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Michelle Janson, Founder, Luxe Ventures LLC

My name is Michelle Janson, a born and raised Hoosier, sister, wife, counselor, entrepreneur, and lover of all things involving spending time with family and friends, learning new things, traveling, playing with pups, and consuming copious amounts of mint chocolate chip ice cream. My educational journey has included degrees in health education, counseling, with a recent completion of my psychology doctoral degree. This combined training has allowed me to work with people of all ages regarding their educational paths as well as their emotional and physical health. This work, in addition to a personal experience, were the true catalysts behind the start of our business known as Luxe Ventures LLC which began in November 2017. We have created a product for women called LuxeLyx that saves lives by helping prevent the spread of sexually transmitted diseases (STDs). Our mission is simple: we aim to empower all women to protect their pleasure by providing an attractive, affordable, and easily accessible functional lingerie panty that can be worn during sexual activities. We believe that safe can be sexy for everyone.

More about Michelle:

1. You have a very personal story about why you started up Luxe Lyx. Can you share that story with us?

Two years ago my father was diagnosed with throat cancer. After numerous tests, his physicians indicated the cancer was caused by the human papilloma virus (HPV) that had likely been transmitted during oral sex. The connection between head, neck, and throat cancers, HPV, and oral sex wasn't something I was aware of and, after doing much research, found the projected rates of HPV-related cancers to be skyrocketing. So I began looking at how people can protect themselves from contracting HPV, especially during oral sex. This is when I realized that though condoms are widely available in endless varieties, women do not have many options that cater to them and are convenient, sexy, stylish, and functional. At Luxe Ventures LLC, we feel women need to be empowered to pursue their passions as they see fit, and they should be equipped to do this in a protected way that will benefit both themselves and their partner. In learning that HPV is projected to be the cause of over 70% of head, neck, and throat cancers by 2020, now is the time to take action.

2. Who is the target market for your functional lingerie?

Currently, our target market is 18-35 year old women. However, we want the product to be welcoming to and used by all as both women and men need to be empowered and protected.

3. Will you have to get FDA approval before you begin selling your product?

Pursuing and receiving FDA approval specifically for LuxeLyx is in the plans; however, in an effort to get our product to market and make an impact sooner (as it can take 6+ months and over $5,000 to be granted FDA approval), our product is currently being made out of FDA approved materials. Providing that reliable assurance to our customers is key.

4. People are bold about saying, “use a condom!’ How will we get our culture to say, “use a condom or a dental dam?”

We need to normalize, normalize, normalize. STD rates are high because people aren't comfortable talking about them or that we need to protect ourselves. There is a very unfortunate stigma that goes with STDs. It is estimated that 1 in 2 sexually active people will have an STD by the age of 25. This isn't something that should be seen as shameful, but instead, should be a fact that we need to acknowledge and address by supplying education and products to all so they can have protective options when engaging in sexual activities. We fully support all options for our gentlemen, but our ladies deserve and will now receive just as much attention and protection.

5. How will you market this protective panty?

We want it to be attractive, affordable, and easily accessible. We plan to continue building our relationships with college wellness centers, dating sites such as Bumble and Tinder, large media outlets such as Glamour, Cosmopolitan, Women's Health, and so many more. Additionally, based on our market research data, we will also continue collaborating with obstetricians, gynecologists, family practitioners, and nurse practitioners as they are on the front lines of keeping people healthy. We’ve actually had some medical groups approach us with interest in investing. We are beyond grateful for these groups as well as the many other entities that have aided us in endless ways as the business has developed.

6. You were a finalist for The Startup Ladies grant. What was is like pitching for the first time in front of so many people?

It was incredible and just a touch intimidating at the same time. I was pitching with some well-established, brilliant business women and periodically felt our product was too new to be in the competition. However, though we are small right now, we are mighty. During the pitch, my passion for the product and drive to empower others fueled my fire. Every opportunity I have to discuss the product and reiterate the positive impact it will provide for so many only continues to fuel that passion.

7. What are your challenges around manufacturing this product?

I do remember a few things from my 8th grade Family and Consumer Science class; however, I don't remember my teacher telling us how difficult it would be to sew latex ;) The biggest challenge we've run into is deciding upon the right materials and product design that will provide protection, sensation, comfort, aesthetic appeal, and will fit ladies well during sexual activities. Currently we are using an FDA approved latex that is sewn into the cloth panty. A few other designs have been produced and, following a focus group wherein we'll collect feedback, we will be scaling up production numbers tremendously over the coming months.

8. How will you integrate technology into your company?

Technology is crucial in our business development as our website and social media have been the primary vehicle for Luxe Ventures’ growth. Our online store will also be relying on the beauty of technology, allowing our consumers to shop from the comfort of their own home. Finally, technology of various varieties has been implemented regarding the production of LuxeLyx.

9. What BIG company would you love to do business with and why?

I would love to see our big condom companies such as Trojan and Durex, as well as dental dam producers such as Glyde, partner with us as we collectively show our dedication and ability to serve and protect both women and men.

10. How have The Startup Ladies helped you grow?

Where to start with this question...from the conceptualization of the product all the way through the pitch competition, we’ve had a support system that has met us right where we were and helped us rise to where we are now. Whether it is being a sounding board when things didn’t go smoothly or providing a cheer block when things went swimmingly, the Startup Ladies have been there from the beginning. Of course, this is just the tip of the iceberg in regards to the support you receive as a Startup Ladies member. If you have an idea, this organization can help you start (or continue) your upward movement!

Twitter: @luxelyx

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