identity and work for most everyone.
I never would have imagined a piece of sex furniture would be able to do so much. It drastically changed my viewpoint of what sex can be, and also what it might not be for many others. It is clear to me we’re on the right path, but we are in need of a boost to really take this to its full potential. We’re looking into accelerator programs like Health WildCatters, women led investment firms such as True Wealth, and we will be doing a crowdfunding campaign* this summer. One way or another we will get there, and we hope you’ll be part of the journey too. We’d like to invite you to check us out, you can win a free cushion and get notified when our campaign goes live. We appreciate your support, thank you for reading!