Like many female entrepreneurs getting over my Imposter’s Syndrome was my first and biggest battle. I can’t emphasize enough how important it is to have self-confidence and believe in yourself and your idea.
Asa part of my series about the women in wellness, I had the pleasure of interviewing Lucy Anderson, Founder and CEO of WooWoo and part of a growing tribe of entrepreneurial women leading the charge in feminine self-care and sexual wellness.
Thank you so much for doing this with us! Our readers would love to “get to know you” better. Can you share your “backstory” with us?
Myname is Lucy, and I am the founder of WooWoo — an all-natural fun and bold range of feminine health, self-care and pleasure products,
I launched WooWoo when I found myself back on the dating scene, and quickly recognised a gaping hole in the intimate self-care products being presented to women on the shelves. None of the products looked nice. They were discreet, apologetic and in-fact exasperated outdated taboos around women’s sexuality and self-care. Worse still, no one was talking openly about this stuff.
That’s why we are often confronted with news stories about women being too embarrassed to go for smear tests and a rise in sexually transmitted diseases (according to Public Health England) with a young adult in the UK is diagnosed with an STI every four minutes. The picture in the States is just as worrying, particularly in adolescents.
I had a few obstacles to overturn first: was Brazilian waxing still a thing? What is first-date etiquette in the swipe right era? All these things crossed my mind as I stood in the ‘feminine care’ aisle — even the name used to frame self care sounded stuffy.
Two years of research began, interviewing over 2,500 women. Late nights fuelled by countless coffees, and early mornings running around with a suitcase full of condoms led to the development of the range of WooWoo products available today.
We must have got something right as our products have quickly gathered a loyal fan club. But it’s not all been plain sailing. Around every corner we’re met with serious. Some of our products have courted controversy. Though our products aren’t for everyone, I believe people should be given a choice. Just as we shouldn’t pass judgement on people for the make-up they wear, the way they style or colour their hair, or who and how they get their sexual kicks, as long as it’s safe and they are protecting themselves it should remain a personal decision which we should respect.
In an age where sexually transmitted diseases are on the increase, whatever your view on our products I think they serve an important purpose. They are part of the reason people are starting to have the difficult conversations that women have previously been too embarrassed to have for fear of being judged. More conversations, means better education and access to information. In our view that can only be a positive thing.
As a brand we believe we have a responsibility to elevate the conversation around sexual health and wellbeing to encourage more women to value their vulvas and to help put the female sexual taboo to bed.
Can you share the most interesting story that happened to you since you started your career? What were the main lessons or takeaways from that story?
Quite early on I received a welcome but unexpected call from the producer of Dragon’s Den (Shark Tank in the USA). I progressed a long way down the line with a female researcher on the production team and had been pretty much been accepted to appear on the show, but was told at the last minute they wouldn’t feature the brand. Not because of a lack of merit around the product, but because of restrictions around using the word vagina before the 9pm watershed on TV.
For me, this highlights the problem and huge challenge we have and why women despite all the risks aren’t going for their regular smear tests, and STIs are on the increase. Vagina is and should not be viewed as a dirty word and should not be classed in the same category as obscene language on television. If it’s used in the right context and in a format that educates individuals how can that be a bad thing? If we can’t talk openly about something that is an integral part of who we are, it’s not possible to be and do all that we want as women.
Our female anatomy and all that is related to being a woman including our periods, our sexuality and the menopause has been stigmatised for too long. Though there are small steps being made through fairer representation of women of all ages and sexual orientation in advertising and programming, as well as marketeers really trying to challenge the norm — think Body Form’s ‘Blood Normal’ and more recently their ‘Viva la Vulva’ campaigns, we can’t underestimate how sustaining these taboos has a negative impact on everything from female ambition through to our health.
Can you share a story about the biggest mistake you made when you were first starting? Can you tell us what lesson you learned from that?
Making sure you have a tight grip on everything from cash flow to contracts is absolutely critical if you are going to survive as a business. When you start out and money is tight, finding funds to pay professionals like accountants or lawyers to keep on top of your accounts or checking over the fine print of contracts can be tough.
Like many people setting up a new business, I think I was a bit too trusting of individuals and some of the contractors I worked with, but in the early days when you just need things done it’s easy to launch full steam ahead into agreements that can be risky to you and your fledgling business. I had my fingers burnt on a couple of occasions, but it taught me some important lessons early on.
Start-up business owners try to be all things at all times, but the reality is that unless you’ve studied or had commercial experience of everything from finance to legal, marketing and HR the intricacies of each are so huge you won’t and can’t expect to have all the answers. That’s why companies employ separate teams of experts to manage them.
