FAST COMPANY: The Future-Forward Company Called L.

Monday, May 30th, 2011

By: Jody Turner

http://www.fastcompany.com/1752149/the-future-forward-company-called-l

The TEDActive team recently brought several of us to together in Palm Springs for the purpose of co-creation. A challenging and inspiring collaboration experience took place in very real form. We focused on clear, honed, global macro concerns, and were tasked with defining and evolving micro human actions with enormous traction. This is something we are all trying to grasp and move forward with. We are all (the entire pyramid) creating solutions to address the unaddressed and locate meaningful spaces for opportunity via both grassroots inventiveness and company innovation. TEDActive moved us forward a good deal with new ways of interacting and sourcing solutions for more positive outcomes.

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FORBES: A New Kind Of Condom For The Modern Consumer

Monday, February 14th, 2011

http://blogs.forbes.com/elmirabayrasli/2011/02/14/condoms-3-0-2/

Sexual innovation is here. Fifty years after the start of the revolution that unshackled sex from matrimony, there is a product that is unshackling sex from sex. L., an environmentally conscious and female-friendly condom, is disconnecting sex from garish Greek battlefields and plugging it into love, female empowerment and awareness about AIDS in Africa.

Launched by California photojournalist Talia Frenkel in mid 2010, L. is among the first woman-run condom enterprise that sells all natural male condoms for women. “Stand in front of any condom display and all the packaged products are targeted for men,” the gregarious LA-based Frenkel says. And that, she says, “makes it an uncomfortable place for women to be.” Uncomfortable didn’t reflect her belief of “what sex is or should be.”

Interestingly, Frenkel’s idea was inspired, not in the condom aisle, but in the developing world where she spent time photographing HIV patients for various non-profits. Working for the Red Cross, people recognized the organization’s red symbol and often asked her if she had a condom. That’s when she learned that there was little access to condoms in places such as Haiti and much of Africa. Given the tremendous emphasis about using condoms to prevent the spread of disease, this shocked her. “The people I came across understood that they should use it.”

To close this condom gap, in which, according to the U.S. office of the Global AIDS Coordinator, nine out of 10 African countries goes without condom supplies for more than two months, Frenkel reached out to Direct Relief, a global health non-profit, to arrange for the delivery of condom, starting in Uganda. Though Uganda has a high prevalence rate of HIV infections, it is also a beacon in the fight to prevent AIDS. But the more she learned about the condoms she was eager to get into African hands, the more she was disturbed.

Condoms, Frenkel discovered, are mostly treated with harsh and toxic chemical that are harmful to women. “Most were not natural,” she says. To fix that, she contacted various manufacturers to see if any would be willing to use raw materials that were glycerin and paraben-free. A company in Thailand agreed. Then she set out to build an enterprise that would sell these natural condoms while also ensuring its availability in Africa.

“My boyfriend and I were driving down Wilshire Blvd (in Los Angeles). I was telling him about my frustration,” she says. Somehow the one-for-one model got mentioned. “We started laughing at the idea that you could buy a condom here (in the States) and someone in Africa would get one. It’s the TOMS shoes model.” The more Frenkel thought about it, however, the more it made sense. There was huge opportunity to recreate how condoms were produced, branded and sold in the United States and, at the same time, close the condom gap in the developing world.

L., Frenkel believes, is that opportunity. Packaged in a sleek-design with bold and classy Helvetica typeface, it is a condom by subscription. For the time being that is the way Frenkel is able to launch the enterprise that has been bootstrapped with over forty thousand dollars of personal finances and the generosity of family and friends. “I’m in the process of talking to investors in order to expand operations,” she says. That will be key. Manufacturing condoms from natural ingredients and sold in smartly designed packaging that can compete with the large-scale producers such as Durex and Trojan will require capital. Frenkel is confident.

Her condoms went on pre-sale over her website, Love Begins With L. last month. Already she’s received orders from all corners of the country. Her first order run is half a million condoms. She’s expected to ship her first packages in spring 2011. “I expect 1.7 million condoms to be sold this year,” Frenkel says. Her projection is based on the high-level of interest from women eager for skin-sensitive condom options, couples attracted to her subscription model and socially-conscious American college campuses who have rallied behind her one-for-one socially-conscious message “the more love you make the more lives we save.”

While saving lives in Africa is Frenkel’s guiding principle, she hopes that L. condoms will finally catch up to reflect what she believes is today’s view of sex. ”We’re appealing to the modern consumer – both men and women- who want a product that aligns with their values: sexually, socially and environmentally.” Happy Valentine’s Day.

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The Huffington Post // L. Condoms: A Woman’s Take on 1for1, Social Change and Making Empowerment Sexy

Saturday, January 22nd, 2011

www.huffingtonpost.com/jerri-chou/l-condoms-a-womans-take-o_b_807755.html

Walking down the street, Talia Frenkel is the sort of young, pretty fashionista that catches the eyes of women and men alike. On first glance, this chic Los Angeles native seems an unlikely candidate for social business all-star. But behind the book cover is the story of an impassioned photojournalist who’s traveled the world documenting the worst of disasters and brightest of human hopes. The latest chapter in her evolving human rights efforts: the founding of a social enterprise that’s out to create a sustainable solution to possibly the greatest human epidemic on the planet, HIV/AIDS.

