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Okay, clearly this isn't a topic that we usually discuss among the F&F community. Quite frankly, we feel a bit awkward discussing this with you, but that is what's problematic about the whole ordeal. We know everyone's 'doing it' and we know everyone's doing it more, well, because we've been in isolation and because we can see sales have gone up in contraceptives and protective gear. The truth is, if we open the conversation and take the taboo away from it, people will become more educated in this area and feel comfortable sharing information on this topic.
One way Jonny Condoms are taking away the stigma is finding places to sell their products that take away the embarrassment of physically adding them to your cart, by offering them online where you can virtually add them to your shopping cart and make the safe decision!
Now, are you ready? Let's talk about sex!
Interview with Samantha, Co-Founder of Jonny Condoms.
How did you start Jonny?
It was designed by 3 women for women. It really came from my own experience as a single woman and I think of myself as a very healthy person and take my sexual health seriously. I found the whole experience of purchasing condoms was a really terrible experience. You know, when the 711 guy gives me a wink as he hands them over and says "have a great night, love" and I'm like, oh my god.
This got me thinking and I said to my girlfriends, now co-founders "Why don't we make an organic condom range" and they said "We can't do organic, but we can do vegan" so that's how the conversation started.
We just felt that it was a very overtly sexualized and, you know, male sort of positioned product, whereas it's really a two way street with condoms, so let's make it something that women feel proud to purchase. We did some market research and case studies and found that women felt really ashamed about purchasing condoms. They would rather have unprotected sex and go have an STD check afterwards, which was shocking.
We know there might be some aspiring entrepreneurs listening. Were your co-founders' friends from the beginning or did you come together based on your skillset?
Yes, they were actually friends from the outset, and deliberately chosen for skills in marketing and events, and we're great friends. Honestly speaking, it's always tricky with three founders. It's much easier to be one but also there is quite a lovely balance with three because it kind of keeps you in check as well because two will be kind of siding one way or if we're discussing a topic or whatever, and so you can kind of just lean into that. Sure there are times when we're not all in agreement, but the very nature of us as human beings and as people, we have the same values, good integrity, and we're just generally good human beings so we just work through it.
What have been the real highlights for you in starting Jonny? And when did you launch it?
It took a long time to get the product to market because it's considered a medical device and so you have to go through TGA and FDA and all those sorts of things. One of the brand's goals or values of Jonny is to be where women shop and our strategy is to be in the less like non-traditional markets. When you think about where women shop, in beauty, fashion or online, all of these sorts of things. For us, when we align ourselves with someone like Flora and Fauna, we're breaking the traditional mould and you don't have to feel embarrassed to put it in your shopping basket. We actually got into Urban Outfitters in the US and the UK online so that was a really good thing for us, in that it was a non-traditional place to purchase condoms. That's a big win for us.
The most beautiful thing for us is on a day to day basis we have people approaching us that love our brand and want to stock us or want to help us and that's on a global level, so we haven't really had to do that much work in terms of finding people. They're coming to us.
Did any of you have a background in condoms?
No, not at all. I'm an interior designer by trade and we've got marketing and events and community and so none of us have been in the FMCG (Fast-moving consumer goods) market or the condom market. So it's totally left field for us. It's been a steep learning curve, but I always feel like you should surround yourself with people who are better. We've got really amazing team around us who do know that market.
Are there still lots of condoms that aren't vegan and cruelty-free?
Yes. The interesting thing is that latex is rubber. Rubber latex is actually vegan, but it's in the processing that makes condoms not vegan. Most condoms are washed with casein, which is a milk derivative or sometimes animal product. That's where Jonny differs. We didn't want any toxins or nasties. Most condoms, if they're not saying that they're vegan, then they're not vegan. I'm all about the non-toxic products, especially when it comes to sex. It's a no brainer.
Do you think there are any barriers that we need to overcome when it comes to condoms and sex?
I think it's about opening up the conversation and Jonny's ethos is that we want to normalise the purchase of condoms like lipstick and hair ties, as common as that, and the only way to do that is to open up the conversation and to not feel ashamed about it. It's kind of crazy that we don't feel comfortable about it. Everyone's having sex, well, most people. So it's not like it's not commonplace.
