wellness, women, products, lubricants, sexual, formula, playground, ingredients, feel, speaking, bit, fun, partner, personal, favorite, amazing, sandy, healthy, day, conversation
Megan Swan, Sandy Vukovic
Welcome back to Energetically You where we talk about optimal wellness, abundant mindset and confident decision making. I'm your host Megan Swan, a wellness coach and consultant and the founder of Megan Swan wellness and the sustainable Integrated Wellness approach. I help high performance humans thread more wellness into their lifestyle so that it becomes a way of life and not a checkmark on their to do list. I designed custom approachable wellness lifestyles because there is no one size fits all wellness. Today on the podcast. I am so excited to share my interview with Sandy Vukovic of Hello playground. Sandy's interested in wellness started at the beginning of her career working to understand the challenges that women face throughout the different stages of their lives and find solutions that allow them to feel their best femtech products like personal lubricants have lacked innovation and the use of superior ingredients that can greatly improve a woman's sexual wellness and health. Sandy is parlaying her deep product development expertise to create game changing products. For the modern day wellness minded woman. Her ultimate passion is to develop playground into the leading female sexual wellness brand because every woman deserves to feel great in her body, not Sundays, but every day. As you can see, we share a lot, and I'm so excited to share this interview with you. It is a gem. Let's dive in. Hi, Sandy, welcome to energetically you, I'm so thrilled for this conversation. I have so much respect for your work and your company. And I'm really thrilled to understand a little bit more about your story and how you got to be doing this very unique work. So let's start with how are you tell us a little bit about your day so far?
Hi, Hi, Megan. I'm so happy to be a part of this conversation today. Because we're super excited with what we're doing at playground and I'm doing really well thank you. I am based out of foggy San Francisco. And the day is going quite well. We had a little bit of rain, but it seems like it's clearing out. And yeah, yeah, that's a good damn debate for sure.
So this was one of my favorite cities. Well, let's start with going back to how you became interested in sexual wellness, or is there another place that makes more sense to start? How far back do we need to go?
Yeah, definitely. Well, allow me to introduce myself first, if I may. So I'm Sandy Vukovic. And I am the co founder and chief product officer at playground, which is a sexual wellness company with a female focus. And I think it's a great question as to how I became introduced to wellness. You know, I think I think as a whole I've always been very interested in all things wellness. I just to give you a little bit of background on my history. So I started in beauty product development a little over 20 years ago, and basically have been creating and producing products for for the beauty industry. I started my career out in New York City working for big companies such as Estee Lauder. Aveda and then moved to the Bay Area in 2006. And concluded my career in cosmetics with working for a very well known mineral makeup brand called bare essentials and really was attracted to the beauty industry and a lot of ways because I think I think developing products for the modern woman today is really a beautiful thing and a special thing and I've always been attracted to innovative formulations, emerging trends within the marketplace, researching new ingredients and really just trying to figure out how can we create the best product within the beauty industry that really helps women with with many of the things that that they have concerns around. So as I mentioned pretty much had the bulk of my of my history with cosmetics and skincare and started working in personal care across many different categories. And as I went down my my career I became on a personal level, very much concerned with wellness as a whole and just becoming more health conscious within my own life with with all the choices that I was making, whether it was the food I was eating or the exercise I was partaking in, and most To know, wellness, as well as surrounding myself with good people. And I think it's amazing how wellness has expanded throughout throughout, I would say probably these past five years really significantly. And a couple of years ago, I was at my former job, and I had been doing what I was doing for so long and creating these great products, but at the same time, started to really think about wellness as a whole, and just all the different branches that were starting to pop up. And sexual wellness was quite intriguing to me, particularly because I felt that within all of these wellness categories, there was a lot of newness, a lot of innovation that was happening around the products, but nobody was really paying attention to sexual wellness. And we all know that a good sexual relationship is so vital to our lives, and to our overall wellbeing and happiness. And with my product developer had, I started to take a look at the products that were being offered, and really started to dig deep. And notice that all the products that were currently out there were were really created by men, marketed to men, ironically, particularly personal lubricants. And, and I started to really think about like, well, like, how is it possible that sexual wellness is so important, it's so vital, but at the same time, the offerings out there, especially for women, were so lackluster. So my co founder and I, Catherine, we joined forces, we actually used to work at one of our former beauty companies, many, many years ago. And we came together a few years ago to really talk about this subject, and realize that there was a huge, huge gap in the marketplace. And there was a huge amount of women that nobody was really speaking to from from many different aspects. I speak about it from the product development perspective, but also the marketing perspective, the branding perspective, what were these products really speaking to women in a way where they felt seen, or they felt heard? Or where their needs were being addressed? I don't think so. So that that is really how how playground came to be a few years ago.
