Love is all around: A conversation with Wendy Strgar, founder of Good Clean Love

It’s been five years since Wendy Strgar and her Eugene-based sexual health startup Good Clean Love won the Tom Hulce award at the annual Oregon Entrepreneurship Network awards ceremony. (Since then, she has set up an incubator for women owned business, secured a publisher for her second book — “Sex That Works: A Woman’s Guide to Embracing the Erotic, Awakening Arousal, and Deepening Intimacy — and become a spokesperson for sustainable sexual health.)

Good Clean Love products are now available in more than 10,000 stores, from Kroger and Target, to Safeway, CVS and Whole Foods. Oregon Business spoke with Strgar about sex as a growth driver, relationship-based marketing and GCL’s new cannabis lubricant.

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OB: What trends are driving growth?

WS: We started out as a little cottage industry, literally in my home. That was quite a long time ago, but the sexual health industry I think is starting to wake up. A lot of things have happened: we are now having public conversations about who gets to marry whom, who gets to have sex with who — culturally we’re having a broader discussion. Every week there’s something in the paper about what it is to be human and be sexual. I think because those conversations have become more available, people have become more cognizant about what’s in your lubricant. That’s one thing that changed our sales in general.

Also, the industry in general has been a fairly unhealthy industry. What I mean by that is it’s been dominated for such a long time by products that are petrochemicals and are really unhealthy. The repurchase rate for those product lines like KY and Astroglide is as low as 1.2 percent, but the repurchase rate on our products is up to 20 percent, even 25 percent and that’s because it’s a product that doesn’t make you sick.

OB: Your products are on the shelves of mainstream retail outlets, like Kroger and Target. Does this signal a change in middle America’s approach to sex?

WS: I do think there’s some really big changes about the middle America approach to sex. I think sexual health as a category is something we proved for a long time, but was something that was meaningless to retailers. They would call it family planning, or feminine hygiene — but the idea that we’re creating products for sexual health, I think we’re one of the only companies doing that. I think it’s all changing. I would say also this is kind of the last category that has become impacted by the healthy trend. For years and years, we just sold petrochemicals and nobody questioned it and nobody demanded anything else. I think in 2 to 5 years, that shelf will be completely different.

OB: How has your marketing strategy evolved?

WS: Having been really small for such a long time, our marketing strategy has always been sort of guerrilla marketing, a lot of online stuff. But heavily toward the educational area, so that we are not just a superior organic product, but also (provide) insight into how to keep your relationship healthy. We do that through all the platforms in social me-dia. We haven’t gone to advertising and a full spread page in a magazine because I just feel like it’s not really like that anymore. That’s not what grows a brand and recognition. Brands that are successful these days are ones that have an authentic relationship with their users. If anything, we’re just doing more and more of that as we’re able to. We’re also trying to move a lot into video, which we’ve only touched into, but I feel people read less and less, so we’re trying to kind of create a space where we can show people these stories.

OB: You’re making a cannabis infused lubricant. You are on the Oregon bandwagon.

WS: Well I live in Oregon, so I’m definitely a product of our society here. I’ve always thought cannabis and sexuality have a tightly knit relationship, so when it became legal, I thought of course I wanted to experiment with that. I was curious if we could come up with a lubricant, and while I can’t say it’s pain relieving, it carries those properties in the lubricant. I think cannabis is misunderstood nationwide, in many of the ways sex was misunderstood nationwide. I feel Good Clean Love has been able to translate some of that. Cannabis is not just like, let’s get wasted, it’s also healthy. I’m actually looking at formulating some other kinds of products besides just this lubricant that will make up (the CBD Health Sciences) portfolio to introduce the healing effects of CBD.

OB: What are you most excited about?

WS: What’s really exciting is to finally hit a point where it’s really starting to become what I dreamed it could be. The more your sales volume increases, in some ways it ac-celerates everything. It just sort of grows and becomes something more substantial than you could ever envision. I started this company partially because I was trying to save my own marriage, and I grew up in a divorce. I always said the mission was to be a love company by providing products that are really healthy and inspire the lover in you. I’m really having a good time right now. It sort of felt like slogging through the mud for a long time; now I feel like we’re skating and it’s picking up speed. I think being a leader in this intimacy product space is gratifying.