I’ve learnt that if you don’t feel 100% confident in your gut on anything that could potentially have far reaching consequences, you should either call in as many favours as you can from friends who do have expertise in those areas to provide counsel or support, or ensure you work the costs into your P&L to pay for expert advice.
None of us are able to achieve success without some help along the way. Is there a particular person who you are grateful towards who helped get you to where you are? Can you share a story about that?
MyMum is my biggest inspiration. She was incredibly entrepreneurial and way ahead of her time. She worked in marketing for Tesco’s and recognised a growing trend in speciality foods with provenance. So, she took a risk and set up a chain of very successful deli’s in Scotland in the early 1980’s when this wasn’t even a thing in the UK. She started to import cheeses and speciality wines from Europe and further afield and the business just blossomed. At its height, she had five delis.
She also set up some of the first women’s working network events in Scotland to support other women in business when it was fairly unusual for Mum’s to return to work after having kids.
Sadly, she has Alzheimer’s now, but having such a positive role model in my youth has meant in adulthood I’ve inherited the same hard working ethics, drive to succeed, and passion to support other women in business, which I hope to pass on to my own daughter.
Ok perfect. Now let’s jump to our main focus. When it comes to health and wellness, how is the work you are doing helping to make a bigger impact in the world?
Inan age where our health and wellbeing is top of our list of priorities, women are still being shamed into pious purity, whilst men are applauded for their prowess. We’re all about normalizing female sexuality and self-care and all in a fun, light hearted way that engages young women and men equally. We want to get the message out there that women enjoy sex too and it’s okay to admit that.
Sex education at school is formal and focusses on preventing STIs and pregnancy. Though it’s incredibly important to understand our reproductive anatomy and the consequences of unprotected sex, conversations around sexual pleasure and intimacy just aren’t happening.
Talking to teachers, health professionals and parents about sex can be toe-curlingly mortifying for adolescents and young adults, who are also petrified of talking to their peer groups for fear of being judged or labeled as ‘easy’. So, they turn to the internet for advice and guidance. With porn now so prevalent and accessible, young adults are increasingly admitting that pornography is their main source of sex education which can undeniably skew their view of what positive sexual intimacy should look like.
We carry this stigma into our adult lives with research we carried out earlier this year revealing around 40 per cent of women have lied about the number of sexual partners they’ve had for fear of being judged or slut shamed. More worryingly they are putting their health at risk with more than half of the women (51%) we surveyed admitting to never having had a sexual health check-up.
We believe in practising what we preach, so we’re really active in posting content on our channels that tackles everything from smear fear, to how to take control of your own sexual health when your partner refuses to wear a condom, and ways you can improve your sex life.
It’s also the reason we launched our ‘Worship Your WooWoo’campaign earlier this year to get women talking more about their sex lives and sexual health at a series of debates, events and through our social channels. We’re planning to continue raising the level of debate around female sexual health and encourage sex positivity next year with a new campaign in 2020, so watch this space.
Can you share your top five “lifestyle tweaks” that you believe will help support people’s journey towards better wellbeing? Please give an example or story for each.
- Spin yourself happy — If you haven’t yet tried it, I swear by spinning classes. I’m a single mum with two kids and incredibly busy with work, but it’s a quick high intensity class I can fit into my busy schedule that’s really effective and delivers great results. I swear by Psycle in London as it combines cardio with mindfulness and meditation, so you get the double whammy of those exercise induced positive hormones whilst also working on improving your mental wellbeing.
- Make time to read — It’s easy in our busy lives to say we don’t have time to read but it’s all about prioritisation. How often do you find yourself aimlessly channel hopping on TV or falling down a social media rabbit hole browsing but bored? Evidence suggests reading improves everything from your emotional intelligence, wellbeing and even personal relationships with others aswell as reduce stress, anxiety, depression and the risk of Dementia. So even with a limited time window its worth grabbing 15 minutes a few times a week to lose yourself in a great bit of fiction or an informative book.
- Practise The Miracle Morning — I came across this book by Hal Elrod earlier this year and can highly recommend it to everyone. The principle is simple, it requires you getting up 30 minutes earlier than you normally would to work six simple practises into your everyday routines to improve productivity and wellbeing. Since I discovered it, the book has transformed my life and outlook on this and I urge you all to check it out.
- Eat well… and everything in moderation — I have always tried to make healthy choices, but since my mother was diagnosed with Alzheimer’s, I have been even more mindful of the food I eat. Research suggests eating broccoli, fish, nuts and lots of red and purple fruit and vegetables is good for brain function so I try to stick to these food types wherever possible. I also try to moderate my alcohol and treat consumption and follow the 16:8 diet which all seems to work well for me.
