We talked to Jiwon Park, founder, and CEO at SAIB, about revolutionizing female sexuality and this is what she said about it.
First of all, how are you and the SAIB team doing in these COVID-19 times?
Jiwon Park: As some say, I feel like the new normal has arrived. Everything from grocery shopping to way of thinking has changed. I am trying to adjust to the new lifestyle. However, the biggest thing I miss is visiting trendy, popular places for a better understanding of the consumers. Although work has always been busy, at least for the weekends, I could visit new places for refreshment. SAIB has recently moved to the new office located in a city-funded coworking building. With the larger office space, there is more room for team SAIB to grow. Also, the SAIB team seems to be happier with the new environment.
Tell us about you, your career, and how you founded SAIB?
Jiwon Park: In 2013 while pursuing a career as an assistant professor of Design at the University of Texas at Austin, I assigned my students to come up with an idea to address or tackle social problems using design methods. One student made an artwork using free condoms distributed by the university to address the issue of unprotected sex, and I was shocked to see students openly discussing issues related to condoms and unprotected sex during class. In Korea, not only is this unimaginable but it would have ended up being a very awkward situation.
While having a meeting with my acquaintances who were working in the cosmetics industry in Korea in 2017, I finally decided to launch my brand, SAIB. At the meeting, they – who were both males – talked about how the cosmetics market in Korea is saturated and they need breakthrough products. Then, one of them suggested the recent market trend in Japan is to create a completely new cosmetics segment by making women feel shameful about their body, such as by pointing out the color of nipples and sexual organs should be whitened. I was frustrated with them trying to make a profit out of women’s insecurity. Those whitening creams probably do no good for women’s health. So I told them: “You know what’s necessary? A holistic sexual wellness brand with safe and well-made products for women.”
How would you describe your company, SAIB in one sentence?
Jiwon Park: SAIB (/seiv/), is an inversion of the word bias that provides female-friendly contraceptives and intimate hygiene products, helping women be in control of their sexual and reproductive health.
How does SAIB innovate?
Jiwon Park: For many, buying condoms at a store is still quite an awkward experience, at least in Korea. Many tend to bury condoms along with other products to cover the condoms in their shipping baskets.
SAIB, however, would like to redefine condoms as “intimate cosmetics for sexual well-being” and make the product widely accessible. If you think about it, it’s ironic how people care so much about what ingredients make up the cosmetics they put on their faces these days, but when it comes to condoms that go inside the most intimate parts of your body, not many people are aware of the ingredients that can cause vaginal infection, hormonal disruption, and even reproductive harm.
We care about what women are putting in their bodies, therefore we make all our products with non-toxic and natural ingredients only, without any artificial preservatives or chemical additives that could be harmful to women.
How the coronavirus pandemic affects your business and how are you coping?
Jiwon Park: Before the pandemic, the majority of our customers bought SAIB Premium Condom 3 pieces that come in a portable, stylish tin case. Ever since the pandemic, because couples living together could not go outside, many customers ordered online and preferred buying SAIB 24 pieces condom which is perfect to keep by your bedside and reuse it to store other things. We realized that due to the pandemic, customers favored buying our products online in bulk, and this pattern of purchase provided us with new insights into the customers changing needs.
On the other hand, we experienced some drawbacks with our in-person promotional events. During the fall of 2020, SAIB had the opportunity to export to other countries like Japan, Hong Kong, and Singapore. As our initial launch in Japan, SAIB participated in the Biople Fes, one of the biggest cosmetic festivals, as a pop-up booth of SAIB Natural Foaming Feminine Wash. It was unfortunate that we missed the chance to greet Japanese customers in person due to travel restrictions.
COVID disconnected human interaction in various ways. However, at the same time, it opened a chance to connect with a larger group of customers online. With the resources that otherwise would have been put into offline events, we were able to focus on expanding globally online, launching SAIB global D2C mall.
Where do you see yourself and SAIB in the future?
Jiwon Park: SAIB aims to expand by launching various products for women’s sexual and reproductive wellness such as feminine probiotic supplements, lubricants, and more. Our ultimate goal is to normalize the perception of sexual wellness and redefine them as a natural and healthy part of life and self-care.
On a more personal level, I hope to establish a workplace where women can genuinely sympathize and support the brand’s mission. I feel like we’re on the right track since our team makes the products that we truly want to use as women and customers with the mindset “by her – for her”.
What specific tools, software, and management skills are you using to thrive during the pandemic?
Jiwon Park: When COVID was at its peak in Korea, the SAIB team had worked virtually for several days. During the first few days of remote working, we felt distant and disconnected since we suddenly went from seeing each other every day to communicating through a computer screen.
To encourage a smooth transition, we held two virtual town hall meetings every day via Zoom, one before starting the day and one after. This helped us to stay on track with each other’s works and stay connected through this chaotic time.
Who are your competitors?
Jiwon Park: Well, currently, the sexual wellness market is dominated by brands produced and designed focusing solely on male consumers. Unlike those brands, SAIB aims to provide products that do not compromise women’s health and encourage women to take charge of their bodies. Since reclaiming safe sex and sexual autonomy is a long run marathon, we know we cannot do it by ourselves. That is why we think of other brands that share our values and mission are our co-runners, who run toward the shared value.
Your final thoughts?
Jiwon Park: 2020 has been a rough patch for everyone in their own ways, but despite the hardships, SAIB tried to stay hopeful and connected with our global customers by launching a website with free international shipping. Check out our website to learn more about SAIB her favorites!
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