International Women's Day: A conversation with HANX

This International Women's Day we wanted to catch up with some of the female-founders paving the way in the UK and beyond. First up, we caught up with Farah - the Co-Founder of HANX, one of our long-term favourite brands...

International Women's Day: A conversation with HANX

This International Women's Day we wanted to catch up with some of the female-founders paving the way in the UK and beyond. First up, we caught up with Farah - the Co-Founder of HANX, one of our long-term favourite brands...

 

Hi, can you introduce yourself?

Hi, I’m Farah Kabir, Co-Founder of HANX. We’re a sexual wellness startup offering trusted contraception and intimate health treatments - without the stigma. We started with condoms and lubricant, and now we offer same-day-dispatch Thrush, Cystitis and BV treatments, plus hormonal contraception.

When myself and my Co-Founder Sarah founded HANX nearly five years ago, we were on a mission to tackle the less-than-stellar sexual wellness aisle. Back then, it was cringey, penis-centric messaging and an ingredients list that was a yeast infection waiting to happen. We spotted a huge opportunity for a brand that both centres and speaks to women in a real and relatable way about sex, with gynae-approved products to back it up.

 

Tell us about HANX and how you’re taking on sustainability?

Sustainability is a key aspect of HANX. We're committed to creating a big impact in the bedroom and a minimal impact on the planet.

Our condoms are made from latex which has been fairly sourced and traded. They’ve been certified as Fair Rubber which means we source, grow and manufacture them with love and care. This also means the people who work on the latex plantations work reasonable hours and are paid a living wage. Roughly 10 billion latex condoms are manufactured each year and most of those end up in landfill. The natural latex we use actually biodegrades in your household waste, or compost bin. Beyond that, we formulated our condoms and lube to remove any unnecessary chemicals and animal by-products, too. If you can name every ingredient in your skincare regime, you should know exactly what’s going down there, too! Unlike most condoms, we don’t use casein, a dairy by-product and we’re proud to be certified by The Vegan Society.

We have big aspirations regarding sustainability, but as a small business, we have a way to go to achieve these. Whilst our outer boxes are made from recyclable cardboard, for now, our condoms are wrapped in foil as they’re classified as a medical device and need to stay fresh and in top condition. We consider our sustainability path a work in progress, and are committed to actively improving as we grow. Well, if you’re making the earth move, you should be taking care of it too!

 

Who’s your number 1 inspiration?

My mother – she’s strong, resilient and kind.

 

What do you think of terms like GIRLboss, SHE EO - good motivators or get in the bin? 

In the bin! How about just ‘Boss’, or ‘CEO’? Terms like ‘Girlboss’ just don’t motivate me. We’re levelling the playing field, but we don’t need to affix such ‘girly’ labels to our achievements.

 

What do you love the most about being a woman?

Lots of things, but at the same time, there are still many disadvantages to being a woman in today’s society. For example, just 2% of VC funding went to female founders last year. Bias against women in the innovation ecosystem is a hurdle that I’m passionate about tackling.

 

The team at HANX is 100 % female, have you noticed any positive differences from working in a female-forward team?

There’s something to be said for being able to book a cervical smear into your work calendar without having to disguise it as a generic ‘appointment’! It’s amazing to have a team that is fully engaged with and passionate about our vision to unapologetically pursue and provide unparalleled sexual and intimate wellness for all women. Having a team that’s totally bought-in helps us to better serve our predominantly female customer base. In September 2021, we launched same-day-dispatch of the contraceptive pill including the emergency contraception. We’d experienced firsthand, and heard from our community, the difficulties accessing appointments due to NHS backlogs, stigma around the morning after pill and frankly, a really inconvenient process. It took many hours, Slack chats and monetary investment, but it’s a real passion project for every single one of us as we know it will change lives.

Balance is important and we still need men as allies – we do have other team members who are either freelance or at board level who are male. We’re committed to building an inclusive workplace, and that stretches beyond gender alone. Whilst there are currently four of us, we have big plans for growth in 2022 and we’re excited to welcome new skills and perspectives to the table. Follow us here for the latest job openings!

 

Being a strong leader in business can be tough, and expectations of being a woman can be even tougher - do you think this has been a disadvantage for you in the workplace?

In the HANX workplace and within our own team not so much - we have a flat culture and it helps that all our employees are really mission-driven. However, in other parts of business such as fundraising, there have been real challenges such as not being taken seriously when pitching or being undermined for being a woman in a position of power.

 

What is your brand doing to make its working environment more inclusive? How do you communicate inclusivity with your customers?

We’re increasingly conscious of our terminology. We started HANX to provide an inclusive alternative to mainstream brands, and a key part of that is acknowledging that sex, and people who have it, aren’t confined to the traditional depictions in condom marketing. For instance, not everyone who has a vagina is a woman. We’re constantly refining and updating our content to be as inclusive as possible, and always have more to do here. Discretion is also a key element of inclusive product packaging, too. We designed it to be in line with beauty products on your bathroom shelves, with a refined, luxe cream and gold colourway. It’s less about hiding the fact that you have sex, but allowing you to have that conversation on your own terms, if you wish to.

 

Body clocks are a huge talking point among uterus owners, do you think that’s played a part in your career path?

As part of our huge amounts of research at HANX, I was shocked that the majority of conversation around body clocks, fertility and conception focuses on people with uteruses. Placing this conversation purely on one part of the equation is just another version of sending the boys to watch a video in the other room when it’s time for the ‘period talk’! I believe we need better, holistic sex education from school age that sets us up to make informed choices about our lives. Alongside needing better parental benefits and support from employers, we need honest, open and non-sensationalist conversation about the realities of the fertility journey. As HANX evolves, I’d love us to play a part in making that happen.

 

Tell us about something that’s inspired you recently….

 I was recently invited to 10 Downing Street to have a voice at their roundtable discussing disparities in health for ethnic minority women. Whilst there is still a way to go in getting women’s health on the agenda, there’s now an open dialogue and the only way is up. I’m looking forward to the future of women’s health with the UK government’s support.

 

 ….and finally, any tips you’d like to give your younger self that we can pass on to our followers?

 Go with your gut, it has your best interest at heart. Take the risk, too. There are so many reasons not to try something and the fear is real - but if it was easy, everyone would do it right?!

 

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