ADMIRED WOMEN

IN BUSINESS

2021

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Sarah Brooks & Susi Lennox

Sarah Brooks and Susi Lennox are the Co-founders of The Yes Yes company Ltd. – a pioneering organic intimacy company that is making vaginas healthy and happy– and they can’t be more proud of it.

It all started in 2003 after the launch of Viagra. They realized that one of the menopause symptoms is Vaginal Dryness. For many perimenopausal women faced with a Viagra endowed husband, they discovered their bodies no longer responded in the way they used to. Vaginal dryness can make for very uncomfortable intimacy. They then investigated the sexual lubricant market and discovered synthetic chemicals, skin-irritating preservatives, embarrassing language and imagery. They were rather shocked, and not surprised the “Viagra wives” had not found appealing products on the shelves of their local pharmacy. Hence, they founded YES after spending six weeks on the north coast of Bali reflecting on their lives, working styles, and personal values that would shape their business ethics. On returning to the UK, Sarah and Susi both sold their homes to help fund a long R&D period. Finally, after three years of experimenting with ingredients, they launched in 2006 with the mission ‘to change the world from inside’, by creating a new concept: A strictly organic, plant-based natural range of intimacy products like personal lubricants, vaginal moisturizers, and intimate washes. A dramatic alternative to conventional synthetic chemical lubricants, characterized by the use of parabens, glycerine, silicone, hormones, gluten, or known skin irritants. They became the first range of intimacy products to be certified organic by the Soil Association. The customers’ Yestimonials prove YES products are revolutionary and are changing women's lives. Currently, four YES products are on prescription in the UK due to their unique healing properties, and they are the first certified organic medical devices to be available by the NHS.

We had the good fortune of connecting with Sarah Brooks and we got to know more about their ethical intimate products business, how they reinvented the sex industry and helped de-shame the vagina.

Aspioneer(A): Tell us a little bit about your company.
Sarah Brook(S): “The YES YES Company Ltd exports products to over 90 countries. We have three main commercial companies in the YES Group: AH! YES Inc, The YES YES Company Ltd, and YES YES Europe SARL. AH! YES, Inc is our American company, based in Boston with warehouse and fulfillment in Chicago. YES YES EUROPE SARL is our EU company based in Paris, France, and the head office: The YES YES Company Ltd is based in Hampshire, UK, and services all non-USA and non-EU countries. For clarity AH! YES is our USA brand name and it's YES in all other parts of the word. We are determined to make intimate health products that meet three key areas:

1. All our products are designed to be side-effect-free, with no skin irritants, no concerning chemicals, no sugars, no flavors.

2. All products will be plant-based, no animal body parts, suitable for Vegans and/or Vegetarians.

3. All our activities will tread as lightly on the planet as possible to be sustainable and kind to the environment. All our products will be (and are) Certified Organic thus proving their Natural and Environmental credentials.”

“Get a coach, I wish I’d done this years ago. Know yourself well, your strengths and weaknesses, and stay true to your values. Read autobiographies – like Steve Jobs, to know what you want, he wanted to ‘put a dent in the universe? is that what you want to do? Stay physically active, decide on your goals, and be organized – These are simple things that work.”

(A): Starting a business from scratch is no easy task. Is there any specific challenge you faced when setting up your firm? What are some of the ongoing challenges? How do you handle them?
(S): “We launched in 2006, as the Banking crisis was looming, we saw several start-ups wiped out by banks demanding their loans be repaid – so we decided to grow out of cash flow, a painful experience when growing fast. Year on year we have seen double-digit growth, expanding into new countries with local distribution, growing our range of products as well as our internal headcount. Brexit continues to be a challenge. The only effective way to continue to sell our products in the EU as a third country is to create an EU company with an EU warehouse and fulfillment. This does not seem to me to be a sensible way to make Britain Great again, certainly not economically anyway. More recently Covid-19 has been an interesting challenge to the business, online sales doing very well, some retail sales hit hard, distributors in some countries doing well, and others not so much. Keeping our employee’s safe has been critical so we’ve become a working from home company, where possible, but warehouse and fulfillment activities cannot be done from home!”

(A): How are you transforming the industry? What do you eventually hope to achieve through your work?

(S): “I do not think there is a lubricant or vaginal moisturizer industry. At least there are no industry bodies I have found that we could join. But Susi and I decided, in Bali, that our company would respect our employees' work-life balance and our values would apply to our employees as much as to our products and customers. So as soon as we had enough employees for cover, we moved to a 9-day fortnight. This means slightly longer days for 9 days and every other Friday is a day off, and there is yoga every other Thursday (remotely at the moment). As a female-run business, caring about female sexual health is easier or perhaps more credible for us than say KY. We are often invited to speak at medical symposia, and HCP training sessions as Vaginal Dryness is rarely taught or discussed – is it the last taboo? Probably not, it certainly was when we launched YES in 2006, even saying Vagina was rather risky… Thank goodness much of that has changed, we hope our attitude of calling a Vagina a Vagina and not a Lady Garden or a foufou, plus coming from a desire to educate has helped change the conversation. I want all women to know what the pH of the Vagina should be and why that is important. Finally, I hope our legacy will be millions of women and men making love more comfortably – so increasing the sum total of happiness on the planet.”

(A): How are you giving back to the community?
(S): “We give back in many ways, we support Cancer charities like the Eve Appeal and work with other women’s health and Menopause charities. We also sponsor orphaned orangutans in Indonesia and plant hedgerows.”

(A): Women in leadership. How does this sound to you?
(S): “Our business is predominantly female – it may be the nature of our products. But we encourage applications from all races, genders, orientations, and abilities. Women represent 50% of the human race’s brainpower and intellect (at least), it is ridiculous to tie our hands behind our backs as a species by denying the impact women can have. Women can bring alternative perspectives and at times radical changes where our priorities and motivations differ from men. It may be stereotyping, as I do not know the research that proves this, but it seems to me that women are more nurturing of their environment and less prone to triggering war – to survive and counter climate change these are two critical tendencies that must drive the change we need.”

(A): Is there any advice you wish to share with women aiming for leadership positions?
(S): “Get a coach, I wish I’d done this years ago. Know yourself well, your strengths and weaknesses, and stay true to your values. Read autobiographies – like Steve Jobs, to know what you want, he wanted to ‘put a dent in the universe? is that what you want to do? Stay physically active, decide on your goals, and be organized – These are simple things that work.”

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