A society, where everyone is happy with their loved ones-Unwind Inc. (English)
In 2021, Kanon Hashimoto san established the startup “Unwind Inc.” The drive for making this company is to make a society where everyone is content with their loved ones. With this aim, she tackles the problems surrounding sexual wellness among partnerships and families of society in Japan. )(She has developed a line called “mahoro”. She has correspondingly successfully built a crowdfunding platform for her ongoing research in developing a CBD-included lubricant which will be made domestically in Japan. Today we interviewed her to get more insights into why she started “Unwind Inc.”, and what inspired her to challenge the problems our society has surrounding the topic of partnerships. Alongside all these challenges she is also working on developing a safe place, a community for discussing more personal topics. She will also give us a chance to understand what she has gained through participating in the “SDGs Challenge program”.
Interviewer-Originally you were an advocate who worked to spread awareness about sexual wellness under the name “torumochi” on different social platforms including Social media. Would you like to share what made you step out of this and into establishing a startup?
Kanon San- Now that I look back I can say I always liked sharing my knowledge with others. Ever since I was a teenager I liked sharing what I had seen or thought in my blog. I remember sharing my experiences of tagging along with my parents as help when the destructive Tsunami hit in 2011 and the field trip to India when I was a university student. To conclude, I was always interested in journalism and reporting. So I even attended a mass media school when the hot topic at the time was “the force of performing in Pornography”.
Interviewer-After graduating from college I was thinking that you have been extremely daring in terms of fieldwork, as your first job was in an adult live chat management company.
Kanon San-Oh, yes. You may say so as the hiring company even told me that I am a rare case. My intention was upright and very straightforward. I decided to apply for this job to learn and gather information about forceful pornography performances as I was told in my university period that it would take a decade for me to investigate and research this industry from outside as a journalist point of view. For this reason, I decided to go inside this industry myself to learn about this industry and spread awareness for good. I was also told that it is uncommon for someone to apply for jobs in the adult industry with the same intentions as mine
Interviewer-While being onsite of technology combined with the adult industry, what were the new findings and observations for you?
Kanon San- After working in the adult industry for two years I realized that this industry was actually creating employment opportunities for many people including single mothers. I found out that this industry is very profitable but has its negative side effects as well such as the risks that come with it. I also learned the fact that this industry is male dominated and male centered. Therefore, it lacks a lot of health education about the female body. The lack of knowledge about the female body plays a huge part in the amount of excessive burden that is put upon the female workers in the adult industry overall. I also came to recognize that there is a lack of understanding about their own body among the female sex workers in the industry, which is detrimental to their bodies. And often they end up hurting their body due to the lack of awareness.
Interviewer- So Based on the issues you learned through your work at this management company, you started to convey and spread awareness about sexuality and safe sex. or So you started publicly spreading awareness on the issues of safe sex and sex-related topics based on the findings from working at this company.
Kanon San- I had always been more or less interested in sexual matters, so I began to communicate online on my platform as an extension of my hobby, little by little while still working in the industry. Then slowly people started sharing their problems with me. The content varied, but all these different kinds of problems that I received made me realize the need for better sex education. I felt that if there were better sex education, these problems of people would be solved and people would also know who to ask for help. There would be fewer people suffering from such problems then. With regarding this issue there already are plenty of people who are working hard on sex education. I am hopeful that teenagers today and children who are yet to be born will be receiving a better sex education than my generation. I was under the impression that people my age and older were not given proper sex education and were simply lost.
Interviewer- So, You came to the conclusion that unfortunately lots of adults are lost
Kanon San- Yes. That is why I began to think that many things need to be done now in order to solve the problems that I mentioned earlier. However, I soon realized that there is a limit to how much I can do by myself through my blogs. So I thought of creating a company that tackles these problems professionally and also it would be much more impactful in reaching more audiences. I am now a certified counselor for sex-related problems, but I thought that if I worked with a variety of counselors to promote sexual counseling, I could increase the opportunities for people to discuss their problems, and that’s when I decided to launch this company.
Interviewer- I see, the inspiration for starting your business came from the desire to provide solutions and counseling to many people on sex related problems between partners.
Kanon San- To be honest, lots of people came with a similar problem that could be solved without counseling if they were more informed. This experience only emphasized the fact that a lot of problems can be solved with better sex education and emphasized the need for my startup. That’s why I decided to create the line “mahoro” focusing on sexual wellness, and developing products for it.