Wow. Well, I mean, I find it just so exciting. To your point, like I think that there's been a massive shift towards wellness in general. But this is really an area that is quite new and not being addressed. I would argue from that vantage point that it is a wellness issue, or potentially, well, I'm seeing it these days as a an essential aspect of optimal wellness to have this part of your relationship with yourself. And then with partners really optimize and you feeling like you you know that there's a space for open conversation that that's really inclusive of all aspects of yourself to the degree that you want it to do. And yeah, so tell us about these products, because I mean, they're just like, first of all, extremely health conscious on the one hand geared towards women specifically. And I feel like you've done an excellent job of the branding, really, really speaking to attract women into the conversation about all the things that you're that you're really trying to address.
Thank you. Thank you. Well, we're super excited about about our initial offerings, which are for personal lubricants that were formulated by women for women. And when I when I did a deep dive into what the current competitive marketplace looked like from from a formulation perspective, I started really scratching my head and really wondering how have these products existed for so many decades, and there's been no innovation around the formula. A lot of the ingredients in the formulas these days are quite outdated, unnecessary. As we all know, there has been a huge shift towards clean beauty, rightfully so because there had been such amazing innovation on bringing better, more natural, more healthier ingredients into all personal care. But it was amazing to me how nobody was doing it in sexual wellness and when you really think about this product that that was designed for a woman's body and was designed for a woman. It actually wasn't designed for us because everything that was in there or has been in the current formulations has Not necessarily been supportive to overall vulva slash vaginal health. So I wanted to take my 20 plus years in product development, and really break bridge that gap. And everything that I had learned on on skincare ingredients that were that were healthy for your skin that really helped your skin. And its health, I wanted to apply that same methodology to personal lubricants because nobody was doing it. And we worked very, very closely with with a formulator that came from the sexual wellness industry. And she was a woman and understood exactly what the needs were. And we really worked hard worked over for about like a year and a half to develop this formula. We made sure that we omitted certain ingredients that were not necessary, such as parabens which which are preservative system that is really not necessary anymore, because there's so many better, more gentler preservatives that you can put in the formula to maintain its integrity. We also ensure that there are no petrochemicals in the formula. A lot, a lot of a lot of well known brands I've been selling for, for decades have have a lot of petrochemicals in their formulas and definitely didn't didn't feel like that was necessary, especially since the vagina is one of the most absorbent parts of your body. And you really think about it, it absorbs everything that goes on top of it. So all women need to be extremely discerning and really careful about what they're using. Particularly because this, this area of the body is so sensitive. And because we have a special pH level that needs to be constantly maintained. And it's so easy for your pH to be thrown off. So your rotation sensitivity, a lot of these traditional old ingredients that were in the formulas as we know it or just not the overall microbiome of the diet. So we took out ingredients that really supported the overall health supported balance, we're not irritating, we're actually hydrating, when we spoke to a lot of women in our focus groups, vaginal dryness is is definitely one of their top concerns. So we ensure that we added in a lot of Natural Soothing extracts and botanicals to really just help and support the natural state balance and health of that area of the body.
Yeah, I love it. So instead of thinking of these products, as you know, not harming you, they're actually beneficial. You know, like, I feel like the traditional lube market is more of like, Oh, don't worry, it's not bad for you. Not at all, taking it that next level where no, this is actually going to support you. And make you know, uplevel your health in this area. So can you tell us a little bit about you know, the what, I know that you mentioned four products. So what is sort of like the differentiation of of the products and how do you recommend them to clients?