- Invest time in you and your relationship — It’s so easy when you’ve been in a long-term relationship to get complacent and take each other for granted. I can’t urge you enough to make sure you take time to focus on each other. So whether that’s grabbing a sexy smooch with your partner when you’re washing the dishes, scheduling in a date night, sitting down and chatting over a bottle of wine, or experimenting with something new in the bedroom, it so incredibly important to keep the intimacy alive and kicking.
If you could start a movement that would bring the most amount of wellness to the most amount of people, what would that be?
It’s been unequivocally proven that a healthy sex life is not only the key to a happy relationship, but also one of the best ways you can improve your wellbeing and reduce stress and anxiety. Yet outdated views and attitudes around sex, and in particular female sexuality are holding so many women back. It’s one of the reasons women don’t talk as openly as they should about their sexual health and pleasure.
If there’s one thing I would love to do, it would be to encourage a more sex positive society. We need less judgement and more dialogue if we’re ever going to shift the dial and drive positive change. That includes in the way we talk about sex in schools, the way we represent it in the media and the conversations we have about sex at home.
We are trying in our own small way to make waves in this direction by being honest, frank and open about sex and sexual health in the campaigns we run and in our social and blog posts, but we want to do more to help start conservations that will help woman feel more comfortable talking about their sexual health, less worried about their sexual history and more focused on enhancing their sexual pleasure. It’s time to call an end to bad sex, and the sexist and outdated attitudes to women’s sexuality and sexual activity.
What are your “5 Things I Wish Someone Told Me Before I Started” and why?
- Don’t be afraid to ask for help — Setting up your own business can be a daunting experience. Free from the security blanket of an employer it’s not uncommon to feel exposed and out of your depth at times. One of the best things I did early on in the business is join a female mentoring group. I nervously attended my first session with just a few pieces of paper that I intended to present to my first potential retail partner. The experience was eye opening. My mentor group were honest and offered really strong counsel which has stood me in good stead as I continue to grow the business. If you don’t have access to a local mentoring group don’t be afraid to look to your own network of family, friends and colleagues to seek advice.
- Believe in yourself and your ideas — Like many female entrepreneurs getting over my Imposter’s Syndrome was my first and biggest battle. I can’t emphasize enough how important it is to have self-confidence and believe in yourself and your idea. I work in the retail sector which is intense and not for the feint hearted. I love it but you need to be ballsy and never undervalue yourself or your brand and product. I’ve walked away from big potential retail partners as the margins were just too squeezed. If you’re not naturally confident, do whatever you need to do to get there. Mine is a combination of spinning classes, practising my Miracle Morning Routines and some serious Amy Cuddy Power Posing.
- Cash flow is king — The biggest concern of any small business is and should be money and cash flow, especially when it comes to retail. When you commercially launch a product, you need to put a very large amount of money up front on the table to lift production. Our minimum unit order is 10k, but in our infancy this wasn’t all assigned and accounted for so we had to take a huge risk t deliver to our first retail customers and work really hard to ensure we sold the rest of the stock through. Big corporates like P&G or L’Oreal can swallow this kind of investment, but the reality of launching your brand into retail means there is a risk that you will run at a loss for a while which can be very stressful for an independent business owner so do due diligence and make sure you’re on top of the finances to help you sleep at night and make sure you’re business doesn’t fall at the first hurdle.
- Surround yourself with good people — I have been so lucky to have found a great team of people to work with. I employ one full time member of staff and work with around ten contractors but they are all just as committed and enthusiastic as permanent team of staff would be and eat, sleep and breath the brand as much as I do. They have been instrumental in the success of this brand.
- Try, try and try again — never give up. There’s been occasions where I’ve received knock back, after knock back from potential retailers. But I can promise you perseverance really does pay off.
Sustainability, veganism, mental health and environmental changes are big topics at the moment. Which one of these causes is dearest to you, and why?
I’d say it’s pretty evenly split between the environment and doing good things that improve both people’s physical and mental wellbeing. We have really worked hard to make sure that our products are as environmentally sound as they can be. That’s why they’re all made with natural ingredients. We’ve also used innovative sugar cane packaging and wipes made from plant cellulose which are 100% plastic free. We also care a lot about doing all we can to both educate and normalise sexual health and wellness so we can break the taboos around female sexuality.
What is the best way our readers can follow you on social media?
Thank you for these fantastic insights!