What does it take to be the first? From the numerous interviews we’ve conducted with successful disrupters, there seems to be a formula of key attributes, personality traits, and, yes, failures that pave the way for female pioneers, or as we like to call them, Womaneers. By definition, she’s a woman who defies societal norms with heroism and tenacity to become a pioneering voice in her field. Each month, we will share a new womaneer’s story to uncover their vision, grit, persistence, grace, and drive to keep going despite the odds. The time of the womaneer is now.
Here are a few eye-opening facts: Three in every four women will get a yeast infection at least once in their life. What's more, 25% of infections women contract are UTIs. These are just a few of the startling statistics that spurred 24-year-old entrepreneur Lauren Steinberg to found Queen V, a forward-thinking feminine wellness company specifically focused on vaginal health.
After struggling with her own infections, Steinberg, the daughter of a gynecologist, noticed a void in the market for effective feminine products—and decided to fill it with a line of under-$15 vaginal health products that can be found on the shelves of big-name stockists like Walmart. "Because all of our products are available at Walmart and are comparable in price with every other product on the shelf, every woman has access to [them]," Steinberg told MyDomaine.
But beyond just democratizing access to vaginal health products, Steinberg has a larger goal in mind—to destigmatize the word "vagina." "Our products have loud and bright packaging because they are not meant to hide on a shelf, but rather to stand out," she adds. "Women should not be embarrassed to buy vaginal products."
In this installment of Womaneer, we ask the woman behind Queen V all about her mission to destigmatize the word "vagina," including what inspired her to empower women through vaginal health, why she's embraced the notion of being "just a girl" in a male-dominated industry, and how she shook off the fear in the pursuit of founding her innovative company.
Tell us about what you do and how you broke into the field.
I am the founder of Queen V. Queen V is a female-run and female-focused feminine wellness company specifically focused on vaginal health. We launched at Walmart in April of 2018 in 4100 locations across the country. Queen V takes a really easy and fun approach to a topic that can be super confusing and embarrassing. Trust me, I have been there. I manage a team of eight incredible women. My duties vary but mostly include product development, sourcing, press, and social media.
I have been around vaginas my entire life, not only because I am female, but because my dad is a gynecologist. My whole family is made up of doctors, and my dad always wanted me to follow in his footsteps, so naturally, I went in the opposite direction. I always had an entrepreneurial spirit. I started my first company with two of my best friends in high school. It was called Knuckleheads Accessories, and we made and sold one-of-a-kind headbands and hair accessories.
Can you recall that light bulb moment or the trigger that motivated you to pursue your current path?
As I grew older I began to develop infections "down there," what I refer to as my Queen V. It was scary and painful and also really embarrassing. I didn't know why I was getting these infections. I went to my gynecologist, and I did a ton of research and learned just how complex a vagina is. I learned about pH levels and studied and researched the ingredients that are in most feminine wellness products and discovered why I was getting these infections. I also spoke to my friends about the problems I was having and realized that I wasn't alone.
Three in every four women will get a yeast infection at least once in their life, and 25% of infections that women get are UTIs. This was astounding to me. I began looking for products that had better for me ingredients, products that were easy to use, affordable and effective, and I couldn't find anything that fit my needs. I was determined to change this not only because I realized that women shouldn't be afraid to talk about their vaginas, but also because I know that when I feel good inside, I feel like I can take on the world.
And I knew that if I wasn't feeling good on the inside, other women probably weren't as well. I wanted to change that. I became frustrated and decided to take matters into my own hands. This is when Queen V really began.
Did you face any immediate challenges? What was the biggest barrier you had to overcome? How has being a woman helped or hindered your progress?
Being a 24-year-old female in an industry typically dominated by men has been and still is a challenge. Whenever I pitch this brand, getting male retailers and male investors to understand the need for these products can be difficult. Talking about my vagina and vaginal infections was a bit embarrassing at first, but I now encourage women to be empowered to speak about their vaginas. At one point, I was even told that I was "just a girl." Instead of letting this comment get to me, I have owned it.
It's true! I really am just a girl who became frustrated with vaginal products on the market and did something about it.
Tell us about Queen V and how it came about. What was that pioneering moment for you?
Our products are made for women by women and take a really unique approach to vaginal health. We have created an easy-to-follow three-step process that helps women maintain, heal, and enjoy their V. Maintaining your V is all about keeping your vagina clean and healthy by using products that are pH-balanced. Healing your V addresses infections and problems that can arise like yeast infections and UTIs. Enjoying your V aims to help women love and embrace their vaginas. Each of our 11 products fits into one of these color-coded categories.
Maintain products are blue, heal products are green, and enjoy products are pink.
In addition to creating better-for-you products, Queen V aims to empower women to take control of what they are putting into and on their bodies. It is so important to take the time to read what ingredients are in a product and to understand the why behind them. Through our social media channels, we make it a priority to make learning about your body as fun and engaging as possible. Queen V has cultivated a community of empowered women and we aim to destigmatize the word "vagina."
How did you turn this initial concept into a successful company?
Getting a retailer to believe in your brand and really understand and see the vision for your brand's voice is critically important. Walmart taking a chance on me and giving Queen V a brand statement with 11 products has made the company what it is today. Andy Dunn who is the former CEO of Bonobos (which was acquired by Walmart) saw the deck for Queen V and knew it needed to be at Walmart. He introduced me to the buyers there, and I told my story and they listened.
When did you first discover that this idea could be a business and a career?
My boyfriend, Oliver Bogner, really encouraged me to pursue Queen V as a business. We knew there was an opportunity to make this a career when we looked at the product offerings in the feminine wellness category. This category was ripe for disruption and really needed products made for women by women.
What does being a womaneer mean to you? What qualities and attributes do you think it takes to be a womaneer?
Being a womaneer means being unapologetically yourself and using your voice for those who may be afraid to use their own voices.
What is the one thing you think every woman needs to become a pioneer in her own field?
A qualified team of smart individuals who are experts in their own field. Teamwork really does make the dream work. I surround myself with people who have different strengths than myself and learn from them. From operations and logistics to social media and product development, I am always leaning on those around me. I am lucky because my team is made up of all millennial women, so I have a focus group right in front of me. I use this to my advantage.
What mistakes have you learned from, and even benefited from, in your career?
Queen V launched when mercury was in retrograde, so plenty of mistakes have been made! I used to think that being green was a negative thing. I actually think that not knowing what you are doing can in some cases benefit you. Many people would not have eight manufacturers for 11 products because it is a logistical nightmare. I didn't know any better. My products are made by best-in-class manufacturers who specialize in the specific products they make.
What's next for you in 2019?
Queen V is just getting started! I am working closely with Walmart to continue innovating and creating amazing and effective products for women. I am opening new and exciting accounts, and as always, I am focused on destigmatizing the word "vagina."