Hey! I’m Davin Wedel, founder and president of Global Protection Corp, a leading innovator in sexual health products headquartered in Boston, MA.
We’re probably best known today for our ONE® Condoms, the round wrapper condoms with interesting and cool designs — but we’re also so much more than that. We’re a mission-driven company and have been since I started Global Protection in the late 80s. For us, it’s about making condoms as socially acceptable as toothpaste — and as second nature as wearing a seatbelt.
What's your backstory and how did you get into entrepreneurship?
I’ve always been a problem-solver, looking for opportunities to use creativity and innovation to find solutions to the world’s challenges. In the late 80s while in college, I started wondering why no one was talking about condoms.
Even in the midst of the AIDS crisis, it was very taboo to talk about condoms. Sort of like if you yelled “Shit” in the middle of a church service, saying “condom” out loud in public back then generally made people gasp or turn completely red. That really sparked my life-long journey to condom innovation.
If you don’t already, you have to learn to love a challenge. To me, there’s no challenge too big. It’s just the matter of testing and finding the right solutions.
The challenge: how to make condoms cool and something people want to wear and talk about? Let me tell you, it’s been a challenge that has required years of entrepreneurial thinking. But I am lucky that I still have as much fun today with this job as I did back in the early days.
For the last 30 years, I’ve kept that same entrepreneurial thinking as our motivator. It’s the special sauce that keeps us reinventing the condom over again — to keep consumers engaged in sexual health practices.
Take us through your entrepreneurial journey. How did you go from day 1 to today?
The year was 1987, and I was an undergraduate at Tufts University in Boston. Believe it or not, I was also a professional violinist. At that time, the AIDS crisis really motivated me to figure out how I can use my entrepreneurial mindset to help make condoms cool and not considered a dirty word.
It all started with “The Happy Jumbo,” a condom matchbook featuring the Tufts mascot, with a slogan ''A safe Jumbo is a happy Jumbo.'' We sold about a thousand in 6 days, which is pretty cool considering the undergrad population was only 4,300 at the time. I quickly realized when you put something interesting or relatable around a condom wrapper, people smile, laugh, and the taboos of the world start to go away.
From there, I launched Custom Condoms® and made customized products for campus groups, radio shows, musicians, and movies. I called anyone and everyone, with the goal to help organizations make fun products to hand out while making condoms less taboo. Those included Custom Condoms for KISS, “Homeboy Condoms” with 2 Live Crew, Prince’s “Purple Rain Coats,” U2, Tool, and during movie launches like Boogie Nights and 40 Year Old Virgin. We did things like “Bush Barriers” during the election season, and launched “Dick and Jane” matchbooks with stick figures saying cheeky lines. I would call radio stations and news outlets (back then it was quite salacious to be making customized condoms), but that was all part of my goal to get a national conversation going about condoms. And it worked!
Later, Global Protection was part of the movement to convince retailers to bring condoms out from behind the register. Rather than having to ask for them, customers could browse for condoms on the sales floor. In 1991, we opened Condomania in New York’s Greenwich Village, the first retail store in the nation to sell only condoms. Imagine a store where anything imaginable was made into a condom product. We got a lot of media coverage, and condoms were really starting to become a thing people could talk about openly.
When public dollars finally started to support condom distribution as a means for prevention of sexually transmitted infections, we already had all the cheeky and engaging condom products that health organizations wanted to hand out. It’s always been about making relatable products that make it easier to talk about condoms. And helping health organizations solve challenges to sexual health prevention is still our bread and butter today.
I’m also passionate about launching new brands that meet customer needs and spark interest, including our Pleasure Plus® and Night Light® condoms. In 2004, we launched our ONE® brand, which quickly emerged as an industry leader in premium-branded condoms and lubes. ONE is a culmination of everything I had learned about the condom industry up to that point. From the circular, artistic wrappers to our customer engagement programs, I wanted to create a rebel brand that was completely different than anything else on the market.
Our most recent launch has been bringing myONE® condoms to the U.S. market in 2017, a condom line of 60 sizes. It’d be crazy if shoes only came in size 7. Some feet would be slipping right out, while others would be squeezing and turning purple. Because penises come in different sizes, it just makes sense that condoms should too. We’re lucky to have a really loyal customer base, because as a brand we validated their years of struggles with standard condoms that simply don’t fit right. MyONE was a major investment and challenge from a manufacturing, regulatory and customer education perspective, but we know proper condom fit is a game changer for the market.
How are you doing today and what does the future look like?
From the early days of “The Happy Jumbo,” we’re really lucky to have grown and expanded in the last 30 years. Today, Global Protection supplies sexual health products to public and non-profit agencies in all 50 states. We also distribute ONE® Condoms through major retailers such as Walmart, CVS, Walgreens and Costco. We’re growing and expanding to countries all over the world, with ONE now being available in Canada, Malaysia, Singapore, United Kingdom, Portugal, Hong Kong, and Thailand. We’re continuing to keep our Custom Condoms® platform strong, and also expanded to provide private label solutions.
Innovation has always been something very important to me, and developing products that are going to catch the eye of the consumer. For us, it’s also about developing the latest technologies (fueled by feedback from customers) to make the experience of wearing a condom feel amazing. We have a couple new products that are going to launch in the next year and beyond that we’re really excited about.
Through starting the business, have you learned anything particularly helpful or advantageous?
If you don’t already, you have to learn to love a challenge. To me, there’s no challenge too big. It’s just the matter of testing and finding the right solutions. “We’ve always done it this way,” is my least favorite phase. If something sucks, reimage how it can work better.
A part of our magic is also creating continuous ways for customers and organizations to send us feedback. In that feedback are often our new product ideas, or ways we can drive the future of our brands and continue to keep condoms relevant.
What platform/tools do you use for your business?
All of our websites run on Shopify. Some of the other tools we use are ReCharge, Rakuten, Klaviyo, AdNabu, Google Adwords, Google Analytics, Mailchimp, Bold Custom Pricing and plenty of others. We’re always tinkering with what technologies can best serve our mission.
All our projects go through Trello (we have boards for just about everything) and I don’t know what we’d do without it.
What have been the most influential books, podcasts, or other resources?
I’m influenced by a lot of things, but especially by the world around me. We’re currently working on a brand refresh and I’ve found inspiration in things from old luxury cars to beauty products.
I’ve also been heavily influenced by the time I’ve spent in Asia and the connections I’ve made learning about manufacturing and how other cultures discuss condom use and sex. My staff is incredible, and so passionate about our mission. I’m lucky to be surrounded by a group of people that keeps me inspired every day.
Advice for other entrepreneurs who want to get started or are just starting out?
There will always be events (either self-inflicted or out of your control) that you think will be either catastrophic or a golden-ticket for your business. This can be like an emotional roller-coaster, making you ride highs and lows, throwing you off of your game. In my experience, no one event ever had the “big” impact that I thought it would, either good or bad. We always recovered, even if slowly, from the bad. And the good always came with unexpected new expenses and complications that tempered the upside.
Staying steady with planning and vision for building a solid foundation for my business is what brought long-term success. As the leader of my organization, I was more successful when I learned to manage through the highs and lows with a steady approach, always approaching sudden shocks to the business by moving immediately to next steps and action plans.
Where can we go to learn more?
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