The Food and Drug Administration doesn’t require feminine care products, such as tampons, to have their ingredients disclosed, even though they spend a combined six years inside the bodies of women around the world. Overall, the feminine care industry is selling sexual wellness products that aren’t catered towards women’s health; they often contain harmful ingredients and perpetuate a destructive narrative around female sexuality.
Enter our savior in sustainable, affordable, safe sexual health products: Meika Hollender. Meika revolutionized the personal care industry and redefined the stigmatized nature of sexual wellness for women through her company, Sustain.
The Origins of Sustain Natural
Meika Hollender founded Sustain in 2013 with her father, Jeffrey Hollender (Founder & CEO of Seventh Generation), to empower women to take control of their sexual health and encourage honest conversations about sex between parents and children. Prior to Sustain’s launch, many women weren’t aware of what was actually in their period care products or condoms, an especially dangerous problem considering these products are used in one of the most absorbent places in the body. So, Meika and Jeffrey set out to rid condoms of nitrosamines—a potentially carcinogenic ingredient. In doing so, they also ignited a revolution in the sexual wellness space.
As a Certified B Corporation, Sustain has integrated social and environmental sustainability into each aspect of the business. The company has boldly taken a stance on controversial issues and has partnered with Planned Parenthood to increase awareness of safe sex and women’s reproductive health. Sustain donates 10% of its profits to women’s healthcare organizations, and for Black Friday in 2017, 100% of its profit went to Planned Parenthood to support its ongoing efforts for women’s health.
Sustain’s first product was a fair trade, vegan, nitrosamine-free condom, using fair trade rubber from plantations in Southern India and manufactured in solar-powered factories. Eventually, the company expanded to create water-based, USDA Organic lubricant, 100% organic cotton tampons, and organic body care products. Sustain is unlike any brand out there and made marketplace history with its innovative, women-oriented products.
Acquisition by Grove Collaborative
As Meika mentioned in her podcast episode, it was difficult to navigate the sexual wellness space without stigma and to increase customer acquisition. Right as the company geared up for a round of fundraising and new partnerships, a conversation with Stuart Landesberg led to Grove’s acquisition of Sustain.
In 2019, e-commerce marketplace, Grove Collaborative, acquired Sustain and incorporated the company’s myriad product innovations into its portfolio, as well as bringing Meika Hollender onto the team as Vice President of Communications. Grove Collaborative is a one-stop-shop for everything from laundry essentials and food storage to personal care products. Now, Sustain’s condoms, lubricants, and menstrual health products are sold on the Grove marketplace, too.
Our Grove Collaborative review offers some more insight into this membership-based service, which (spoiler) is well worth it!
Meika Hollender: Co-founder & CEO of Sustain, VP of Communications at Grove Collaborative
Meika Hollender grew up in an entrepreneurial family and always knew she’d start a wellness brand with her father. In New York, NY, she pursued entrepreneurship at New York University (NYU) with a BA in Socially Responsible Business, complemented by a Master of Business Administration in Strategy & Social Impact from the NYU Stern School of Business.
Meika’s zealous efforts in the sexual health space have been noticed by Forbes and Inc., both of whom awarded her a 30 Under 30 distinction. Her recent book, Get On Top, is an honest conversation with women about sex, pleasure, and wellness. Meika is also a board member of Net Impact and mentors entrepreneurs launching startups at her alma mater. In her role at Grove, Meika has built the PR and Communications strategy from the ground up. Most notably, Meika spearheaded Grove’s efforts to go plastic free by 2025, which is an incredible feat considering the effects of plastic pollution on humans and our shared planet.
“I feel like businesses have a responsibility to their consumers to, yes, do the work behind the scenes to consider all of their stakeholders and the decisions they’re making but also to challenge the industry and really demand better—and change the rules.”
Closing: Raising the Bar
As a former CEO and healthcare entrepreneur, Meika Hollender has faced her fair share of adversity while building her business. Her experience with growing Sustain has undoubtedly had a positive impact on women around the world, who have benefited from an increase in sexual health education, received period care products as donations, and seen value from Sustain’s push for a New York state bill to require period care companies to disclose ingredients on their packaging. Although Meika has a different role as the VP of Communications at Grove Collaborative, her passion still lies with accessibility to women’s health and nurturing the next generation of socially responsible companies.
Additional Resources & Links Mentioned from the Episode:
- Sustain Products on Grove Collaborative
- Grove Collaborative
- Sustain’s Website
- Get On Top: Of Your Pleasure, Sexuality & Wellness: A Vagina Revolution, by Meika Hollender
- Seventh Generation
- Cribsheet: A Data-Driven Guide to Better, More Relaxed Parenting from Birth to Preschool by Emily Oster
- Nurture: A Modern Guide to Pregnancy, Birth, Early Motherhood And Trusting Yourself and Your Body by Erica Chidi Cohen
- Erica Chidi Cohen’s company, LOOM
Sustainable Workplaces Manager & Writer
Jackie is the Sustainable Workplaces Manager at Urban Green Lab, a sustainability education nonprofit in Nashville, Tennessee. She’s passionate about connecting people with actionable ways to make a positive impact on the environment. She graduated from Dickinson College with a degree in Environmental Studies and a certificate in Social Innovation & Entrepreneurship. Jackie worked in the nonprofit world in Washington D.C. for Ashoka and the National Building Museum.
Jackie enjoys hiking with her rescue dog, finding craft breweries, and traveling the globe in search of plant-based eats.