Sarah Belzer of Coconu: Five Things You Need To Know To Succeed In The Modern Beauty Industry
An Interview With Jilea Hemmings
See your challenges as opportunities. One of the biggest challenges we face at Coconu is that we are a fully organic, all-natural product, which means it doesn’t have a “forever” shelf life like some products that contain harmful preservatives. That means you better get busy and use it! We hate the notion of our customers having the expired product on their hands, so we’ve embraced a campaign around scheduling time for intimacy. It helps you stay close to your partner and assures that your Coconu will never go bad!
As a part of our series about “Five Things You Need To Know To Succeed In The Modern Beauty Industry”, I had the pleasure of interviewing Sarah Belzer. She joined the Coconu team to help grow the company and expand its line of organic coconut personal care products. Sarah is committed to health and happiness, starting with herself, her husband, and their three sons. But her sphere of influence extends beyond home and office to local political and social organizations focused on the environment and women’s health issues. Sarah brings a wealth of sales and marketing experience to Coconu as well as a personal vision of empowering women.
Thank you so much for doing this with us! Before we dive in, our readers would love to learn a bit more about you. Can you tell us a story about what brought you to this specific career path?
I always thought I would be a “career woman” — I graduated in political science from the University of Utah. I spent a few years in the Bay Area in medical device sales, but when my sons were born, I realized I needed to focus on my family for a while. Those human connections are what makes us happiest as humans — and time with small children is short. Ironically, recognizing how important it is for parents to prioritize connection, intimacy, and pleasure led me to work outside the home! Now that my sons are older, I have loved having more time to focus on a business that not only allows me to develop my interests but empowers all women to be more confident in their relationships. Coconu is an excellent fit for me — it combines all my passions for health and happiness, uplifting women, and doing good.
Can you share the most interesting story that happened to you since you began your career?
The most interesting thing that has happened to me since working in personal care is the impact it has had on my three teenage sons. I kind of laugh at the fact that I’m in the lube business. My three sons don’t always find it so funny, but having this business has opened up conversations around sexuality and sexual health with my kids, which is not the most comfortable topic to discuss. When they were younger, the subject of sex was mostly focused on science, and now that they are older and have a chance to be a part of this family business, the topics have expanded to consent, pleasure, and mutual respect.
Are you able to identify a “tipping point” in your career when you started to see success? Did you start doing anything different? Are there takeaways or lessons that others can learn from that?
As the first USDA certified organic lubricant on the market, we’ve only seen an increase in our success. We’ve experienced steady growth each year and have been able to add team members, awards and notable press mentions to our portfolio as well as expand on our product offerings. Since our launch, we haven’t changed our approach. We continue to take interest in listening to feedback from our customers and providing what they need. A prime example of this is our Coconu Singles. Our customers wanted something that was easy and perfect for on-the-go so we created single-use packets of lubricant.
None of us can achieve success without some help along the way. Is there a particular person to whom you are grateful who helped get you to where you are? Can you share a story about that?
My husband has been incredibly supportive throughout our 22 years of marriage (and counting!). I spent several years focused on our family before transitioning back into the corporate world with Coconu. In addition to supporting the move, his business experience has been beneficial as I look to bounce ideas or approaches off him or want another set of eyes on a problem. His years in leadership roles for Fortune 500 companies gives me a resource to gain perspective on opportunities and challenges.
Ok super. Let’s now shift to the main part of our discussion. The global beauty industry today has grown to more than a half a trillion dollar business. Can you tell us about the innovations that you are bringing to the industry? How do you think that will help people?
With Coconu, we wanted to bring innovative and sustainable materials to the sexual wellness category including hemp seed oil in 2021; as well as expand on our product line with additional natural (and effective) sexual wellness items that are not typically seen in this space.
Can you share 3 things that most excite you about the modern beauty industry?
The greatest thing about the modern beauty industry is that things are constantly evolving and the focus of consumers has shifted to a need of being informed. Three things that excite me about the modern beauty industry are:
- The ability to provide access to sexual wellness products to the masses that are not only healthy, but are also good for you.
- Making sexual wellness products a household staple like toothpaste or deodorant
- The opportunity allotted other brands to make a way for natural lubricant products
Can you share 3 things that most concern you about the industry? If you could implement 3 ways to improve the industry, what would you suggest?
- Ingredients, ingredients, ingredients. I always say if you wouldn’t eat them, don’t put them in you.
- The lack of transparency of what products contain. Full transparency of what’s in products would allow consumers to make an educated choice on what is being placed in or on the body. As we are all different, our reactions to certain ingredients vary. Knowing what a product contains before it is used, could prevent an allergic reaction or internal harm.
