The making of… Jonny
Welcome to The making of... blog series. To start, can you give us a bit of a background into who you are and where you’ve come from?
Hello, I’m Bec Park (left). At Jonny, we have three co-founders, originally friends, now business partners. We come from varied backgrounds but all have a similar love of good design, human-centric, purpose led brands that are making changes for good, and also a desire to do our bit for a more sustainable future.
Personally, my background is in marketing. I spent years in advertising before "crossing over" to the client side where I got to work with some incredible brands and leaders in the luxury goods arena, and then later on in life (while juggling single parenting) some well-regarded Australian businesses. Starting Jonny has been an incredible opportunity to put many (many) years of learning into practice...and the learning curve has continued to grow!
Coming from advertising to marketing, and now a brand co-founder we can definitely see the merit in what you’re doing. No doubt that also means you had numerous business ideas and various options. So, how did you come up with the concept for Jonny?
Jonny is a sexual wellness brand that wants to smash the stigma and awkwardness that still exists when talking about intimacy, sex and especially sex with condoms. We want to make condoms as normal, and accessible as toothpaste!
Jonny came about from a very informal chat the three of us were having around our loves, lusts, one-nighters etc and our various experiences. We soon realised that despite our age differences, we all had very similar experiences when it came to wanting to use condoms.
We all experienced the same awkwardness, and in some cases shame....and we couldn't believe that this still existed! (it was 2016 and before #metoo) It dawned on us that we could do something about this....and from there Jonny was born!
When you put it that way, it starts to get less problematic and more democratic. And with that in mind, what were the first runs like? Were the first iterations of your product what you expected them to be?
Pretty much what you see today! We had done so much work on the look and feel prior to launching, and we haven't changed much. The product itself, the condom, is as good as you can get. The packaging, other than a few updates we had to do to be on the retail shelf, is as we had imagined from the early days. The real test of the brand is how we incorporate other products into the fold, which we plan to do 😉
Knowing your background, we wouldn’t expect anything less. How about funding? How did you initially pay for everything?
Ahhhhhh money! The toughest part of running a start-up! We bootstrapped and ran out! We had a couple of friends who were very supportive of Jonny and became minor shareholders before we even launched. And we also had the support of a very generous associate for a private loan. All that lasted 18 months!
Yes, funding is difficult for many start-ups. If we ran a poll, it would most likely be weighted towards bootstrapping, friends and family. You mentioned packaging earlier. Could you tell us about the branding process and how you arrived at where you are today?
Establishing the brand identity was actually the toughest part of setting up our business. Even the funding was easier!
Given my career in marketing, we were able to define and articulate what we wanted the brand to be and feel like. We knew we wanted a gender-neutral brand that was bold, playful and witty. We had the brand persona all worked out. The challenge was finding the right person/people to bring this to life through the brand mark and tone of voice. We spoke to many creatives - and many who said we needed to target men only! - and others that had a very predictable approach (smutty, crass etc). So finding the right creative fit was the challenge.
Through our personal networks, we finally landed on a couple of wonderfully creative humans who understood our vision for Jonny and brought that to life through the core brand assets you see today, and our signature tone of voice.
Knowing what you want and having experience in marketing always helps when it comes to branding. However, finding the right fit can be difficult. And what about awareness? How are you getting the word out there? How are you scaling the brand?
Digital digital digital. As a small business with limited dollars we need to put our money where it is measurable.
Social media was definitely a key tool in the early days e.g. Instagram. That landscape has changed rapidly and we had challenges given the ridiculous rules for advertising etc, but we continue to navigate this.
We got involved with, and continue to do a lot with Universities and brand collaborations.
And we developed clever partnerships that embraced the Jonny messaging early on and really helped drive our awareness. For example, we partnered with The Line (not-for-profit consent educator) and handed out 30,000 condoms at schoolies events; we got involved with Splendour and PASH (NSW government initiative) and distributed Jonny. So, we really targeted partnerships with those that were aligned to our overall messaging.
Our customers are our biggest advocates and driver of awareness. Our Jonny community is seriously an incredible group of humans.
There is sooooo much more to do and plan to do.
Building a brand takes more than advertising on Instagram. As you rightly say collaborations, community, events and of course using your existing customers as advocates is the right way to go. What about future challenges? What would you say is the biggest challenge or challenges you'll face moving forward?
Navigating growth! Market expansion, product development and growing the brand are all big projects we need to make sure we do smartly.
Ok, here's our final question. Knowing what you know now, what advice would you give another entrepreneur who is embarking on their own startup journey?
I honestly have two pieces of advice.
- Do a business plan. Even a 1-pager incorporating a budget for the first two years of operation. Include what you think you need to invest for COGs (Cost Of Goods), Marketing, Sales channels and how to pay yourself. Add all that up and then......triple it. You always need more money than you think. There will always be an expense you didn't account for. Don't be deterred by the number; be inspired by it.
- Practise, patience and persistence. Nothing happens as quickly as you think it will. You need to be patient. However, that doesn't mean sitting back and waiting. You have to keep persisting and keep moving. Balancing those two things is critical!