Ask someone about their sex education in the Philippines, and you’ll get an awkward silence, a look of horror, or, perhaps, even a laugh. I have one memory I’ll never forget. I was in high school when a teacher gave a pop quiz and asked, “What’s the best form of contraception?” All my classmates shouted typical answers such as condoms, pills and such. My teacher responded with much disappointment: “No, it’s abstinence.”
Abstinence means to refrain from sexual activity for religious, medical, psychological, social, or other reasons. My teacher’s response signified that it was a subject I needed to avoid more than its definition.
Today, the landscape is changing around sex and pleasure. Locally, the 2012 Reproductive Health Law emphasizes DepEd’s role in creating a comprehensive sex-ed curriculum. Internationally, the sexual wellness industry is a multibillion-dollar market. At this point, the Philippines could be ripe for this change.
Last March 31, Ava and Belle Daza launched Jellytime, their first venture into the sexual wellness space. Their first product is a natural water-based lubricant. Beyond the minimalist packaging, cute logo and affordable price point (P295), the formula is hypoallergenic and uses aloe vera and hyaluronic acid ingredients.
I spoke to the sisters-turned-business partners on the journey of Jellytime. We discussed how they came up with the idea, the launch of Jellytime, and the mission behind the company.
How jellytime started
For Ava, the origin of Jellytime began when she was hanging out in Belle’s home. She shared, “We were in my sister’s house one time with my cousins. And I was asking my sister to try lube.”
With Ava and Belle, they’ve built a safe space that people trust enough to share their concerns.
Belle, hesitant at first, said, “She put one in my bag. I tried it. And then I liked it. I then asked her: ‘Where can I get more? Do you have anything clean? Do you have something that’s more hypoallergenic?’ I had this laundry list of things. And she’s like, ‘No, there isn’t an organic lube, okay?’”
That was the light-bulb moment for Ava. So she started giving away lube to her friends. The reactions were similar to her sister’s, which motivated Ava. She said, “One day, I asked my cousins if it was weird that I wanted to start a business around sexual wellness. And they said, ‘No, not at all.’ They talked to people in the e-commerce industry, suggesting that sexual wellness is starting to gain traction.”
With those words of encouragement and Belle’s support, Ava researched. The first six months were about exploring. She knew that it had to be affordable, unlike other lubes priced at almost P2,000. So she studied research papers on international companies for similar markets to the Philippines, like Thailand. She even worked with a market research agency and conducted a survey of a hundred people she reached out to on Facebook.
What started as a side hustle became Ava’s full-time commitment. She said, “I didn’t think I would leave my job full-time for it. But I eventually did. I felt like I needed to put my focus on this. I’m seeing that more and more people like the idea. It could be something big for us.”
How they decided to launch jellytime
Belle is no stranger to the entrepreneurial journey, with several other businesses like Our Recess, Ride Revolution, and FRNK Milkbar. She was candid in telling me, “We had a lot of bumps on the road. I heard this podcast on entrepreneurship where the guy says, ‘It’s jumping from one problem to another with a smile on your face.’”
That’s what Ava and Belle did for another 12 months, even when they went through the grueling process of getting their FDA (Food and Drug Administration) approval. Belle said, “We did a lot of research. We tried a lot of formulas. It took so long because we wanted something clean, all-natural, and then, obviously, we take pride that it’s FDA-approved.”
How does one launch a product that was not openly talked about? Ava said, “When you’re preparing for a business already in the market, you know how people react and prepare for it. For lube, this could go one way or the other.”
View this post on Instagram
So, Ava and Belle started a podcast — “The Sexytime Podcast” — almost six months before the launch. Their guests were a diverse group of people, from their mom, Gloria Diaz, to sexperts Dr. Rica Cruz and Dr. Margie Holmes, to Wil Dasovich, Martine Cajucom-Ho, BJ Pascual and others. Belle said, “We wanted to create a safe space to talk about sex for those that have questions. But, again, we don’t position ourselves as experts. We like to talk to experts, and we learn along the way.” Ava added, “We’re just curious people.”
Belle continued. “When we created ‘The Sexytime Podcast,’ it was really to get our foot in the door to talk about sexual wellness. And I’m just loving the openness of people and the avenue that ‘Sexytime’ has given us, because it’s not only about selling the product of Jellytime; it’s really about getting everybody onboard with sexual wellness.”
Their mission: everybody and every body deserves pleasure
Both sisters admit that they fight. You’ll even hear it at the beginning of some of their podcast episodes. Belle shared, “We fight a lot because we’re so close. So we’re able to be very direct with each other. But we always remind each other that we’re working towards one goal, the same goal.” Ava said that it was all about “removing the shame in pleasure. We want people to feel comfortable exploring their bodies.”
The most exciting moments are when they get flooded with personal experiences by their family, friends, and even strangers. With Ava and Belle, they’ve built a safe space that people trust enough to share their concerns. But, of course, each person has his or her own unique problem.
View this post on Instagram
Belle noted, “One of the things that we’re so proud of is converting non-users.” Ava added that it is common to hear the questions, “What is this?” or “Why did I not know this growing up?”
For most of their customers, Jellytime is a revelation and rediscovery of what pleasure should be. But for Ava and Belle, if there’s one thing they learned in starting Jellytime, sexual wellness is for everyone. Belle shared, “If you think about it, sexual wellness is under health. So it’s really about your overall health, right?”
After years of stigma, misinformation, and lack of information, there is still a lot to unlearn about sex and sexuality. Ava and Belle have a feat ahead of them. But their intention is pure: sex care is self-care.
* * *