What’s the inspiration behind Bloomi?
I was inspired to create Bloomi out of a simple need – better access to intimacy products and information. I found it incredibly frustrating that women have to shop at multiple locations for the items they need and ingredients are often confusing. Two years ago, we predicted there would be an intimate wellness revolution where women would want to easily shop and learn about all things intimacy from experts – plus full product transparency – so we created Bloomi, and made sure we only launched clean products on the marketplace.
Rebecca, how did your prior experience as a sexologist help you as you started Bloomi?
My work as a sexologist helped me fine-tune my insights in this industry to understand and predict consumer trends. My sexology background is unique but absolutely necessary to run an intimacy company. I know products and sex content to a tee.
However, what is often not mentioned is my background in scaling companies. I have worked for five startups over the last 10 years – sometimes even as the first hire – and four out of five of them have been acquired. I know what it takes to grow a startup and just need the funding to execute.
Julie, you’ve held leadership positions at a number of companies in the past. How has working for a company dedicated to womxn’s needs been different from your prior experiences?
While working at Orange in San Francisco, I co-developed a Women in Tech program aimed at promoting diversity and inclusion in the tech industry. I wanted to build a strong community of women supporting each other and exchanging perspectives on various topics. I loved this part of my job.
When I met with Rebecca through this program, her vision and mission really resonated with me. Bloomi is the perfect opportunity for me to take what I built at Orange a step further. It’s different from my past experiences as I get to co-build something I’m truly passionate about and it has a real purpose.
I can combine my excitement in building strong communities with contributing to a great cause: giving access to better products to all women.
How did you two meet? How do you work together?
We met randomly at a women’s event organized by FemTech Collective a couple of years ago. After that event, I invited Rebecca to be a speaker at Orange. Quickly after that, we started collaborating and our fit as co-founders became obvious.
Rebecca is the face of the company, she provides her sexologist expertise, curates the products for our marketplace and leads our content sessions. I came onboard to expand our community and find new revenue streams.
How do you handle risk and competition?
We have an advantage as a first mover in intimacy platforms. As a digitally native business that is hyper-focused on community, we have the opportunity for direct dialogue with our customers and know what they are looking for. As the only marketplace for intimacy, we have a unique advantage of people able to partner with all brands we carry as cross-promotion, not competition. For other platforms that are multi-brand marketplaces or for companies focused on sexual wellness content, we believe the best way to keep our advantage is for our team of experts to continue listening to our customers and staying apprised of innovative products and intimacy trends.
Has your business been negatively or positively impacted by today’s current climate?
Covid has shown us one thing: in times of uncertainty, U.S. consumers want to take care of themselves. We have grown our sales by 55% since February 2020.
What’s been the #1 (or two) top challenges you’ve faced while launching your company?
Raising funds had been a challenge for us as a sex-tech and women-led company. We've been working hard to fundraise the 'traditional' way with VCs, but most tell us that we are "too progressive" or "too early". This is the case, even after we proved we can reach $50K in sales per month, launch a new Bloomi product that continues to sell out, and organically grow our community to $100K in less than a year, with very limited resources!
We don’t fall into the typical founder’s mold, but that’s what makes us so different.
What do you hope to see for the future of sex-postive and body-positive companies and products?
We hope to elevate the industry to be healthier and more inclusive. Brands that meet Bloomi’s Clean Standard mean they are vulva and vagina friendly. However, with only 2% of existing products on the market being truly clean and approved by Bloomi, it shows you there’s a lot of work to be done when it comes to quality ingredients. We encourage brands that are not clean, to update their formulas.
We also pride ourselves in being inclusive and tailoring a lot of our content to resonate with women of color. As a diverse, female-led team, we strive to make sure women feel represented in sex positive ways on our platform.
What is your vision for the future of Bloomi in the next year, in the next five years?
Honestly, we have aggressive growth goals for our company, but are also agile and open to seeing where the next year takes us. Covid-19 and racial justice movements have inspired us to think outside the box and help our community more than ever. For example, we are now onboarding primarily women of color brands to the marketplace and working as a mini incubator to help black and Latinx founders get their products successfully selling on our platform with marketing, supply chain and other support.
Why did you decide to raise from the crowd via Republic?
In the same way that we want every woman to access better products, we want to give everyone the chance to be part of our journey and become an angel investor for an affordable amount. When the conversation of raising from the community came up via crowdfunding, we thought it was a no brainer. Having our customers, family, friends and supporters (many of which are angel investors for the very first time) being able to invest is incredibly powerful.
What’s your team culture like?
We are sex-positive, honest and inclusive. Since we are a small team, we promote the “get sh*t done” mentality, consider ourselves creative hustlers and get excited about spreading sex positivity. We work long hours and value family time.
As we continue to grow the team, we are looking for people who can add to our team culture and provide new perspectives.
What are your superpowers?
Rebecca’s superpower is intuition because everything we’ve done so far with Bloomi and built has mostly been based on Rebecca’s gut feeling. She’s a product developer at heart, and a very good judge of character.
Julie’s superpower is community building because she has experience in putting together strong community-centric initiatives (Women in Tech programs, Incubation programs, media outlets) and engagement. Community is at the heart of Bloomi’s growth.
What’s your kryptonite?
Patience: just like any other startup founders we always wish things could move quicker. It’s hard sometimes to understand that not everyone is moving at the same pace.
Do you have any unusual routines or habits?
We share the same passion for astrology, and BBQ pizza from The Star Pizza in Alameda, CA.
Do you have any other hobbies/things you like to do in your spare time?
We both enjoy being active outdoors and are major foodies.
Julie lives in Europe so she loves sneaking in getaways to different countries on weekends (now with a mask, of course).
Rebecca has two girls, so she also loves cuddling in the morning with them. She plays meditation music with them in the bed to start the mornings.
If you could give yourself one piece of advice 5 years ago, what would it be?
If we could go back, we’d say to start Bloomi sooner and not be afraid to launch with MVPs that aren’t 100% done. Sometimes 80% is good enough to keep things moving in the right direction.
What has your experience been like as female founders? Any advice for women looking to start their own company?
Having a co-founder who has your back is invaluable. If you are lucky enough to find a co-founder who is as passionate about the businesses as you are, that is golden.
Being able to have a founding team (even when there is no salary up front) will not only be helpful for growth, but it shows viability in the idea. It’s also helpful to have different skill sets so you can divide and conquer different parts of the business.