Interviewer-Your first product is a domestic lubricant containing CBD. What was the feedback from the crowdfunding campaign? (https://motion-gallery.net/projects/femtech-sexualwelness )
Kanon San-I had a curiosity about the use of lubricants to assist the intercourse. However, I thought there were plenty of options in the market already. So I was wondering if CBD-induced lubricants would be helpful during intercourse. Then my acquaintance told me that there can be chances that the CBD’s advantages might help relationships for the better because of its benefits for mental health. That is when I thought that the idea of combining these two things is worth a try. Then I thought of connecting it to therapy, and I thought about this idea throughout 2021. When I started this brand, people around me supported me, saying that if I did well, I should be able to get a loan from the bank, and I thought that it was possible as well, but it turned out to be not. Unfortunately,the bank turned down our request for a loan. This was as a society we are still lacking behind in this topic surrounding intercourse. We still need to deliver and commonize the message “mental health care through sexual wellness” to the public, and of course fundraising is part of that. Currently we are in the process of trying to figure out what kind of message and approach do we need to maximize our audience.
Interviewer-So you were running the SDGs Challenge and crowdfunding almost simultaneously.
Kanon San- That’s right. In fact, when I discussed the issue of being unable to get a loan from the bank to the SDGs Challenge mentor, it was suggested that we try crowdfunding first. That’s right. When I discussed the issue of being unable to get a loan from the bank to the SDGs Challenge mentor, it was suggested that we try crowdfunding first. And if we are able to collect some funds there, it would increase our chances for a loan. This advice was very helpful. I coincidentally came across SDGs program when I was researching for various funding opportunities. I happened to learn about a Start up funding ecosystem in Kobe. It really was a close cut as it was close to the deadline, and I thought, “Noway! It’s in Kobe and it’s really near me!” and went for it. lol
Interviewer-How do you feel about participating now that you have participated in SDGs Challenge?
Kanon San- For me, as I was clueless about starting a business, so I looked for opportunities to meet and learn from experienced entrepreneurs, and for the first time, I am learning about the “zero to one” part, which is the basics of how to create a business. People here gave me advice and I was able to discuss manythings freely. Here in Kip, you can discuss everything freely, even the topics which are still kinda taboo in the society. This attitude of everyone here was very helpful. As well as the encounters that this place offers such as meeting other entrepreneurs and watching their work ethic. It was during this time that I tried crowdfunding for the very first time. We managed to accomplish it at the very last minute. I worked hard to get the word out to as many people as we could through daily mailings, and by relentlessly announcing the project to our friends and acquaintances.
Interviewer-I know that everything is new to you and it must have been tough. But from what you have told us, I can see that you have achieved and accomplished some great things. What is your vision for the future?
Kanon San- I am aiming for a world where women are more comfortable talking frankly about sex, and where couples and partnerships are thriving. That is what I would like to achieve. I think that if women’s self-esteem will increase by expressing their feelings about their sexuality freely, It will have a positive domino effect on the self-esteem of the Japanese people as a whole. Also, if I had started my startup just three years ago, I think it would be different. As the term, “FemTech” was not as common as it is today, I think it would have been accepted differently.
Interviewer- I understand the world has been advancing constantly.
Kanon San- Three years ago what could have been defined as “adult goods” in the past but today there are words like “FemTech” that are more common. It has become easier to convey the intention of taking care of each person’s body and each other now that the concept of “FemTech” has become more widespread. This is one of our strengths. But there is still a lot to be done. In the community of sexual wellness the idea “talking about your pleasure means loving yourself” is given, but in general, as a society, we are just at the beginning of the process.
Interviewer- What do you want to do from now on?
Kanon San- The more knowledgeable the better, and starting a business is really like a mixed martial art. But I think I am kinda slow at learning these things now, and when I look at other entrepreneurs my age, I am very inspired by how quick they are at picking up. In fact, I believe that there are many entrepreneurs like that in Tokyo, but this opportunity of the SDGs Challenge has been great for me as it has opened new doors for me. I also got to meet other entrepreneurs without traveling to Tokyo. I got motivated here as the entrepreneurs in these startups are making the most out of opportunities in their hometowns, the interactions I had here, I treasure them all. I had thought that since I started my business, I would eventually do it in Tokyo, but now I am thinking of doing it in Hyogo. I want to incorporate elements of Hyogo, where I have lived all my life, and give it a uniqueness. I have never been particularly attached to my hometown (laughs), but I have made many discoveries about what I can do. That may actually be the part that has changed the most in this program for me.
Interviewer-Thank you very much! Finally, do you have any message for those who are thinking about starting a business?
Kanon San- This programme is full of good people, you can share and discuss anything respectively, even the tabooed topics and I am thankful for that. Find a community like this where people are helpful and supportive. And even if you have no clue like me about starting a business when there is a will, there is a way!