Yes, definitely. So, so our four personal lubricants are all clean. They're all formulated to the to the most strictest highest clean standards. And we have basically four lubricants that offer the same very silky, very elevated texture and performance. But we have one that is unscented, and then we have three that have subtle essences to the formula. And the reason why we did that is because there is a psychological effect to these products and how they're used and why they are used. And in addition to updating the formulas and modernizing them from an ingredient perspective, we wanted to make them fun, and we wanted women to be excited to use them. We wanted we wanted them to walk into a store and say oh my goodness, like this is actually sparking a little bit of excitement that's been lacking. So why don't why don't we infuse a little bit of fun so our unscented is love sash, which is our amazingly highly performing silky feels like Second Skin formula. But then we have the other three that are I would like to call them they're almost like like kisses of essence, like the look was the sparkling water like the look was of personal lubricants where we have very inspiring kind of fun scenarios to get you in the mood. So we have mini escape which is our coconut and sandalwood essence and that has like a nice like beachy fun vibe. It definitely has has a relaxing feel to it, we have after hours, which is a little bit more sexy. It smells like food, wood and my skin is just very, it's very warm and comforting and smelled like your favorite person's back of their neck, if you will. And then we have date night, which is a little bit more flirtatious. It smells like actually like strawberries and vanilla. When when we did our focus group, we found that that those two cents actually from men and women seem to be the most pleasing because they're, they're the most comforting and familiar. So we wanted to have an essence of those two notes as well. And I won't say all the essences as well adhere to the most strict clean guidelines. So there are a combination of natural and synthetic extracts that have been thoroughly tested for sensitivity. They're in at such a super small amount, because we didn't want them to be overpowering. We just wanted to give you a little bit of a fun spark, and and really help foster that that connection to your partner. We, when we again, we conducted a lot of focus groups. And when we spoke to so many women, they said that they didn't buy this product, even though that they felt they needed it. They didn't buy it because it wasn't aspirational. And it made them feel like something was wrong with them. And that really struck a chord with us because women should not be buying this product. Because they feel like they have to or or because their partner wants them to. It's actually a necessity in a lot of ways because it increases pleasure on so many levels. And women should feel good buying this product, they should, they should feel as excited to purchase personal lubricant, as they are with their favorite lipstick, or moisturizer or shampoo. This is an amazing product that that really everybody should be using because it heightens everything and makes everything in the bedroom or outside the bedroom better and really helps really help spark and foster that connection with your partner. So we want we wanted to really create these products that were aspirational, exciting, and and that were never really done before in a way that spoke to women in a bit more of a unique way.
Yeah, well, I love how you you kind of touched on my next question. But first of all, I just love how much fun you brought into the products and and I think it's the does a really good job of making them just really attractive and seem like an extension of all other, you know, self care products that one would need. Can you touch a little bit more? Because you do this, I think really beautifully with some really shocking statistics on your website. But what else are you doing kind of like bridge this shame gap, if you will, that women, you know, don't necessarily think it's something sexy? Or, you know, it's not necessarily there's still like stigma, I think to your point about them feeling like if they need it, there's something wrong with them, instead of it just being like an a fun addition. Arguably, a massively powerful addition to up leveling their their pleasure, their sexual wellness, their connection with themselves and their partner, you know, that can really be extrapolated out quite far. But what are you doing to help bring women into the conversation and make them feel like this? There's no shouldn't be any shame around using these products?
Yes. Well, you know, I think education is really big here. I I think there has been such a lack of education on overall sexual wellness and how it relates to women. And and also just just with so many things, and I think a lot of women don't understand these products. They don't know, a lot of women don't know how to pleasure themselves. I mean, the list goes on and on and on. So I think what we're really doing is trying to trying to educate our consumer and anybody else that that is interested in knowing more about this subject, because it is still considered taboo. And I think a lot of women don't feel comfortable speaking about it because like the resources aren't there. It hasn't been normalized. And now it's starting to become more normalized. So we actually started our blog on our website, and it's called Sex and the psyche, and we're really trying to find great content out there for women. Thank you. Thank you. We're really trying to find some great content that really helps them connect with with sexual wellness And our products and just this overall category. So I think just speaking about it more, and just in just making it a little bit more of an approachable conversation, as opposed to like, oh my goodness, can I ask this question? I'm wondering about this. But I'm a little bit shy, I think what we're really trying to do is is, is help put the information out there so that it's available for women and just make them just a little bit more comfortable around around this subject. And I think also just, you know, creating products really that that make the category overall more approachable. I think, again, just kind of going back to the reason why why women haven't purchased this product is because it just doesn't speak to them. So really, really creating products that they they feel would would that they would be very comfortable having in their their shopping cart next to next to their body lotion, or their deodorant. And I think just just just really, really connecting all those pieces is very key.
And to be clear, like, really, this is something that is designed for women of all ages, there's not Yes, really, yes, demographics other than women?
