FWOTM: Meika Hollender and Sustainable Condoms

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Meika Hollender

From our own father and daughter duo at Maxim that brought you organic and natural tampons and pads, we couldn’t be more excited to introduce you to another dynamic family partnership that’s making sexual hygiene more sustainable and natural with Sustain condoms.

The initial idea of sustainable condoms was thought up by Jeffrey Hollender about twenty years ago when the AIDs crisis became prevalent in the USA, but it never came to fruition until Meika Hollender, Jeffrey’s daughter, pushed him to pursue his dream.

Meika graduated from New York University’s Stern School of Business in the Spring of 2013 with a specialization in social impact and strategy, and she is a co-founder of the book “Naturally Clean.” While her dad and fellow Co-Founder may be one of the natural products’ industries major change-makers, Meika is ready and equipped to be the millennial generation’s feminine voice of change for healthy, safe, and sustainable sex practices and products, which is what makes her Maxim’s Fierce Woman of the month.

People have bought and used condoms for many years without much thought as to what is in them or how they are manufactured. I mean, how many people can actually keep an insightful and conscious mind space in the heat of the moment when they’ve really only got one thing on their mind?!

Just like the taboo-breaking methods Maxim has used to inspire women to talk about their periods and menstrual care products in a more natural way, Meika and company are changing the hush-hush cloud hovering over the condom industry by leading a revolution to produce fair-trade sustainable condoms. Sustain’s hope is that through their efforts to be transparent in their supply chain and manufacturing process, other companies will take note and start to make changes in their own.

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Meika’s fierce position at the company shows that they not only want to sell better product, but that they also want to make a larger impact on women’s health and empowerment when it comes to all topics related to condom use. Read our exclusive interview with Meika below to find out more about her vision and company.

1. What are the key points of differentiation between your products and others? 

Sustain is the only Fair Trade certified condom sold in the U.S. We are also only one of two brands that contain no detectable levels of a chemical called Nitrosamine. Nitrosamines are classified as a carcinogen and exist in tons of other products (food, personal care, etc.). We’re not saying in any way shape or form that other condoms are dangerous, we just believe that consumers have a right to know what’s in their products and we’re committed to making the best condoms we can. I also think our packaging is pretty rad!

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Sustain condom packaging.

2. One of the goals of your company has been to educate women about safe sex and to empower them to buy and use more condoms. What have you found to be the most successful way of reaching this goal?

I’m not sure I can say how much ‘success’ we’ve had yet in terms of getting young women to buy and carry and USE condoms more regularly (only 21% of sexually active single women do!) yet, but what I do know is that we have hit a nerve. I talk to women, the media, and retailers every day and everyone understands the importance of the issue we are tackling. We are creating a brand and starting a conversation around safe sex, sexual health and female empowerment and I think by having this larger conversation, and ultimately starting a movement, we are engaging people in a way that other condom brands are not.

3. Sustain has founded the 10%4 women foundation, which is a fantastic initiative, especially for such a young company. Can you tell our readers a bit more about it and what inspired you to start it?

10%4Women was created by my mother Sheila Hollender, another Sustain co-Founder, when we founded the company. At Sustain we understand that we cannot solve major issues like access to reproductive healthcare on our own, we need to enlist and support other more established experts in this space in order to have the type of impact we want to have. 10%4Women means a lot to me because, especially right now, it is more important than ever to support organizations like Planned Parenthood in order to make sure all young women in this country have the access to the healthcare they deserve. 

4. I recently came across some of your print ads and a commercial your company produced – everything was very clever. Do you come up with all of the marketing ideas yourself? What’s your inspiration?

I wish I could take credit for all of our marketing, but I happen to be lucky enough to have a brother who is somewhat of a creative genius and he has been the brainchild of our most innovative marketing work. When he’s too busy to help us out, the marketing ideas are a joint effort between myself, our PR agency and our extremely talented designers.

I get my inspiration from a mix of things. There are a few brands like The Reformation, American Two Shot, and Negative Underwear that I look up to from a marketing angle, but you really never know when you’re going to see something that inspires you. Just the other day I was walking down the street and saw this guy taking photos of couples while they walked by with a vintage Polaroid camera. He then stopped the couples to give them the photo. When I saw that I was like “OH! Sustain needs to do something like that!”. 

Image courtesy of sustainablebrands.com.

5. Where do you envision the company going in the next few years? Are you thinking of creating any other products? 

We are launching two new products in Spring 2015 which I am super excited about, but overall I just envision a world in the next few years where women are not embarrassed or ashamed to purchase and carry condoms. I want all women everywhere to know that taking control of their sexual health is smart, sexy and the right thing to do!

6. Finally, at Maxim Hygiene, we define a Fierce Woman as a “glorious female creature whose idea of beauty is hinged upon the idea that she can change the world with each choice, each moment and each breath of her life.” Who in your life is a Fierce Woman and why?

I have two ‘fierce women’ – the first is my mother. She is one of the smartest, fiercest, most sophisticated people I know. She has inspired me to chase after what I want and never take no for an answer. It is because of her that I have become the feminist I am today.

The second is Lena Duhnam. Lena is the only celebrity out there talking openly and actively about women’s reproductive rights. This country lacks role models like Lena, and I am so incredibly grateful for all the work she has done for Planned Parenthood and for her willingness to talk openly about sex and safe sex. She is really someone I admire and look up to.

In winding down the month of February, which has a place in many peoples’ hearts as the month of love (thanks to Valentine’s Day), we hope Meika’s story has inspired you to make a place on your nightstand, wallet and bed that’s secure and safe with Sustain condoms.

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