Sarah Welsh is the co-founder of HANX, a company on a mission to smash stigmas around sexual health and championin intimate wellness.
1) To kick things off, could you tell us a little about your career background and current role?
My background is in obstetrics and gynaecology, and I’ve always had a special interest in sexual health, so I pursued a sexual and reproductive health diploma and spent time working in NHS sexual health clinics in London.
It was eye opening, fast paced and totally absorbing – I loved it. It actually became the building blocks for starting HANX, which I co-founded with my longtime friend, Farah Kabir. After, we realised there was no condom brand that addressed us as consumers.
There was a real gap in the market for contraception that was designed for people with a vagina. Many of the leading brands use spermicides, numbing agents and glycerin, which negatively impact the female body and cause yeast infections.
Furthermore, there was a lack of innovation to address sustainability, and the tone of voice felt either very medical or ‘laddy’. We believe it’s time the world stopped being weird about our sex lives, so we spent two years working on the brand concept, research and development, and launched our very first product; ultra-thin, vegan-certified biodegradable condoms in 2017.
In the years since, we launched a super gentle lubricant that matches vaginal pH, introduced a large size condom, plus a pioneering line of same-day-dispatch intimate health treatments and the contraceptive pill, in line with consumer demand.
Sexual health is typically a taboo topic, and we are changing that via an ever-growing community on our social channels, and free forum, which is a digital safe space for peers to discuss anything from STIs to body acne. We’re now available in Sainsbury’s, Boots, Superdrug and via leading independent retailers, which makes me very proud!
2) What does a day in your life look like for you? Can you take us through a recent workday?
As you can probably imagine, running a sexual wellness is very varied! I’m a morning person and tend to get up around 6am to exercise or crack through emails before everyone else wakes.
As it’s the beginning of the year and we have recently closed an investment round, the majority of my day consists of joining my co-founder Farah to review the company strategy. It’s an exciting time for HANX, that makes our evolution and growth – and we have big plans in line with our purpose: the unapologetic pursuit of sexual and intimate wellness for all women.
The rest of my day can cover anything from product innovation and development to operations, including liaising with our fulfilment team, setting up new line forms with retailers, and arranging shipments from our manufacturer.
On the marketing side, I’m often asked to contribute insights to media around trending topics or features that require medically backed expertise. Alongside my team, evaluate our latest social activity, analyse DTC and retailer promos, and check in on upcoming campaigns.
We may be a small team (for now!) internally, but a portion of my time is spent liaising with our performance marketing and SEO agencies, and Board of Directors.
My brain doesn’t work late, so it tends to be dinner, TV time with my husband and cat, and an early night during the week.
3) Does your current role allow for flexible or remote working? If so, how does that fit into your life and routine?
HANX has been working flexibly since the pandemic started and whilst we’re planning on heading back to the office on a part-time basis, we’ll continue to have an element of WFH.
We’re a tight-knit, sociable team and regular face time is important not just for our culture but ensuring buy-in on major projects and smooth operations, too. However, we also see working from home as being great for deep work and productivity.
We recognise, especially in a predominantly female business, that our team has responsibilities and needs outside of their working life.
Consequently, to help them be able to do their best work, we’ve worked hard to ensure they feel empowered to work flexibly to be able to take care of important stuff: anything from cervical screenings to supporting dependents.
4) What does work-life balance mean to you and how do you work to achieve that goal?
My experience as a doctor taught me that balance is dynamic, and there’s a constant need to adapt.
As work and life take different turns, priorities and goals change, and so does the balance. I believe it’s important to be both disciplined, but also humble about what balance can feasibly achieve.
What’s central to achieving my balance may not be the same as those around me, and I need to remind myself that I can’t be successful at everything. For me, looking after myself and being healthy (physically, psychologically, and socially), allows me to handle the balancing act much more successfully.
5) In the past 12 months, have you started or stopped any routines or habits to change your life?
I recently started spinning with my sister, as part of training for a triathlon, and love it!! 1Rebel ride classes have become an addiction and something I don’t plan on stopping any time soon. I love starting the day with some kind of exercise, whether spinning or running, as I feel it clears my head and sets me up well for the day ahead.
6) Do you have any favourite books, podcasts or newsletters that you’d like to recommend?
I often tune into the Diary of a CEO podcast. I’ve signed up to far too many newsletters, but FemTech Insider’s weekly email digests the latest from the world of women’s health innovation.
Charlie Oscar’s Tea Break is an inspiring update on amazing work from breakout brands and on the marketing side of things, I always learn something/find something I want to try out for HANX in the DTC Newsletter.
7) Are there any products, gadgets or apps that you can’t live without?
I am not the most gadgety person, but I am glued to my phone or laptop, socially and professionally! Naturally, I’m a sucker for Instagram and love discovering new brands and going down a rabbit hole of Reels.
As the world reopens, I’m excited to get back on Ruuby for beauty treatments and to pick stunning rental outfits from By Rotation for going out with friends, and repping HANX at industry events. Right now, my Glossier Balm Dotcom is at my desk keeping my lips hydrated.
8) Do you have any last thoughts on work, life or balance that you’d like to share with our readers?
Be honest about your work life balance – and whether it’s where you want it to be.
Burnout in the start-up sector is so common, and sometimes there’s real pressure to keep up with everyone else’s (real or perceived) stamina e.g. turning up at every event, working into the night and straight back on it at dawn, jettisoning personal time to plough more energy into that latest report, site build or product launch.
We should feel unafraid to say when we’re feeling overstretched, or take time out to workout, see the people we care about or even just read a book of an evening without feeling guilty, or putting on a ‘hustle harder’ front. Building a business definitely requires dedication – and this can be achieved without sacrificing your health and happiness.
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