Will Taboo Topics Help VCs Warm Up To Women's Brands?

Jess Kerr may be sitting on D2C gold. The 25-year-old Cincinnati woman has just launched Postwell, gift boxes designed for women blindsided by the messy experience of childbirth. The irony? The “smart” money, the kind held by venture capitalists, is almost guaranteed to be too stupid to invest in products aimed at women.

Kerr, who by day is a program manager for the Brandery, a Cincinnati accelerator that invests in consumer-facing startups, isn’t interested in venture funding anyway and wants Postwell to be self-funding. But she can’t help but notice the industry’s built-in sexism. 

Despite plenty of evidence that women-founded and women-led businesses outperform those launched and run by men, women led-businesses got just 2.2% of the total $130 billion in capital invested last year.

Fortune had an especially depressing way of putting that in perspective: Juul, the vaping company, got $12.8 billion. Women-run businesses -- all 482 of them -- got just $2.88 billion. At a time when female-led unicorns like Glossier and Stitch Fix make plenty of headlines, that short-sightedness seems, well, nuts.

Turns out things haven’t gotten much better since the New York Times lamented tech’s ignoring the breast pump in 2014, and the New Yorker bemoaned VC’s blind spots about women in 2016.

Kerr thinks it’s possible that the attention-getting success of brands in previously taboo areas will help open VC eyes to the potential of finding ways to sell products that are hard to discuss. Whether it’s Roman, for erectile dysfunction; Hims, for ED as well as hair loss; period packs or adult incontinence products, she says these personal-care categories are full of possibility. 

She came up with the idea for Postwell when a friend -- a few days postpartum -- called her in tears from Target, where she’d gone in search of the nursing pads, ice packs and heavy-duty sanitary products no one had warned her about. Kerr, who has always prided herself on her practical gift-giving skills, felt terrible. “I felt so guilty -- a group of us had all sat around her a few weeks before at her shower, giving her cute little onesies and books for the baby. None of us had thought about what she would need.”

Basic Postwell boxes cost $75 and include un-adorable essentials like Tucks Hemorrhoid Pads, organic cotton sanitary pads and herbal sitz products. Not a mom herself, Kerr hopes the boxes will do more than soothe the ravaged lady parts of new moms, but spark conversations about the realities of the experience.

Other offers include The Motherload, the same type of assortment but with more items. And she’s at work developing a box for C-sections, as well as a one for surrogates and those giving babies up for adoption.

“Those moms still need aftercare,” she tells Marketing D2C Weekly. And while it won’t be packaged with the clever wordplay of the other boxes, like “Childbirth is a mother,” she hopes it can be part of “a more caring handoff. My brother is adopted and it’s the best thing that ever happened to our family.” 

Her fiancé has a map up, putting pins in every location the company ships to, and plenty of coverage in the busy world of the motherhood social-media maelstrom has caused her to sell out a few times. “It’s just been crazy,” she says. “But honestly, even if I sold just one a month, it would be worth to me. This is important.”

As with all startups, she knows the first step is selling, then selling to scale, and eventually selling to margins. And while she doesn’t know what the future holds, she’s aware that Postwell is also accumulating precious data, the kind of insights that make such startups appealing to larger companies. “I want to protect these new moms. I hate the idea of them being bombarded by people trying to sell them stuff. It’s a time when you’re already stressed enough.” 

She’s hoping people will give these gifts to moms-to-be, recognizing that these tough few months, which many people call the fourth trimester, are challenging. Whenever she talks about the concept, she recognizes most people aren’t aware of how tough those postpartum weeks can be. “But if there is even one mom or dad in the room, they get it.”

1 comment about "Will Taboo Topics Help VCs Warm Up To Women's Brands?".
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  1. Nina Lentini from MediaPost Communications, May 6, 2019 at 3:27 p.m.

    "Ravaged lady parts." You can say that again!

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