- The stigma around the wellness industry is something that limits certain conversations from being had around healthy sexual relationships. It’s a topic that is still seen as taboo but knowledge of healthy, intimate relationships is an important part of daily life and benefits overall health. Coconu would love to be a part of changing the narrative and allowing for open conversations around the topic.
You are an expert about beauty. Can you share a few ideas that anyone can use “to feel beautiful”?
Feeling beautiful is up to you. It is essential to meet your own needs in all areas of your life and take personal responsibility for your happiness. A better you is about accepting who you are and becoming the best version of your unique self: more confident, connected to those you love, and more capable of experiencing pleasure. Feeling better makes it possible to extend yourself in the direction of your goals and those you love. It’s an idea that drives us as individuals.
Here is the main question for our discussion. Based on your experience and success, Can you please share “Five Things You Need To Know To Succeed In The Modern Beauty Industry”. Please share a story or an example, for each.
- Use clean ingredients that are body-safe. All of our ingredients are 100% natural, hypoallergenic, and 100% edible. We use plant-based, non-GMO ingredients, which are non-toxic and USDA certified organic, so you don’t have to stress about what you are using. As I’ve mentioned before , if you wouldn’t eat it, I wouldn’t put it in your body.
- Focus on sustainability. Out of respect for our environment, we use plant-based, non-GMO ingredients, which are USDA certified organic whenever possible. This sustainable approach extends to how our products are manufactured and packaged as well. Coconu uses plastic-free product packaging made in the US with sustainable sugarcane materials.
- See your challenges as opportunities. One of the biggest challenges we face at Coconu is that we are a fully organic, all-natural product, which means it doesn’t have a “forever” shelf life like some products that contain harmful preservatives. That means you better get busy and use it! We hate the notion of our customers having the expired product on their hands, so we’ve embraced a campaign around scheduling time for intimacy. It helps you stay close to your partner and assures that your Coconu will never go bad!
- Get to know your customer. I read a book that changed my business, and it wasn’t about business or marketing. It was about the female experience of sex! The book “Come as You Are: The Surprising New Science That Will Transform Your Sex Life” by Emily Nagoski helped me understand the nature and challenges to feminine sexuality. Even though I am a woman with my own experience, understanding the science behind it and the variety of experiences was a game-changer for focusing on my customer and aligning my company’s mission. The book informed our goal to empower women and make it easier for them to be self-directed in their intimate relationships. Coconu sells all-natural, safe, and effective personal lubricants, but our business is really about helping women increase their confidence and capacity for connection, intimacy, and pleasure.
- Serve your community. We have currently elected to give back a portion of all profits to support the Ovarian Cancer Research Alliance. Ovarian cancer is a “silent killer” with no early detection screening. It ranks fifth in cancer deaths for women, is the deadliest of the reproductive cancers, and disproportionately affects Black women. I know the impact of this disease firsthand as it took my mother’s life when she was just 58, only one year after diagnosis, and despite adequate access to healthcare and employment in a women’s healthcare field. I love that we can honor her memory by supporting companies that are dedicated to women’s health.
You are a person of great influence. If you could inspire a movement that would bring the most amount of good to the most amount of people, what would that be? You never know what your idea can trigger. :-)
I would love to inspire a movement to slow down. It is essential to block out white space in your calendar. Empty blocks where you can be non-committal. Often, we want to fill every space in our calendar, and when we find ourselves with nothing to do, we try and busy ourselves or reach for our phone or some other distraction. Slowing down and taking a walk or reading a book, or having a conversation with a friend can feel like a luxury, but we can have our best ideas and be most creative in moments of quiet time. Always being busy can leave you exhausted from all of the activity, and you end up having nothing left to give to your partner or family and those you care about. Take time to recharge.
Can you please give us your favorite “Life Lesson Quote”? Can you share how that was relevant to you in your life?
“Everything you want is on the other side of fear.” — Jack Canfield.
When you’re willing to feel any emotion, there is nothing you can’t accomplish. We don’t do the things we want to be doing in our lives because we aren’t willing to feel something. Perhaps it’s fear, rejection, failure or fatigue. We go out of our way to avoid these feelings and it keeps us playing small. If you were willing to feel some of these negative emotions, if it’s the price of achieving what you want in your life, then there is nothing that you can’t do.
Thank you so much for this. This was very inspirational, and we wish you only continued success!
About the Interviewer: Jilea Hemmings is a staunch believer in the power of entrepreneurship. A successful career revamping Fortune 500 companies was not enough for her entrepreneurial spirit, so Jilea began focusing her passion in startups. She has successfully built 6 startups to date. Her passion for entrepreneurship continues to ﬂourish with the development of Stretchy Hair Care, focusing on relieving the pain associated with detangling and styling natural black hair. For far too long, people with tender heads have suffered in pain. Until now.