In Straight from the Founder’s Mouth, we ask entrepreneurs in emerging and fast-growing markets to share intel on what it took to launch their business and explain how they’re continuing to thrive during growth. Today we’re talking with the CEO of Maude, the startup making safe and healthy sex…well, sexier. This female-founded direct-to-consumer brand’s collection of “modern sex essentials” includes minimalist condoms, lube in handsome apothecary bottles and a vibrator that looks like a work of art. In addition to revamping the look of these essentials, they’ve also designed them without all the parabens, phthalates and heavy fragrances you might find in a standard sex shop. Needless to say, Maude has taken off since it first launched in 2017. Here, Maude cofounder and CEO Éva Goicochea tells ONE37pm a little bit more about the concept and growth of her brand.
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ONE37pm: First, can you describe Maude in a sentence?
Éva Goicochea: A modern sexual wellness company built on quality, simplicity and inclusivity, Maude is here to make sex better for all people.
If we were potential investors or brand partners, what would you tell us about your business?
Goicochea: We’re a modern, design-forward and inclusive sexual wellness direct-to-consumer brand that works directly with some of the world’s best factories to create our line of essentials. We reimagined the experience of buying these products through a friendly site that focuses both on product and informative content. In less than a year, we’ve hit a seven-figure run rate, sold to every state in the country and been featured in more than 200 pieces of press.
What is the most important lesson you’ve learned from running Maude?
Goicochea: So often we listen to advice and think that others must know best, but it’s important to balance the advice of others with trusting your own vision and gut instinct. I would have saved myself a lot of energy and money if I edited the input.
It’s important to balance the advice of others with trusting your own vision and gut instinct
- Éva Goicochea, Founder of Maude
What’s one aspect of your business you knew nothing about when you started it and how did you solve for that?
Goicochea: Going in, I knew nothing about fund-raising and began the process by sending cold emails, asking my professional network for introductions and applying for programs to prepare. As arduous as it was, I now have so many more relationships because I went into the process wide-eyed and open.
What do you consider this biggest milestone or breakthrough moment in your brand’s history?
Goicochea: There have been a few. Being in print in The New York Times was surreal given that we were only six months old. And then, on my birthday, we happened to receive a “Best in Show” nod for the Vibe—our three-speed, USB-charged personal massager—in New York magazine’s "The Strategist" and it was our biggest revenue day to date. The article said, “The best way to describe this was that an orgasm just zipped out of me.” I’ll never forget it.
What mistake or challenge have you gotten through and how did you prevail?
Goicochea: There are too many to count, but I’ve always been someone who is resilient and is comfortable accepting all facets of a process—high, low and the mundane. I’ve also read that we imprint our memories in highs and lows, so I think having perspective is important if you’re going to prevail. Otherwise, you spend a lot of time in emotional peaks and valleys, which isn’t healthy.
What important projects or business challenges are you currently grinding on? Why do they require your time and energy?
Goicochea: We’re currently hiring a few key people and given that we’re a small but close team, I’m doing everything I can to find the best people based on both skills and culture so foundationally we’re set up for the future.
What advice would you give to anyone looking to start a similar business to yours?
Goicochea: Be ready to hear no and then figure out what you can do with that answer.
How much money did you start your business with and how much have you raised?
Goicochea: In 2017, we raised $550,000 to get to market, which was absolutely necessary given the minimum order quantities, or MOQs, on the product. In 2019, we just closed on a $1.5 million round. Given that we’re a product company, there are operational costs to consider.
How does your background—whether educational, professional or otherwise—contribute to your ability to run this business?
Goicochea: I’ve had two sides to my career: I studied advertising and communications, but did I a few years as a legislative aide in health care. After my time in healthcare, I spent ten years in brand strategy and social media—first at an organic cosmetics company and then as one of the first employees at Everlane. Having a health background but being guided by experience in fast-moving startup environments allows me to think both quickly and in the long-term.
What do you look for in people you hire, other than the basic “good employee” traits?
Goicochea: We always look for people who have a diversity of friends and interests, because it informs how much emotional quotient, or EQ, they bring to the table. There are three fundamentals we as a team are expected to understand: Number one, we put people first, always. Number two, quality is nonnegotiable in everything we do. Number three, we believe simplicity creates change, meaning we look for a really sharp sensibility.
How do you take care of your mental and physical health as an entrepreneur?
Goicochea: I have rescue pets, and if four little faces staring at you at dinnertime isn’t enough to make you get out of your head and wash the stress away, I’m not sure what is. They don’t care about KPIs or OKRs [key performance indicators; objectives and key results]. All they want is to be snuggled and fed. Also, running. Running and animals got me through all of the noes of starting a new sexual wellness company. [laughs]
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