Combe Inc., a 70-year-old company best known for making Vagisil, now owns a majority stake in Sustain, a hip eco-friendly, women-oriented sexual health startup launched in 2013.
Over the last five years, Sustain has grown rapidly. Its non-toxic condoms, lubricants, post-sex wipes, and menstrual products are now widely available at retail stores including Whole Foods, and Bed Bath & Beyond. And the company–founded by Meika Hollender and her father, Jeffrey, who previously cofounded Seventh Generation–has been at the forefront of breaking taboos when it comes to women’s sexuality, including the idea of a woman buying a condom.
The terms of the deal have not been made public, but in an interview with Inc., Hollender explains that Combe Inc. has the resources to help Sustain invest more heavily in R&D, and grow internationally. Sustain, with its 12 employees, will continue to operate independently of Combe Inc., which has about 500 workers.
Last month, Fast Company reported that Proctor & Gamble had acquired Walker & Company, a personal care startup that caters to the needs of people of color. It also echoes Seventh Generation’s acquisition by Unilever. In some ways, these acquisitions make sense because they allow scrappy young brands to scale. But there’s also the risk that the brand will lose some of its DNA as it is absorbed by a larger company that has its own vision and objectives.
For now, we’ll have to wait to see how the Combe deal impacts Sustain. I personally hope Sustain continues to push its agenda of normalizing conversations about female sexuality and holds on to its cheeky voice.