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This Woman Just Made Condoms 10 Times Better

Talia Frenkel would like to buy the world a condom.
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<i>Frenkel (</i>center<i>) in 2011, meeting with entrepreneurs in Uganda</i>
Frenkel (center) in 2011, meeting with entrepreneurs in Uganda

On Her Latex Light-Bulb Moment
"In 2006, I started working as a photojournalist for the Red Cross and United Nations, traveling around the world to document humanitarian crises and devastating events like earthquakes and floods. During that time, I also saw the devastating effects of AIDS, the top killer of reproductive-age women globally. We have cheap tools that can prevent those deaths, but the people who need them most often can't access them. So I decided to address that gap by creating condoms that would allow women to survive and thrive. In 2011, I launched my company, L. For every condom sold -- they're available online and at stores like CVS and Target -- another is donated to a female entrepreneur in a developing country. So far, we're partnered with more than 2,800 women in Swaziland and Uganda. They educate their peers about why this product is important and generate an income -- everyone benefits."

On Satisfying Her Customers
"Consumers have the same complaints about condoms: They smell disgusting, irritate the skin, and inhibit sensation. So we processed the latex to reduce the allergy-causing proteins and that rubbery scent. We also reimagined the packaging. When you walk down any condom aisle in America, you'll see condoms reflecting more masculine images of conquest, which is out of touch with the modern view of sexuality. Our box is more gender-neutral. And our name resonates with both women and men. When people see the letter L, they think of love, life, lust -- all positive connotations. And of course, some men just see Large...."

On Putting Her Rubber to The Road
"Because we're dealing with a sex product, we couldn't just stand in Whole Foods and hand out samples. So we worked with a marketing firm to set up focus groups and had students test condoms in a blind study. Ours came out on top! When women tell us, 'Thank you for being a form of birth control that won't make me crazy with hormones,' that feels great because our customers are our biggest ambassadors. We get a lot of emails with exclamation points."

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