We’re diving into founder stories from unique brands, communities, and agencies to celebrate their work and share valuable insight and advice.
Each interview explores a new journey and sheds light on what it means, plus what it looks like, to build movements and lead the way towards change. For this installment, we spoke to Polly Rodriguez, CEO and Co-Founder of Unbound, a sexual wellness company that makes vibrators, lubricants, and accessories—with the goal of bringing sexual health out of the shadows.
1. In a nutshell, tell us about Unbound and the work that you all do.
Unbound is a sexual wellness company. Tactically, that means we design, manufacture, and sell over 50 products spanning vibrators, lubricants, condoms and accessories. We also have an online magazine with hundreds of educational but also V FUN content on sexual health. Our goal is to take sexual wellness mainstream as a category and industry that has operated in the shadows for far too long.
2. Will you share a bit about the journey that brought you to where you are now?
When I was 21 I was diagnosed with Stage III colorectal cancer which required radiation treatment. The doctors told me that as a result of the radiation beaming through my reproductive organs, I would never have children, but that was all that they told me. It wasn’t until a month later when I googled my symptoms of hot flashes that I realized I was going through menopause. It was a poignant moment when I realized how overlooked femme and non-binary sexual wellness is—so often our sexual health is only through the lens of fertility and rarely pleasure. I ended up buying lubricant and a vibrator at a store in a strip mall next to the airport, which was the only place that sold them in my hometown of St. Louis, Missouri. It was a shopping experience that always haunted me and ten years later I met my cofounder Sarah Jayne and we started building the online destination we wish we would’ve had when we were first discovering what sexual wellness meant to us.
3. What’s a recent project you worked on with a team that wasn’t all based in the same physical location?
Whenever we manufacture our products we’re usually working with teams that are on the other side of the world. We have to work really hard to communicate clearly and frequently. The difference in time zones can be tough so we’re flexible with the teams that are coordinating manufacturing. If you have to wake up at 7am to take a call, you can work from home and take off a bit early that day. If you’re having to stay late to take a call, you can come in late. Flexibility is crucial but that can’t exist without trust amongst your team.
4. What are some of the benefits you’ve seen from digital or remote work?
Being flexible gives your team autonomy over their work. I’ve seen the pros and cons of remote work. I personally still think that nothing beats face-to-face conversations, but I also think that millennials really value being able to work from home when they can, so we try to offer it when it makes sense, like Work-From-Home Fridays during our slower season of March through September.
5. What’s something you know now that you wish you knew starting out regarding your industry or creative process?
It’s near-impossible to be creative when you’re under immense pressure and stress. You have to give yourself space—both literally and figuratively—to let the process unfold. Often, as a startup, that’s a luxury you don’t have so you need to develop skills to destress. I think for female founders, this often means saying no to things you feel like you should be attending. Don’t be afraid to say no in order to salvage some personal time and decompress. You can’t be all things to all people and you certainly can’t be in all places at once.
Polly Rodriguez is the CEO and Co-Founder of Unbound, a rebellious sexual wellness company that makes vibrators, lubricants, and accessories. Polly and co-founder Sarah Jayne Kinney started Unbound with the goal of taking vibrators, lubricants and sexual accessories mainstream through elevated design, body-safe materials, and accessible pricing. Today, the company has been hailed by the New York Times as the “ideological center of the tech-savvy, female-led women’s sexuality movement” with over 50 products created by a team of all women in New York City.