working from passion, tackling taboos

From Jill Angelo, CEO of genneve

It can be a conversation-stopper: “I’m CEO of a company that plans to make vaginal dryness a thing of the past. And what do you do?”

Of course that’s not all genneve is about, but it makes for a hell of an elevator pitch.

Just over a year ago, I was a marketing executive at Microsoft. It was a fantastic job, working with super smart people, helping users discover products that genuinely made their lives easier and more productive, and leading an incredible corporate life. I’d always been in tech, first at an ERP-software company, then venturing to Microsoft via acquisition over 15 years ago. I traveled the world. I launched consumer and enterprise products. I worked with some of the most incredible leaders and pioneers in the tech industry.

But I knew there was something else I was meant to do.

I like tech a lot, but I’ve always been a passionate advocate for women, and not just because I am one! Women are smart, strong, ambitious, and resilient, but often we’re held back from being our best selves. I’m a student of this predicament, so why not figure out a better way?

In my heart of hearts, I want to help women claim their power and place — but that can be hard to do when you don’t even feel comfortable in your own skin. That’s what motivated me to start genneve.

How did I get from high tech to vaginal health?

Not surprisingly, I get this question a lot. “Why leave an incredible job at Microsoft to launch a start-up dealing with [whispers] vaginal dryness???

I’d been with Microsoft for more than 15 years when a mutual friend introduced me to Jacqui Brandwynne. Jacqui was the driving force behind building the Neutrogena brand, and she had a line of products for women’s hormonal health. Jacqui wanted someone to take on the business, and I saw an opportunity to make a real difference in women’s lives. I made the decision and, with the support of friends and family, I made the leap.

I knew I wanted to get Jacqui’s products into the hands of more women, because 1 in 3 women suffer from poor vaginal health — namely, vaginal dryness.

I decided a brand refresh was in order, products and packages that reflect women’s new openness about the changes their bodies go through. With the help of a few brand-savvy friends, we decided that genneve would represent the woman we wanted to serve: feminine, classy, confident, and non-apologetic. She can put a tube of genneve Intimate Moisture next to her bed or in her shower, no embarrassment or explanation needed.

But healthy products in new packaging wasn’t enough. I asked a bunch of questions of my friends, I surveyed thousands of women, and I came to understand that there’s too much taboo and not enough education, support, and conversation around women’s hormonal health. Until that changes, too many women will still struggle unnecessarily, feeling silenced and alone.

We needed a media platform for women (and men!) to share stories, find information, and have an open conversation about the journey every woman goes through in her lifetime. It wasn’t going to be another academic, hard-to-understand health website, but a platform that carries a real, honest and open voice. As such, the g-spot was born to bring this taboo topic out of the shadows.

My own journey

At 42, my hormonal journey has been relatively easy so far. I’m in the perimenopausal phase of life, but I haven’t experienced the kinds of symptoms women talk about…yet. I don’t have biological children, so I’m learning like crazy from women who are moms about what their bodies go through during and after pregnancy and while breastfeeding.

Why get involved if hormonal change hasn’t affected me (yet)?

I wanted to get involved because our approach to women’s hormonal changes is, well, disastrous. Not always, but let’s face it: Women endure a lot, and as a society, we rarely even acknowledge the struggles, much less provide support for the women dealing with them. We need to change that.

Periods, breastfeeding, menopause…these are natural things, yet women are taught to be embarrassed and secretive about them. Having healthy, happy vaginas is what we need to be talking about! Going through hormonal changes would be so much easier if we met them with empathy, laughter, open minds, and listening ears. And for those women who experience hormonal change for other reasons — cancer treatments, hysterectomies, prescription medicines, etc. — a community of support and information can be critical.

I’m building a company that’s approachable, trustworthy, and trusted. I try to bring all these traits to every conversation I have with women, and it works. We share, we laugh, we shake our fists, and then we put our heads down and get to work.

“You’re taking on too much.”

“Building a new brand with new products to come AND creating a media platform? You’re taking on too much!” — well-intentioned advisors.

I disagree. The more I listen to women, the more I hear how ready we are to face these issues chins-up and head-on. Women are eager to share their stories, get best tips on handling symptoms, turn their workplaces into safe spaces for all women, educate others, and have healthy, happy bodies!

Is it a lot of work? You bet. But I’ve never done more important work. And I’m not doing it alone. I’m building a team and network of experts, advocates, scientists, educators, storytellers, and frankly, saints, who are willing to share their experiences and expertise for the better of all.

Who do I want to reach?

I’m putting out my call right now: I’m calling all women who are fired up about feeling incredible in their bodies, women who want open dialogue, healthy, fabulous relationships, and great sex. No matter where you are in your hormonal journey, there’s a place for you in the genneve community. Also, calling all men who have women they love in their lives. We’ve saved seats for you too.

Why genneve and no one else?

Yes, our products are tried, tested, and trusted, and you can use them with confidence, but genneve is about more than lubricants and moisturizers. It’s about comfort. It’s about confidence. It’s about enjoying your sexuality. It’s about all the wonderful things that can happen when you take back control of your body and you’re not ashamed to make that happen.

The very best part of my job is hearing your stories. Please send me a personal email at jill@genneve.com.

We’re building something special here. I hope you’ll join us.

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This article was originally published on theg-spot.