Vt. company creates condoms with a conscience - WCAX.COM Local Vermont News, Weather and Sports-

Vt. company creates condoms with a conscience

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BURLINGTON, Vt. -

Carly McAndrews says there's a stigma around it.

"Make it more accessible so it's less intimidating for women to buy," she said.

Everything from picking them out to checking out can be embarrassing.

"I bought condoms recently and I did feel very awkward," McAndrews said.

But soon there will be another option.

"They're about making the world a better place; they're about empowering women to make important choices," Jeffrey Hollender said.

Hollender, the co-founder of Seventh Generation, Vermont's biggest eco-friendly company, came up with the new socially responsible business called Sustain. Toxic-free, fair trade condoms made in India set to be in stores by January 2014.

"Wow, I guess I never thought about fair trade and condoms going together," laughed Jessica Anderson, who supports free trade condoms.

"By using fair trade labor, we're keeping children out of the rubber fields. By having a forage stewardship council plantation, we're growing the rubber trees in the most environmentally way possible," Hollender said.

Hollender says Sustain will reduce its own profit margin to provide a safer product at the same price as the competition.

"If you have a fair trade product priced the same way, that confuses the customer. They're thinking, 'Where is the premium I'm willing to pay, that I'm willing to pay to benefit the end worker?' If he's selling it at a loss, that's not a business. That's noble, but that's a charity," said Robert Letovsky, a business professor at St. Michael's College.

Hollender admits it's a condom problem that most people even don't know they have, which Letovsky says is going to be a hurdle for the organic condom company.

"I have not heard about concerns about latex and rubber workers, so he'll have to bring awareness up if there is a problem," Letovsky said.

"The German government tested condoms and found that close to 100 percent had carcinogenic chemicals above the limits determined safe," Jeffrey Hollender said.

"All condom brands are so focused on men; no one is talking to women," Meika Hollender said.

Jeffrey Hollender's daughter, Meika, will be in charge of marketing Sustain. She says the target audience is women 25-35. And according to the company's research, 40 percent of condom buyers are women.

"They want simplicity. They want something that will work and not something that has all these added things that might not work with their body," Meika Hollender said.

Jeffrey Hollander knows a thing or two about new businesses. The entrepreneur has created and sold several throughout his career.

Jeffrey Hollender: Our first manufacturing run will be about 4 million condoms.

Reporter Gina Bullard: That's a lot of condoms.

Jeffrey Hollender: Yeah, but we have a lot of confidence that we will sell those condoms.

But they won't be selling them in drugstores alongside the competition. Sustain is hoping to grab women's attention while they shop at stores like Whole Foods and Sephora. Customers will also find them at OBGYNs and university health clinics. It's a gamble this businessman is betting on.

"If this doesn't succeed, he will find something that will," Letovsky said.

The Hollenders are hiring five people to begin with and hope to hire more as the business grows.

Sustain is also starting a nonprofit that 10 percent of profits will go toward an organization called 10 Percent for Women.

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