Interview by Anja Streicher
The best part of our job here at Women of Wearables is meeting so many amazing women from different industries who are absolutely smashing it. It fills our hearts with so much joy seeing women succeed in what they do, doing things they love and creating products that make our lives better, easier and more beautiful. And if you add “opening conversation about topics that matter” to that, you’ve got a winner.
That’s why it’s my pleasure to present to you one such brand and its co-founder: Dr Sarah Welsh from HANX.
Dr Sarah Welsh, co-founder of HANX, began her career in medicine whereby she specialised in gynaecology and sexual health. She spent the early years of her career looking after women from their first period to their first child, and continues to work as a gynaecology doctor from time to time. Sarah now focuses her talents on building a considered sexual wellness brand that puts people first. She is smashing taboos around sex, pleasure and health, whilst empowering people to own their sexuality.
Sarah, please tell us a little bit about yourself, your background and the story behind starting HANX.
I’m Sarah, co-founder of HANX, and gynaecology doctor with experience in sexual health obstetrics and gynaecology. I set up sexual wellness brand, HANX, with my childhood friend Farah. Farah and I went to school together and also Durham University together, before going our separate ways in our respective careers (me in Medicine and Farah in Finance).
We met for a long lunch one random Monday and started talking about that condom aisle. The garish packaging, the shame you feel being seen with condoms, the negative feelings they conjure. Sex is supposed to be positive, no? We felt that there was a lot to change in the condom itself, especially from a woman’s perspective. The tacky smell, the ingredients and sustainability, the need for vegan options, the way they are sold and look in your bag/bedside table/ bathroom, and ultimately the mission of the company you are buying from. After a whole load of research (whilst both working full-time) and manufacturer visits, we took the leap to quit our day jobs and go full-time on HANX then launched officially in September 2017. We now sell condoms as well as a water-based lubricant.
Every aspect of design was thought of in detail, from the ingredients, how they are sourced and the packaging look feel and purpose. HANX is here to make the world think differently about sexual wellness.
If you had to describe HANX as a brand in three words, what would those be?
Empowering, fun and forward-thinking.
I feel we did start talking about sex more than we used to, there are more and more companies in sex wellness as well, but sex is still a taboo in our society. How did that affect your brand? Did you find it difficult starting a conversation about HANX and sex in general? Or perhaps, was lack of conversation about sex an advantage because HANX was one of the first companies that tackled this topic and is now at the forefront of innovation in this space?
We are definitely speaking more about sex and sexual health than we even have, and the movement towards better sex education is also improving. When we started HANX, and still today, we have barriers because of this taboo. However, this only gives us more fire to succeed and break down these barriers!
At HANX we are opening the conversation through our products, our podcast, our events, our blogs, and we have also launched a forum called “HANX Life” which allows users to talk about everything and anything around sexual wellness. It starts with us being more open about it, and talking about sexual health, in order to tackle the taboo.
Sex education is so important, for younger people and for adults as well. What is something that you wish they had taught you about sex or women’s health in general at school?
Yes this is a huge part of ending the stigma around sexual wellness, and we really believe that topics such as consent and pleasure (especially female pleasure as this is far too often left out of the conversation) need to be included in sex education at school. Sex is holistic, incorporating many aspects of our health and wellbeing, such as physical, psychological and mental health. Previously, sex ed was simply “don’t have sex, you’ll get pregnant or have an awful infection and die.” This is not how we need young people to view their sexual health.
We absolutely love HANX’s branding. I think you can definitely tell that HANX are condoms designed for women by women. What was the feedback from the community so far? From women, but also from men?
We have has some wonderful feedback from everyone, and we are by no means excluding men from the conversation.
All our customers (whatever their gender) are excited to see a new condom brand in the market, that is not in garish packaging, and will simply fit within their usual wellness products or by their bedside easily.
You started HANX with your co-founder Farah. What were some of the challenges you’ve faced in your entrepreneurial journey so far?
It’s been a rollercoaster! There have been challenges around breaking the taboos, getting our products into retailers, ensuring we are not barred from advertising (as we talk about sex) and also around fundraising. I am very lucky to have such a fabulous co-founder, and our experiences complement one another. The journey has only just begun, but we are so excited about what’s next for HANX!
What’s the most rewarding thing about your job?
Knowing that we are supporting people to have happier and healthier sex lives.
This interview was conducted by Anja Streicher, Chief Marketing Officer of Women of Wearables. She is passionate about women's health, supporting women in business and is still trying to figure out how to balance motherhood and business.