The Future-Forward Company Called "L"

The TEDActive team recently brought several of us to together in Palm Springs for the purpose of co-creation. A challenging and inspiring collaboration experience took place in very real form. We focused on clear, honed, global macro concerns, and were tasked with defining and evolving micro human actions with enormous traction. This is something we are all trying to grasp and move forward with. We are all (the entire pyramid) creating solutions to address the unaddressed and locate meaningful spaces for opportunity via both grassroots inventiveness and company innovation. TEDActive moved us forward a good deal with new ways of interacting and sourcing solutions for more positive outcomes.

As you would expect, I met the most amazing young change-makers and future business drivers. We talked, we pushed, and we played. One such brilliant young visionary has taken her photography work to a new level; a give-back business model extraordinaire. New business models built on passion are top-of-mind; here is one that addresses taboos in very clear and meaningful ways, with both play and serious purpose.

Talia Frenkel is a photographer who created a future-forward company from her work in SE Asia, the Middle East and Africa. "L" is a condom company with a cause; to support women globally by focusing on their health, wellness, and sexual empowerment. Buy one of L's sustainable and sexually comfortable condoms, and one goes immediately to AIDS affected areas and the women living in these areas, promoting and sharing 'the love' around the globe. Free will and healthy choice are good things to support, all in all.

While at TEDActive Talia photographed several women, including the woman who introduced us: Jerri Chou of NYC's socially innovative The Feast Conference. Talia photographed us within the context of a content campaign in support of her company concept. Each of us was asked three questions about the meaning of "L" in our lives. In turn, I asked Talia three questions about her vision for "L." Her three-question campaign about Love can be found here. Here we interview her in turn.

Jody Turner: Hello Talia, it was a pleasure to meet you at TEDActive Palm Springs and to participate in your "L" Word Campaign. How did you come up with and get into the original L project?"

Talia Frenkel: L was inspired by my experiences photographing the effects of HIV/AIDS on women and girls. At the time, I had been working as a photojournalist documenting humanitarian crises in South East Asia, the Middle East, and Africa, and had worked extensively as a photographer for the Red Cross. What struck me the most, and what was ultimately the driving force in creating L, was that unlike other disasters I've photographed, this crisis is preventable.

The numbers surrounding the AIDS epidemic are staggering; more human life has been lost to AIDS than all the wars, famines, floods, and deadly diseases on the African continent combined. The most effective technology in preventing the sexual transmission of HIV is something we in the U.S. find in any convenience store: condoms. A significant part of the problem is that 9 out of 10 countries in Africa go through regular condom stock-outs that commonly last over two months. The tool of prevention isn't accessible. Antiviral treatment is a breakthrough in saving lives, but currently for every person who is treated in Africa at least two become infected. We can't continue at this rate, even for the simple reason that it's not smart economics. I needed to do something about this, and have dedicated myself to the making of L ever since. For every condom purchased, one is distributed in a developing country. We work closely with non-profit partners to take a holistic and gender sensitive approach to HIV/AIDS prevention. Central to our mission is building capacity and long-term distribution channels. For example, we've been developing a program where we work with female-run social enterprise programs to provide condoms to women who will in turn sell them to create livelihoods. This not only makes condoms more accessible, it works towards the goal of creating a culture of buying condoms.

L was also motivated by the desire for a better condom. The condom market has seen little innovation at a time when consumers are rightly demanding more from their product offerings than ever. I believe that many consumers are looking for the most natural, pleasurable way to practice safe sex. We've created a condom that we believe aligns with the values of the modern consumer—sexually, socially and environmentally. By giving people the best condom choice on the market, we're giving our company the best opportunity for changing lives."

What do you hope to achieve?

Our goal is to empower women globally by making safe sex a human right for all. I know that when we look at the scale of the epidemic—over 5,000 HIV transmissions and 4,000 AIDS deaths in Africa a day—the numbers can be overwhelming. One for one may seem small at first—but consider this: if just 1 out of 20 people in the U.S. who are currently buying condoms choose L, we can serve the condom needs of the three countries with the highest prevalence rate in Africa. We hope to expand L. to give every consumer the choice to be part of a movement that can make this massive impact. By doing so, we can stop the cycle of transmission and improve the quality of life for women everywhere.

How can people help you with the project?

"Dangerous question—we'll take all the help we can get. Contact us if you would like to become involved. Share lovebeginswithL.com with your friends and family. Pre-order a pack to support our cause. Start a campus club or intern with us by applying on our site. Ask your local retailer if they might be interested in carrying L condoms to support the 1 for 1 cause.

We thank you very much Talia, we are behind your campaign 100%. We also want to thank you for including us in your L campaign; "31 Women Who Believe You Can Change The World"—amazing women!

From the campaign: "What is your L word?" Interviewing Jody Turner

Talia Frenkel: What word that begins with 'L" is most meaningful to you and why?

Jody Turner: "LIKE" ... it can lead to love and yet unlike love you might feel free to share it more often. Being able to LIKE something or not like something is about growing into preferences, discernment and boundary setting — it grows us. And yet we are careful about who we say we love; "I like you" can be said around the world at any time, any place and on any day. I find great pleasure in telling people what I like about them ... until I feel comfortable enough to tell them what I love about them ... until I leave the item out of the story altogether and just say I love you. So the L word LIKE is a road to love for me. But so can the L word LUST if you are lucky, but that is another story for another time.

TF: How can love change the world?

Love can be empathetic, compassionate and yet also strong and forcefully RADIANT with truth. Love gives but it can also be a strong medicine for growth. Love brings dimensional meaning to the table; connection that allows us to inhabit our decisions further and take responsibility for our directions ... or ... we lose love. Lost love can destroy but it can also show us like the seasons of the earth and the seasons of our lives that this body/planet is a temporary temple for us to know ourselves within and appreciate. With gratitude for the opportunity to know self in such limited form ... Love is honoring the paths we have chosen that have led to growth. Love is about contributing wisely to each other's evolution. My life has meaning if I engage others and myself in this way, with LOVE!!! Love with a big L.

TF: Why do you love what you do?

I am able to imbue intelligence, heart, and spirit into all I do, to cast it out and to actually feel a response through the airwaves of culture in return. So cool. Each day work requires showing up with a creative and fresh mind. At times I am tired and overwhelmed but again each day I am fired up to do it all over. Free will is a frightening thing and yet it is what we are working to understand and utilize well on this planet. Practice makes perfect, this is the planet of practice and more practice! I LOVE having the space to create as best I can what I will experience next, my work as a futurist requires it and I am grateful for the chance."

For more information on Talia and her business ventures visit: lovebeginswithl.com and taliafrenkel.com/newwork.html.

A thank you goes out to our sublime article editor, the narration strategist Elizabeth Adams and to Fast Company.

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