MONTREAL — Often to be successful, you must step outside your comfort zone.
That’s exactly what Canadian Felicia Hershenhorn did when she left her job as an attorney.
Hershenhorn co-founded Imarais Beauty with popular model Sommer Ray. Still not content, the budding entrepreneur shifted her focus to sexual wellness. That idea spearheaded Runi, her sexual wellness and self-care brand growing in popularity and sales.
Runi, her childhood nickname, was a carefully thought-out brand name to get family and friends to believe in her.
Hershenhorn’s assertive business practices are a far cry from her youth as a rules follower. Zenger caught up with the young entrepreneur who wants to free sex education from shame.
Zenger: Why pick Runi as the company name?
Hershenhorn: It’s actually funny. I like to be shocking and out there. Because the company was sexual wellness, I knew people around me would ask: “What are you doing?” To give it my childhood nickname would give it a personal touch and let them know I was serious. The company is fun, exciting and sexy, but we do have a goal.
Zenger: Was becoming an entrepreneur a leap of faith, or just something you wanted to do?
Hershenhorn: I was always book-smart. I excelled in school. If you took me out of school and put me anywhere else, I was a fish out of water. I really like rules. My parents and my sister joked that I would always work for somebody, keeping other people in line. Being a lawyer was a natural progression. But when I became a lawyer, I thought: I’m too creative for this. I loved rules when I was younger, but then I got older and found my voice — and I wanted to use it.
A friend and I created Imarais. When that took off, I left my job as a lawyer. When I left Imarais, I was the CMO of Psychedelic Water. And that was amazing, but I had the idea for Runi in the back of my mind since leaving Imarais. I told the people at Psychedelic Water that I had this idea and had to run with it. One of the guys who got me involved with Psychedelic Water is one of my main Runi investors. I decided to go outside the box and do what no one expected me to do.
Zenger: Leaving a comfortable and successful career like being an attorney can be scary and intimidating. Did it feel that way at first?
Hershenhorn: It oscillated in the beginning. I knew that I had to be strong-minded, strong-willed and believe in myself in order to make anything work. When I was working for other people, I would see the difference in an idea that wasn’t successful, or a company that was successful. I worked for a real-estate development company as a lawyer, and learned it wasn’t the amount of money that you had, though that’s important, and it wasn’t the tenacity. It was more about the people in the project believing in it.
All other things can come and go, but if I believe in myself, I have no choice but to do it. It’s about having a positive mindset. I wake up every day knowing I will make better decisions if I believe in myself.
When I started what I thought was my dream, a beauty company, I moved back home. I was 28, living in my parent’s basement, working on this company and everyone thinks I’m crazy because I left this job as a lawyer. I had a fantastic job, fantastic support system, and I left it all. I was like, “What am I doing?” Then I had that moment: “You have to prove yourself. Now is the time.” So I did.
Zenger: Is it important to have open dialogue about self-care and sexual pleasures?
Hershenhorn: Oh yeah! It’s one of the things at Runi that I’m really focused on: knowing what you want, and exactly how to get it. The problem is, we don’t know what we want. We feel ashamed to ask for it. That starts early on. Think about sex ed. Sex education in America is completely flawed. What they’re teaching and how they’re teaching. For example, if I read off the states that mandate sex-education, you would be floored. Sex-education is not federally mandated across the U.S.
Some states require it, and some states don’t. Even in those states that do require sex-education, it’s not required to be medically sound. To me, that’s insane. I’m not saying that Runi is going to come in and overhaul sex-education in America. We would love to work toward that, but we’re just one piece of the puzzle. Where Runi comes in is where the system fails.
Hopefully, we can make enough noise to peak people’s attention. Let’s go back to the sex-education programs in American schools. Not only do they need to be medically accurate, but a lot of them are abstinence-based and shame-based. I understand the concerns about teaching young kids about sex. It’s a scary topic. Not every parent is going to be happy with every conversation. It’s a tough subject. The problem is, when we don’t give good sex-education to kids, the natural desires they start to feel as teenagers become attached to shame.
You can scare somebody into not doing something for only so long. These are natural desires; they don’t go away. When you go the shame way, or abstinence-base way, you don’t discuss healthy relationships, and learning about your own body — what you like, what you don’t like. That’s what Runi is here to do.
We want to show people that, when you know what you want, you’re able to say, “Yes.” It’s directly correlated with your ability to say, yes, and your ability to say, no. When we open up dialogue about pressure, about what you want, you can say: This is a healthy relationship. This is a boundary line that I want drawn. You learn about yourself and other people. When you know what you want, it translates into other areas of your life. We say, from the bedroom to the boardroom, and beyond.
Zenger: Given the sensitive nature of your products, and the sensitive times we are in, are you toeing the line, or are you kicking the door down?
Hershenhorn: I’m always running to the next Runi idea. For me, the message about knowing what you want and how to get it is important. I’m willing to scream it from every rooftop. I know what it’s like to be the girl that’s 18, and doesn’t have a lot of friends. I wasn’t the cool girl, and I never felt empowered. I never had a voice. If you’re always told, this is how it should be and that doesn’t align with what you want, you’re going to feel flawed.
For me, Runi is much more than a product or brand. It’s a platform and a community. Not only to talk about pleasure in a sexual way, but anything users want, in a constructive and supportive way. Of course, because of what the product is and what the brand looks like, there are limitations. We do walk a fine line and stay within the boundaries.
I used to like rules because I wanted to stay within the boundaries. Now, whatever that boundary is, I want to push it.
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