This week we sat down with Farah Kabir (left), co-founder of HANX, the first premium condom designed with women in mind.
After an awkward moment at the supermarket while buying condoms, Farah and her co-founder Sarah (right) spotted a gap in the market, and pounced on it!
They’ve spent the last 11 months building the brand in the UK and are now going to be expanding to the rest of Europe which - as you can imagine - is incredibly exciting.
A real challenge for both founders was entering a completely new industry. With Farah having a background in investment banking and Sarah being a gynaecology doctor, they had to learn (almost) everything from scratch.
Another challenge they are constantly facing is marketing their product. Even though HANX is a condom brand, Sarah and Farah do not want to make their product overtly ‘sexy’.
The aim is to fit into a women’s healthy lifestyle and well-being without making her feel uncomfortable about carrying condoms.
The most important things they’ve learned since founding HANX? In Farah’s opinion resilience is absolutely essential. Resilience, and the ability to prioritise!
The two co-founders have known each other most of their lives, so then it’s perhaps not surprising that Farah’s favourite moment is a more personal one than we’ve had before. Let’s just say that it’s related to art..
Finally, we asked Farah for her solid gold piece of advice for everyone in their early start-up days and her tip? Be patient!
This week we interviewed Farah Kabir, co-founder of HANX, the first premium male condom designed with women in mind. Alongside with her co-founder Sarah, they set up the company around two years ago and officially launched 11 months ago.
Farah and Sarah are childhood friends, went to university together but ended up in careers that could not be more different - Sarah is a medical doctor specialised in gynaecology and Farah was working in investment banking. After an awkward encounter with a male boss while buying condoms, the HANX founders started talking about the topic of female-friendly condoms and the ladies spotted a gap in the market.
Difficulties and challenges
The fact that neither founder originally came from the contraceptive or product development industry made the start of the new business very challenging. With Sarah being a medical doctor and Farah having a background in finance, whilst they cover a wide knowledge spectrum, within the particular industry they entered nearly two years ago, everything had to be learned from scratch.
One difficulty was producing the actual condom - to find a manufacturer that could assure the quality they were aiming for, and they were comfortable with, took a huge amount of time. After a long search, Farah and Sarah found their trusted manufacturer in Germany and are very happy so far. From that point on, the next challenge was bringing the product to the market, which is a long and rigourous process for medical devices.
An ongoing but good challenge is the product marketing. Obviously, they are a condom brand, but Farah and Sarah do not want to overly sexualise their product or make their messaging explicit. Their message is straight forward - women and men have sex, protect yourself, here are some great condoms!
HANX have found that people in the UK are quite reserved, and perceive talking about condoms as a taboo. Farah’s and Sarah’s idea is to fit into a women’s healthy lifestyle and well-being routine without making her feel ashamed to carry the condoms. Smashing that stigma is a constant challenge!
Learning, successes and favourite moments
The most important aspect Farah and Sarah have learned since starting HANX? To be patient!
Farah thinks that there are a lot of things to take away from founding a start-up, with increasing your own resilience a prime example. As a co-founder you are juggling a lot, you wear various hats and work on lots of different aspects of your business each and every day such as finance, investment raising, marketing or speaking to the manufacturers. Through this process, you learn to be resilient to push back and pressures, and manage your priorities. Sarah and Farah’s secret to success is to start their day of with going through their lists and tasks each one wants to prioritise.
Farah is also convinced that she has learned to create a much better work-life balance. During the early days of HANX, both founders worked most of the day and at one point they worked so hard that they nearly burned out. After this, they realised that it is important to have a weekend off every now and again, and to really ‘switch off’ every opportunity they have.
Winning Stylist and Diet Coke’s Creators Collective Award was their biggest business success so far. HANX was also named “Brightest Start-up”, which is a real achievement, since they won this award only four months after founding the business. This was a huge achievement for both of the founders because not only did they win £20,000 (useful), they also won a mentorship which has been invaluable.
Farah’s favourite moment to look back to is a very personal one. Sarah and Farah thought of the name and the concept of HANX all on the same day, and while walking out of the restaurant they stopped by a gallery on the Kings Road. They saw this gorgeous piece of art that said, “I would walk a thousand miles for one of your smiles”. It was a really cute piece and both of them immediately loved it. One of them said “You know what? When we do this, it’s going to be in our office and it’s going to be amazing!”
This last year Sarah has been based in Manchester but lived with Farah part time. She is now finally moving to London and as a thank you gift, Sarah bought Farah the piece of art they both love so much. For Farah this was quite a nostalgic moment since it brought back the memories of the day when it all started.
A piece of advice
Farah’s piece of advice is also her biggest learning - to be patient! When they first launched HANX, Farah and Sarah thought they could launch the product within three months and in the end, it took them nearly 18 months.
Similarly, you might make mistakes along the way but that’s not a bad thing - Farah is convinced that there is always a reason mistakes happen and that you learn from them. You have to get through that process to end up where you are.