Since 2014, Sustain has been offering “shame-free products for periods and sex” made from ingredients sourced with women’s bodies in mind. The company donates one percent of all sales to women’s health organizations in the United States. President and co-founder Meika Hollender has taken the effort to improve women’s reproductive health beyond a product line by advocating for safe sex, comprehensive sex education and ingredient transparency. She also helped lobby for the introduction of the “Product Right to Know Act,” in New York State and led the development of a coalition of female-owned brands that ran, full-page, pro-choice ads in the New York Times in response to proposed abortion access restrictions in Alabama, which then resulted in Fortune 500 and public company leaders following through on a public commitment. She’s also the author of Get on Top, an actionable guide to taking control of your reproductive and sexual health.
In July of 2020, the company launched a new initiative to improve sex education. In a Zoom interview just before the launch, she said, “It’s launching as a campaign but it will be an ongoing commitment and focus for the brand, talking first and educating people on the state of sex education in the U.S., highlighting and engaging with our community on what they wish they had learned in sex ed.” She wants to create a reliable resource center. As part of the initiative, Sustain will be making a $25,000 donation to Advocates for Youth and will donate an additional $1 for every share of the video, up to $40,000. Sustain believes that comprehensive sex education is critical for today’s youth—and for future generations to come—and that it should include everything from pleasure to birth control to consent, not just putting a condom on a banana and saying, “Be careful.”
Within its first 30 days, the campaign video was viewed 57,642 times across Instagram, Facebook and Twitter. Social assets from the campaign had been shared more than 4,000 times on Instagram, Facebook and Twitter., and during that time, sexpectmore.com received nearly 10,000 unique views.
Hollender reflected on what she has learned in the past 6 years since co-founding Sustain with her father, Seventh Generation founder Jeffrey Hollender. Here is some advice she has for aspiring entrepreneurs who want to make a difference in the world.
Be Prepared To Make Sacrifices
“Starting a business is an intense experience,” shared Hollender. “For me, it felt impossible to focus or really give myself to any other parts of my life. It’s something that really will consume you, especially in the first iteration of starting a business because you don’t have tools or perspective to understand yet, where to lean in, where to let things go, what’s urgent, what’s less urgent, what’s going to make or break a business. You just don’t have any context, so everything is all-important, all the time, and you don’t want to miss any opportunity. I had an amazing experience and learned so much more than I would’ve ever expected and continue to, but, it takes a person who’s willing to sacrifice other parts of their life.”
Be Wary Of The Glamorized #EntrepreneurLife Image
“Over the last five years I think there has been a glamorization of entrepreneurship, and while I think there’s some benefit of making it look awesome because more people are taking the risk and starting amazing companies, it can also be demoralizing and break your spirit. I’m grateful to my husband and partner who supported me during all of those hard moments. I give him a lot of credit and didn’t see how much he was giving during that time because I had such tunnel vision on the business. I think being honest about these experiences is really important and it’s dangerous to not be.”
Make Time To Truly Recharge
Hollender recommends making rest a part of your routine before your body has to do that for you. “I think I ran on adrenal fatigue for a very long time, and even what I thought taking time off was not actually because I was either still on my email or talking about the business 24/7.” After five years she got to a point where she was “burnt out in a way that I couldn’t really perform or focus and be effective, and ended up fully disconnecting for about a week, taking real time to reflect and recharge. I wish I had learned that that was needed much earlier on. Whether it’s for two days or two weeks —whatever it needs to be—I think intentional disconnection from your business is critical to recharge.”