This episode of Busine$$ of the V features Frances Tang, the forward-thinking founder of Awkward Essentials, a startup devoted to taking the taboo out of post-sex cleanup. It might not be the easiest of entrepreneurial concepts to sell, but with her flair for social media and creative pitching, Frances has turned an intimate personal care challenge into a viable and thriving niche enterprise.
Individually packaged and easy to use, the company’s flagship product, the Dripstick, is a super absorbent sponge that makes quick work of cleaning up fluids after sex. With her down-to-earth approach and candid language, Frances has garnered attention not only from investors and the media but also was named a Fast Company’s World Changing Ideas finalist in 2020. Her mission is to normalize and address awkward bodily realities – which she does with a good dose of humor and an eye for products that serve practical needs.
You’ll learn about how Awkward Essentials came into being, why it’s important to be fearless in soliciting help and where this innovative “crotch care” company is headed as it develops new products along with new marketing vocabulary to go with them. If you’ve ever had an entrepreneurial idea, this episode will give you a front-row view of Frances’ journey – from her initial thought to incubating a concept to developing a viable business proposition to plans for an emerging suite of “weird” products you’ll wonder how you once did without.
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- Busine$$ of the V is not only about identifying vagina-related issues but also highlighting solutions such as Awkward Essentials offers!
- Frances’ “aha” moment and how she launched Awkward Essentials – a platform built around the taboo issues that come up for women behind bathroom doors. Learn how her fondness for baking helped spark her inspiration!
- Introducing Dripstick, a medical grade sponge that is inserted into the vaginal canal after sex and, with a twist, absorbs excess vaginal fluid. Side Note for Clarification: This product does not prevent STDs or pregnancy.
- Coming up with the vocabulary: Many women dislike after-sex cleanup but haven’t really known it was a “thing” or felt like it was okay to be bugged by mess, laundry or other concerns.
- Going Viral: Frances shares what it was like to go from product concept to figuring out whether her “crazy” idea would make a viable venture. She found an accelerator program very helpful to sharpening her focus, messaging and confidence.
- Humor has played a critical role in rallying interest (and social media) attention for Dripstick and the concept of a vaginal sponge as a post-sex cleanup tool. A quirky Twinkie visual aid Frances came up with provided her first taste of what it means to go viral.
- Rachel asks about how Frances articulated her value proposition and pitched investors without any category or point of reference in the marketplace.
- Early social media virality for the Dripstick garnered all-important press attention, proved to investors that there was consumer interest, a sustainable market (and the likelihood of repeat purchases) that constituted a real business opportunity.
- Frances shares an important insight as to how she approached investors – unafraid to reach out with a bold, cold email pitch that resonated. Doing her homework was key.
- Connecting with Cindy Gallop, a rock star business coach, innovator and influencer whom Frances deeply admired. She explains the power of outreach in general and specifically a “forward intro email” that paved the way for Awkward Essentials to take off.
- Products on the horizon as Awkward Essentials expands its suite of “crotch care” products, including “weird stuff” that goes beyond sexual health and wellness.
- Dr. Dweck shares thoughts about why a “pee funnel” product makes sense both practically and medically.
- Rachel asks for details on where Awkward Essentials is headed with its “crotch care,” including retail distribution.
- Entrepreneurial Advice: At some point you’ve just got to execute. Do your homework and prepare, but don’t slip into paralysis while working towards that perfect launch moment – which in all likelihood will never come. So just go for it and adapt from there!
Quotes from Frances Tang:
(00:21) – “The subject matter and problems that (Frances) is trying to solve are really out there and so fascinating. Only a gynecologist could become comfortable with this after five minutes!” (Dr. Dweck)
(01:35) – “(Crotch care) really describes a whole new area that is bigger than tampons and pads and menstrual care and all the other products we see.” (Rachel)
(06:08) – “It’s a convenience tool for those of us looking for one and … too embarrassed to talk about it.” (Frances)
(07:45) – “Yes, (post-sex mess) is normal but No, you don’t have to endure it!” (Dr. Dweck)
(10:30) – “We hear on TV and books and news that (entrepreneurs) had their ideas in a college dorm and now they’re gazillionaires, but it’s a lot of time and a lot of different things have to happen.” (Frances)
(11:44) – “Sex in general is a sensitive topic for people, but now I’m trying to talk about this icky, gooey, unsexy part that you actually don’t see in porn or romance novels or anywhere.” (Frances)
(16:53) – “I will say that for a lot of investors this idea was just too ‘out there’ for them and I understand that … This is beyond something that has existed. There’s no category or name for it. So I can see that hesitation.” (Frances)
(20:37) – “The moral of the story is: Take your chances, talk to strangers and ask!”
(21:39) – “What we’re interested in is utilitarian products that solve problems.” (Frances)
(26:55) – “Everything that I thought that I ‘needed’ to do wasn’t actually taking action. That is the scariest step – putting your baby out there in the world for people to see and it’s going to be ugly … but at the end of the day I’d (otherwise) still be planning and thinking and trying to get it right.” (Frances)
(27:34) – “Do the research, yes. But also execute the thing. You could pivot into something totally different that you would have no idea about had you not released it.” (Frances)
Frances Tang is the founder and CEO of Dripstick, a product made to help vaginas with after-sex clean up. Her mission is to normalize and solve, the everyday awkward and taboo encounters (with a dose of humor). She has her BA in Communications from UCSD, resides in Southern California, and is definitely a multipotentialite!
Frances Tang @LinkedIn
LINKS FOR BUSINE$$ OF THE V:
Dr. Alyssa Dweck: https://drdweck.com
Author Rachel Braun Scherl: www.sparksolutionsforgrowth.com/about-rachel-braun-scherl/