Documenting humanitarian crisis in South East Asia, the Middle East and Africa, Talia has worked extensively as a photographer for the Red Cross. (Most of the Red Cross photos out of the Haiti earthquakes are thanks to Talia’s tireless work). She’s also photographed the lives of HIV/AIDS affected individuals, focusing on its effects on women and girls. “What struck me the most, and what was ultimately the driving force in creating L., was that unlike other disasters I’ve photographed, this crisis is preventable,” she said, from her offices in Los Angeles.

The numbers surrounding the AIDS epidemic are staggering; more human life has been lost to AIDS than all the wars, famines, floods and deadly diseases on the African continent combined.”

She points out that the most effective technology in preventing the sexual transmission of HIV is something we in the United States find in any convenience store: condoms.

Antiviral treatment is a breakthrough in saving lives, but currently for every person who is treated in Africa at least two become infected. Continuing along the current track is simply not smart economics, she points out.

And thus, the socent chapter began. L. is a condom company with a cause: to empower women globally by supporting the human right to safe sex. For every condom purchased, one is distributed in a developing country.

The striking thing (and admitted point of my personal interest) is what happens when a woman is at the helm of a social enterprise. Added to that, what happens when a woman aims to change a condom market so previously associated with false bravado and campy slogans. Now everything from the design and make of L. takes the needs of both sexes in mind; using more female friendly ingredients that allow the products to be super sleek, paraben and glycerin free — which means less harm to our bodies. And also marketing to the discerning male, the one who doesn’t associate his love life with football mascots and over-the-top masculinity.

“L. condoms wants to embrace sexuality in a modern way. That means both men and women identifying with the quality of the product and the message it portrays,” Talia said.

1 for 1-plus
But the female take to business goes beyond the product. Talia’s experience in nonprofits means the business takes a serious and holistic approach to developing its social programs, taking culturally-sensitive and gender-sensitive approaches in high impact areas, donating condoms to nonprofit distribution partners where they are needed most.

In this sense, they are reinventing the 1 for 1 model. “The word we use, ‘distributed,’ is loaded. We identify areas where we can have high impact — but in these areas our approach varies. One we are currently exploring is supplying and supporting socially transformative female-run enterprises,” Talia said. It’s a model where they facilitate the creation of long term distribution channels — providing women with sustainable livelihoods, making condoms affordable and building a culture of buying condoms — which report after report shows increases overall condom use.

The sexual empowerment aspect is key to the message. L. believes that around the world a woman’s sexual empowerment goes hand-in-hand with her freedoms as a human being. Talia put it best when she said “Look, here in the U.S., as a woman, I am starting a condom company. In other parts of the world a woman struggles to even suggest condom use. How do we bridge this gap? Sexual empowerment is inherent to this answer. When we face the reality of women’s sexual empowerment we gain insight and most importantly, awaken to the type of change that is necessary to raise the status of women globally.”

L. is currently looking to launch in early 2011. You can find out more about the company at their website lovebeginswithl.com and by following them on twitter: @lovebeginswithL.

Jerri Chou, Co-Founder All Day Buffet, The Feast, TBD and Lovely Day

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Our Work in Uganda & Why We Do It: A Woman Named Janet

Tuesday, December 14th, 2010

Janet has never had control over her reproductive rights. Living in Kawampe, Uganda, she doesn’t have the luxury of running to the nearest drugstore or health clinic to pick up a pack of condoms. According to a local newspaper, “out of every 200 people tested, about 50 are infected with HIV.” Janet worries about becoming one of these statistics, out of concern for her own well-being and for the health and safety of her newborn daughter. She wasn’t ready to have a child, but now that she is a mother she wants to be the best one she can be. This means protecting herself from HIV and choosing how many children she will have. Janet is 13 years old. And she is not alone.

“Unmet need” is the gap between women who want to control their fertility, and their ability to do so. In other words, how many women want to use condoms, but can’t. The highest percentage of women with unmet need in the world is in Sub-Saharan Africa. It’s not a coincidence that out of people living with HIV in this part of the world, the majority are women (58 percent).

This is why L’s intent is not just to offer premium condoms in countries like the U.S., but also to give the opportunity to practice safe sex to women like Janet, who never before thought they could.

We’re doing this by fulfilling another kind of “unmet need.” According to the OECD, women’s organizations receive just 0.3 percent of all development aid. We can’t acheive gender equality and sexual empowerment with these kinds of numbers.

So we’re adding our own: for every condom purchased on our site, one condom will be sent, free of charge, by Direct Relief International to Kawampe and places just like it. Once on the ground, L. and Direct Relief have partnered with AMREF to get our condoms out to the women who need them the most.

Women and the communities they are a part of are at the heart of Direct Relief’s and AMREF’s work. Both are leading nonprofits with decades of experience. To learn more about these organizations, check out their sites here:

www.directrelief.org


www.amref.org

Join us in making choices that can help save lives, and help us share the love.

We’ll be showcasing our programs here, so be sure to revisit this blog for L.’s future developments in making love safe. For you. For Janet. For every woman.

Joe Smyser, SDSU/UCSD Joint Doctoral Program in Public Health

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