I think it's about that whole sexual empowerment and we hear a lot about it. Interestingly, in Australia, I think we're still quite conservative, but sex positivity is very much a strong trend, but I hope it's not a trend and a passing trend. I think it will actually stay where the conversation is open and flowing. It doesn't need to be shameful, dirty or slutty. It can actually be held in an honourable and respectful way. Our other value with Jonny is 'be good'. Be good to yourself, be good to others and be good to the planet. We do that through conversation, and we engender that sort of 'be good' spirit, so we do that in a number of ways. We delivered about 30,000 condoms for schoolies last year. It's those sorts of initiatives that we like to be part of like sexual awareness week at universities, these sorts of things. So I think we just need to keep having a conversation.
Jonny's such a wonderful brand to work on because it's so refreshing. It's very fun and quite cheeky, and playful and we want to have fun with it. But then there's also this serious sort of message underneath that we all want to take our sexual health seriously, especially women and I think it's a great thing to empower women in this way.
We all love your branding. It's so strong. Who's responsible for it?
Beck, she drove a lot of that with her marketing expertise and her aesthetic eye from a design background, but I think it was very much a team thing. It was very easy to develop and came naturally. I cannot tell you how many times we would have these like, bouts of laughter around the dining table as we were writing and playing with this brand, bringing it to life, it's super fun.
Does Jonny have any plans to make a biodegradable condom?
The short answer is yes, definitely. There are products out there or more like ingredients out there that will enable us to move in a more eco-conscious, environmental way. However, it's very embryonic. There's actually an amazing product that we have tapped into that's sustainable and biodegradable. It's still going through testing, so it hasn't come out yet, but we are right on it and the moment that we can actually get it, we would love to.
Because it's a medical device, there are lots of regulations around it. Latex biodegrades over time, but there's no solid research to tell us how long that takes. Because it's considered a medical device, the foil that it's packed in is obviously not biodegradable, but that's a medical contingency. So we try and do everything we can which is why we introduced the 'Fab Little Bag' to the product. We have PEFC packaging, but the Fab Little Bag is made from 35% organic material and biodegradable material, but that was more coming from a place of protecting our waterways because I can't believe it but people still flush condoms down the toilet! So that's why we've paired each Johnny condom with a Fab Little Bag for planet-friendly disposal. We say "Be a lover, not a flusher".
A lot of people are allergic to latex? Are you thinking about making a latex-free condom?
The ingredient that we know of is still in testing, which is a non-latex ingredient. It's really amazing. I can't tell you what it is!
We know some of the folks at Booktopia and they have told us that sales of pregnancy books during COVID have gone through the roof. Have you found the demand for condoms has gone up?
Unbelievably, yes. Obviously, people are having a great time at home and we've completely sold out of the Lover's Dozen and the Weekenders, but we have plenty of Overnighters. We had a bit of a shutdown with our manufacturers, but everything's back online now, which is great, but we absolutely saw it go through the roof. I'm glad everyone's having a good time with Jonny.
Anything new that's happening in the future that you want to share?
There will be more Jonny products coming up, I can tell you that. There'll be some aligned products and there are some exciting conversations coming up as well, that you'll see on our social media. Our focus right now is global. In Australia and New Zealand we're quite strong and taking Jonny global is very exciting.
Thinking of pre and post COVID times What is your favourite place? That is not your current living room?
I was planning a trip to Italy this year which didn't happen. I would love to head back to Italy and have a nice little relaxing time there. But, you know, maybe more local, I'm just really happy to go down to my local favourite place which is called Gerald's bar in Melbourne. They have the best wine, seasonal produce and it's super beautiful and plays vinyl. It's great. So I can't wait to just head around the corner.
What is your greatest achievement or thing you're most proud of?
That's a really tricky one because there's kind of a few that I think of. I actually think that starting Jonny because it's so left field for me, it's not my expertise. Starting this brand and seeing it be successful so far and it being well-received is probably one of my proudest and then having a baby. That's been my second. I should have said that first but anyway, I'm still a new mum.
Is there someone who inspires you?
At the moment, I actually adore Bill Gates. You know, he's such a humanitarian, and he's such a generous human. He actually does a lot of research around condoms. So that I think he's quite an incredible human and love how he gives back. So yeah, he's actually really inspiring. I'm reading something on him at the moment. So he that's top of mind.
Before we finish up, is there anything that you would like to share with our audience?
We want to reduce and shift the stigma and the shame around sex and safe sex. Have open conversations with your friends, don't have it behind closed doors, be really comfortable about it be really proud and take your health seriously. Be open and conversational and be loud and proud about safe sex.