Natalie Waltz’s journey to founding her sexual wellness brand, Tabu, started with an awkward text to her mom. “I was like, ‘Do you or your friends ever experience pain or discomfort during sex?” she says.
It was a message she never expected to send, but the question lingered in Waltz’s mind while working for TCG—a private equity firm attached to the likes of Headspace, Hello Sunshine, and Zola. She noticed the surge in consumer products serving perimenopausal and menopausal women and was surprised by the confluence of factors that made it a viable category. “I was almost 30, and I had never heard a lot of this,” says Waltz. “I instinctively texted my mom.”
Studies, like the ones Waltz cites, are easy enough to find: One notes menopausal “symptoms also negatively impact sexual satisfaction in over half of patients and strain personal relationships.” Others measure the layered complexities of a post-menopausal sex life, citing things like a partner’s death, familial responsibilities, and an unexplained loss of interest. In all, most of these studies relay that the effects of menopause can create emotional and physical barriers to sex for a majority of women.
As for that text: Waltz’s mother laughed and then candidly told her daughter how menopause negatively impacted her relationship with Waltz’s stepfather. “It was the first sex talk I had with my Muslim Middle Eastern mother,” Waltz says. “It was meaningful what was going on. It was affecting her confidence and self-worth.” After speaking with friends, family, and medical professionals about the transitional period around menopause, Waltz launched Tabu in January 2020. When doctors told her it was common for them to recommend that menopausal women use a vibrator with lubricant as part of their wellness routine, Waltz decided product development was the way to go. “They compared [a vibrator] to glasses,” she says. “They’d say, ‘When my eyesight started going, I got readers. I didn’t just stop reading.'”
Tabu arrives alongside the new frontier of sexual wellness tech designed and branded to “close the pleasure gap” and tout other sexual liberation and equity goals. For many brands, it’s an excellent place to be, but Waltz felt that messaging wasn’t resonating with her target customers. “It’s beautiful work, but when you’re dealing with sexual atrophy or lack of body confidence, you’re not in a place to accept that marketing,” she says.
Tabu’s products are elegantly and simply designed. Its flagship offering, The Kit, is a $135 minimalist vibrator-and-lubricant duo. The discreet vibrator is ergonomically designed with an older clientele in mind: it has a heating mode to stimulate blood flow and only three speeds to simplify use. Its sleek design is modeled after a vaginal dilator, and it weighs less than one pound. Tabu’s water-based lubricant comes in a glass dropper bottle to mimic skin serums its customers may already be familiar with. It contains organic aloe and fatty acids, hyaluronic acid, and plant-based ingredients with soothing and moisturizing properties. Right now, only the $34 Organic Lubricant can be purchased as a standalone item, but Waltz hints at two future products this year, targeting postpartum consumers.Waltz set out to fundraise in April 2020 but quickly found investors who told her that older women and sex is too niche or advised her to take Tabu the content-to-commerce route. In response, Waltz bootstrapped $70,000 from family and friends. Her fiancé built the startup’s website, and Waltz designed the branding. The Kit officially debuted in October 2020, selling out of a first round of products by Mother’s Day. By October 2021, Waltz had completed $500,000 seed led by Human Ventures, and received Goop’s seal of approval, landing a spot on the company’s e-commerce platform and in gift bags at the In Goop Health Summit.
While Waltz remains product-first, the company continues to expand its wellness-education arm. Waltz and her medical advisors host virtual “office hours” via Zoom, in which women can sign up and ask questions anonymously. The sessions are secure, private, and capped at 100 attendees. “We hit [capacity] within 24 hours of every meeting,” Waltz says. “Women don’t need to have something new to ask to attend, but there’s always value in learning from other questions.”
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