No, definitely, we definitely have ingredients in the formula that that all women will benefit from. For future product development, we are doing a ton of research on specific demographics, and really trying to understand what might be some more niche needs within certain age groups. So more to come on that down the line. But currently we're at every, every woman of every age would would benefit from from this product. I mean, at the end of the day, it increases your chances of orgasm by like 100x. And I don't think I don't think most women know that. Because I think it's only once you try it, that we've had people test our product. And I had they've never used personal lubricant before. But they were very intrigued. And they'd been writing to us. And they're shocked as to how much more pleasure they're able to have, because of using this type of product, which is, which is just so amazing. I mean, for us. It's the reason for it's the reason why we get out of bed. It's why we do what we do, because where we're helping change women's sexual experiences and enhance their connections to one their partner, but most importantly to themselves.
Yeah, totally. So it's available through your website. Is it available anywhere else? What are you
right now right now we are selling it on our website exclusively. However, we do have big plans for next year. And we will be we consider ourselves an omni channel. So we'll be present in in many other retail outposts. But for now you can you can find our products on www dot Hello playgrounds outcome.
Hello playground. And do you ship internationally?
Not yet? Not yet. We will we wanted to start in the US first. But we will eventually start to be available on a global level.
Amazing. Is there anything? I don't know like fun tips that you usually recommend to clients when they they get their first package?
Well, and they get their first package I well, I would definitely give them the tip that don't wait for your partner. Use it on yourself first. You don't need to wait. You don't need anybody. And it is ready on demand whenever you are. So I really, really encourage women to experiment with with the product get more comfortable with it if they haven't used it before, or they've used different types of lubricants. And there there are many different types of formulas. There's oil based or silicone. Ours is a water based formula, which is a bit more user friendly, if you will, for many reasons, but I think just experimenting with the product and yeah, just don't wait, don't wait. You'll be you'll be happy that you didn't.
Amazing. And do you have an outlet if somebody has like a really specific question that they sort of feel that they can't ask anyone else in this realm? Sexual wellness wrong? Is there?
Yes. Yes, definitely. We have we have a customer service, email. So if you have any questions, you can always just email us directly and we will respond within within 24 hours or so. And we've actually been getting some really so Really interesting inquiries. But and it's so great. And we encourage everybody to do that. If there are questions or you're unsure about something, please email us, because that helps us understand where you're coming from and helps us understand your concerns. And it helps us bring better products to you. So if there are any, any sort of outstanding questions, whatever, please feel free to reach out to us whenever you'd like.
Amazing. Well, I know for me kind of focusing more on sexual wellness this past 18 months for me personally, has really opened my eyes to how I will honestly come to a point because back to education, I was just never presented certain narratives about how powerful one's relationship sexually with themselves or partner can truly be beyond I mean, pleasure isn't an essential aspect, but it can go so far beyond that, when everything is in alignment and working optimally. Right. Is there anything else you want to leave us with in terms of optimal sexual wellness?
Yeah, you know, I think I think you really, you know, touch upon an amazing thing, because, biologically speaking, what when, when a woman orgasms, the health benefits that happen internally, are off the charts, incredible, off the charts. And I truly believe that, that having an orgasm a day is likely better for your health than going for a jog. We have to balance to balance our wellness out. But it's it's just amazing. And I think if more people realize just how having frequent healthy sexual relations, whether it's with themselves or a partner, how it has these tremendous health benefits from Yes, a physical perspective, but very importantly, from a mental perspective, I think people wouldn't, wouldn't be thinking about it so much, and they would just be doing it. So I think, you know, if that's one thing that I really want to want to leave all of your listeners with is that please start considering that your overall health and please start to consider just how vital sexual wellness and and being in a healthy sexually active fulfilling experience can be so amazing for your health. And no, don't downplay that, because it really is probably the most healthy things that you can do for yourself and therefore, your relationship with your partner and therefore your overall life. I think when when one is sexually fulfilled, it trickles on into all aspects of their lives, whether it's, it's it's their job, it's their relationships with their family, with their children, you're just an overall amazingly healthier and happier person. And don't forget that because it is it is more important than most people realize.
Totally agree. Well, we'll send everybody to the website. Are there any other social media, things you want to point us to or
while you have follow us on our Instagram, which is hello, playground, so and yeah, we were growing and we've just started but we have big plans and definitely be hearing more from us in the future.
Amazing. Well, thank you, Sandy, so much for your time, and I look forward to trying new products.
Okay, thanks again. Okay, bye.
Thank you so much for being here. I appreciate you and I hope that you enjoyed this conversation. I would be really appreciative if you feel so called to support the show by either subscribing to the show on your favorite podcast platform, leaving us a review and passing this episode or another favorite episode on to a friend. I hope you have a beautiful week wherever you are in the world. Sending you my love.