CEO and Co-Founder of Unbound
Tell us about your career and how Unbound got started? Unbound was started by a group of women who thought female sexuality was underserved by the market. We felt there should be an online destination where women can learn about their bodies and buy well designed sexual wellness products. We’re often asked where the name “Unbound” came from and there’s a pretty great story behind it. My co-founder, Sarah Jayne, was on a train down to Baltimore when she struck up a conversation with an older woman who was her seat mate. Her train companion went on to regale her with stories about her sexual adventures when she was younger. Before she exited the train, she turned around to say goodbye to Sarah Jayne and peppered, in “I guess I’ve just always been a bit… unbound.” And in that moment, Sarah Jayne knew that was the name of the company.
For me, a cancer diagnosis that brought me to this realization. I was 21 and it was four days before Christmas when I found out I had stage IIIC colorectal cancer. I had to drop out of college and move back home with my parents in St. Louis and begin radiation treatment immediately. I can vividly remember my doctors sitting me down and telling me that I would never have children as a result of the radiation. It was only weeks later when I started having unbearable hot flashes that I googled my symptoms and discovered I was also going through menopause. No one took the time to tell me that this would happen, only that I would never be a mother. I felt too embarrassed to ask my doctors, so I called a good friend who was a nurse and she walked me through what menopause was. Truthfully, everything I knew about menopause was from TV -- you know, moms putting their heads in the freezer and "being cranky". My friend empathetically suggested that I buy some lubricant and maybe a vibrator to help with my dip in libido. So I found the only place that sold these products in my town, which was a seedy shop next to the highway with mannequins in crotchless onesies and plastic penises lined up on shelves. It left me feeling embarrassed and ashamed to be shopping for these products at all.
After treatment for cancer, I went on to work for Senator Claire McCaskill on the Affordable Care Act in Washington, DC. I also lost health care coverage as a result of getting cancer and I was determined to change the system that almost financially destroyed my family. From there I went to work at Deloitte Consulting focusing on brand building and growth strategy for Fortune 100 companies. I knew I wanted to start a business one day so I chose to join a startup instead of going to business school. The only position I could get at a YCombinator dating startup was as a Customer Service Manager and so I took the position and worked my way up to an executive level position in less than two years.
Then, in 2014, I met my cofounder Sarah Jayne through a women in tech group in New York City. As two midwesterners with big dreams, we hit it off immediately. She had been working on a quarterly subscription box on nights and weekends with some friends who were no longer actively working on the business. We decided to team up to create a direct-to-consumer brand that would be the online destination we wished we had when we bought our first vibrators, lubricants, condoms, or accessories... and Unbound was born.
As a female entrepreneur, what are the biggest challenges you face in the industry? The biggest challenge we face are the sexist policies surrounding advertising. While Viagra, Playboy, Hims and many more sexual wellness products for men are allowed to advertise across all platforms, we’re banned. We cannot advertise on Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, Snapchat, Pinterest, the subway, TV, radio… the list goes on and on. Female / femme / non-binary / trans pleasure is considered a “moral hazard” or “morally offensive” and banned from using the majority of platforms.
There is a still a lot of stigma around women and sex toys, how do we educate women to feel more comfortable about their sexual needs? It has to start in our schools at a young age. Currently, only 13 states in America require sex ed to be medically and scientifically accurate by law, which is embarrassing. The average age kids are exposed to porn is between 8-11 so porn is becoming the de facto sex education. We need to teach young women that masturbation is a good thing, what the clitoris is, and that consent is essential. Once we have a healthier foundation, we’ll see more adult women who prioritize their pleasure.
What advice do you have for women to experience more pleasurable sex? Masturbate! Seriously -- if you don’t know what feels good how can you expect your partner to?
Someone wants to spice up their sex life and has no experience with toys. Where do you
recommend they start their journey? What product is best for newbies? One of the easiest products to incorporate is lube and a small bullet vibrator. I highly recommend Zip for only $18 (medical grade silicone, waterproof, quiet) and Jelly for $16 (no glycerin, parabens, compatible with silicone toys like zip).
What’s your favorite Unbound product?
What’s your personal mantra?
Done is better than perfect
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