When Rebecca Alvarez Story first started Bloomi, a sexual wellness marketplace, she understood that the gap she was trying to fill was one women had traditionally been encouraged to not speak about openly.
Her mission was to solve for that exact problem.
“By normalizing conversations around sex and wellness I hope other women, especially other women of color like myself, can feel empowered to embrace their sexuality and make informed decisions for their bodies,” she’d previously shared with Forbes. “It’s important that we talk about sex, because it’s a big part of our overall physical and emotional well-being.”
Now, as Bloomi has entered a round of crowdfunding and updated its strategy to meet the moment, Story has an even clearer view of how mission and product will intertwine.
“When COVID hit, I began to lead free workshops covering a variety of intimacy and sexual wellness topics,” shares Story. “This concept took off – so we are now building out a bundle that combines access to our products and our catalog of (virtual) Bloomi Sessions for a monthly cost, similar to what you see other leading larger companies, like Apple doing.”
During Bloomi’s initial round of funding, Story had focused on bringing in angel investors, but quickly realized that propelling the company through its growth would require more.
“We secured amazing investors including Fab Ventures, Katherine Castro, Geraldine LeMeur, and Pipeline Angels, but not enough for what we needed to accelerate our growth,” notes Story. “When the conversation of raising from the community came up via crowdfunding, we thought it was a no brainer. Being the first sextech/femtech company on the crowdfunding platform Republic is powerful and points to investment trends of what their community is looking for.”
Below Story shares three lessons learned as a Latina founder raising capital for a sex-tech company.
Learn to read the room
Bloomi’s premise and the cultural context it exists in means that there is a taboo nature to it, especially in some rooms. Story notes that one of her biggest advantages has been learning how to read the room and how to best present the brand’s mission.
“Sexual wellness is complicated and sex is still a taboo topic in our society, so being able to ‘read the room’ and adapt the pitch based on comfort levels was imperative,” shares Story. “I’ve had to not only show I’m expert in market trends and know all my numbers, but also be able to read the room and pitch to investors based on their knowledge and comfort.”
Question your potential investors as much as they question you
“I learned early on that not everyone who wants to invest with a big check will be aligned with our company values,” notes Story. “We are pro-inclusivity, pro-choice, pro-sex positivity. Figure out what values you cannot compromise on and create a questionnaire for your investors. We ask all major investors to fill one out and ask candid, direct questions about how they could support us, confirm our values were aligned and other questions we thought were helpful before saying ‘yes’ to their yes.”
Give yourself permission for each round to be different
During her first round of investments, Story was a solo-founder, but since then she’s brought on a co-founder who has helped her even out the founding team in ways that had been lacking previously.
“When I raised the first time, I was a solo founder and it was exhausting,” notes Story. “This time, I have been lucky to have Julie Leclercq, CBDO and co-founder on the team who has been incredibly helpful throughout our raise. Our network reach and capacity is so much better as a pair so I highly recommend having a co-founder on your team and preferably raising with you.”
Story adds that when it comes to your pitch deck, you should aim to make it what you need in that moment:
“The goal is to make a clear, well-thought out deck that creates FOMO and can speak for itself if you are not in the room. I’d recommend you create 2 versions: an intro deck and a longer deck. Highlight your strongest asset first: team experience, founder background or traction. As a finishing touch, we worked with a graphic designer to ensure it was visually appealing and on brand.”