A sexy start-up

Eva Goicochea is half of the duo behind Maude, a new online sex-product company

PHOTO by nicole franzen

Eva Goicochea is half of the duo behind Maude, a new online sex product company. Visit www.getmaude.com.

When folks hear about Eva Goicochea’s newest start-up, they may be tempted to call it a Grace and Frankie-style business for Gen X and millennials. Like the characters in the Netflix series, Goicochea is one-half of a female-run sex product company with inclusivity (and the oft-neglected female orgasm) in mind. But such a comparison would flatten the philosophy behind Maude, which offers customizable kits of lube, condoms and a vibrator to the masses. Goicochea, who worked as a legislative aide in Sacramento before heading to LA and now, New York, talks about her business and her journey as an entrepreneur.

How did you and your business partner Dina Epstein meet?

We actually met at this thing called CAMP, which is this entrepreneurial camp up in Big Bear outside of LA. It’s this fair with all of these independent designers and makers. I was working at [ethics-forward clothing retailer] Everlane at the time and Dina had her own bag line, so we had no idea we’d be business partners.

Why were you inspired to go into sex products?

I actually fell into being a legislative aide in the health care world—I worked for the California Medical Association [in Sacramento]. I did that for two years and then moved to LA with a similar job and realized I actually really loved brands and marketing. I was kicking around this idea with people and they didn’t want to pursue it, but I did. I reached out to Dina. She is an industrial designer who actually designed sex products and so she knew this space.

The Maude website cites problems with the “outdated, over-assorted and gendered approach” to products. What examples stand out to you?

Yeah, so if you go into a drug store, as an example Trojan … has something like 60 to 70 condom types and they’re not really different. Sometimes they’ll change the box color or they’ll add ribbed or whatever, but it’s just confusing.

And more than that, they sell this very particular type of man, and what we would hear from men was like, “That’s not how I am.” So not only are women not being spoken to at all, or anyone of any other gender or in the LGBTQ community, but men were like, this is so outdated. So that’s our approach in terms of being inclusive: People have sex and people should have products for sex and they should be spoken to like people.

What’s that type of man these brands are selling to?

They’re typically selling these products to a college-aged male. And it’s all about masculinity and power, and these tropes that are so outdated. So what we basically said is if you’re selling to men under 25, you basically leave 85 million people, adults, on the table. Some of the ads we can pull from these brands were so offensive. We didn’t plan on launching in the era of #MeToo, but when you look at the sexual wellness industry both on the toy side and on the condom side it’s really ground zero for this type of language and behavior.

The other thing is, when you have a company telling you what sex should look like, it can often then lead to shame or feelings of guilt or inadequacy, or just discomfort. We basically want to create great products that make your life better but we do not tell you what your sex life should look like.

Is that why your offerings are so simple?

By not really offering a toy, we would basically say we’re neglecting the female orgasm and there is an orgasm gap, which is basically to say people pay attention to men’s pleasure not women’s. So that’s why we thought it was important to include a vibrator. And then, lubricant is something that you should use throughout your sex life, and often is needed in certain periods of your life. And then condoms, if we’re a sexual wellness company, condoms are the only thing that prevents pregnancy and STDs. So, we just looked at these things as really essential products.

You’re two women making, among other things, a sex toy. Anyone make the Grace and Frankie comparison?

[Laughs] Yes, they have. The biggest challenge of fundraising and of being female founders in this space is [people] automatically think that you’re creating a brand for women only. Which is so frustrating, in and of itself, that they automatically assume it. So, we would always have to go into these conversations when we were raising capital saying, “We understand we’re women, but this is a brand for all people.”

What’s the best piece of feedback you’ve gotten on your products?

I think that there are two pieces of feedback that have been really incredible. One was a woman who was older and divorced who said that she hadn’t been able to think about her own sex life because she felt like there was no company that catered to her. And she finally was able to be comfortable enough to think about it. The other was from somebody who survived sexual trauma who said that Maude gave them a place to go to start thinking about sex in a positive way again. That was incredibly powerful and absolutely why we do this.