Jonny Be Vegan and Plastic-Free: An Interview with Jonny Co-Founder Bec Villanti

It’s Plastic Free July and we’re all being urged to reduce our plastic consumption for the health of the planet.  When we look at all areas of our lives, plastic can be found everywhere; even down to our choices in intimate lifestyle products. Condoms are lumped into this category and trying to find plastic-free (and vegan) options can be hard. Enter the all-Australian, all-vegan and eco-conscious condom brand Jonny.

So how did Jonny start?

Jonny is the brainchild of friends Bec Park, Samantha Eades and Bec Villanti. Jonny’s condom products are created by women and, surprisingly, for women. So, how do three women decide to create a condom brand that breaks all the rules? “Between the three of us, we had an epiphany over conversation and sharing of ‘from-the-night-before stories’”, co-founder Bec Villanti explains. “We had all shared similar individual experiences over the years of awkwardness around buying or using condoms, as well as all feeling like all the condoms on the market at that time were very targeted towards men. Nothing had changed in the joint 20-plus years between us we had of being sexually active. So, we set out to change that immediately – create a chic, playful, non-toxic, vegan condom brand that we were proud, as women, to carry in our handbags.”

Jonny’s co-founders (L-R): Bec Park, Samantha Eades and Bec Villanti
Breaking traditions and stigma around condoms…

There’s a strong sense that Jonny aims to break tradition around the condom conversation and empower women in this space. Bec explains this in the context of the product’s name: “Our mission is to normalise the conversation around sex, and we wanted to humanise the product by creating a witty, fun and cheeky one. Jonny had a great ring to it. It’s also the slang name for a condom in some parts of the world. Funnily enough, I had no idea about this at the time when we decided on the name!”

It’s accurate to suggest that Jonny wants to break the stigma around a woman’s role in purchasing condoms, especially when Jonny’s packaging and sizing is considered. Simple, slim-line packaging for comfortably-sized condoms is a far cry from the heavy, mechanical boxes you see on supermarket shelves. This could be an indication that Jonny refuses to be intimidated by manufacturing a male form of contraception. “To be honest, I don’t think that concern ever came up amongst us,” Bec refutes. “It was definitely an interesting process choosing what size to launch with, given that one size does not fit all! Our manufacturer was extremely helpful in guiding us there.”

Women are also an equal part of the conversation

Overall, Jonny increases women’s contraceptive choices and champions women when it comes to condom choice. Men are also an equal part of the conversation. “The mission of Jonny is to challenge and shift exactly that: To shift the status quo to be that safe sex celebrates equality and mutual respect, and that it is normal to talk about it. It should be an equal responsibility between men and women to look after their sexual health and be proud to do so. Yes, men wear the condom. However, it does get inserted into a woman’s body so it’s equally important that women feel comfortable and confident to take charge of their own experience. We have always aimed to target women but we definitely don’t alienate men. Some of our most frequent customers are men.”

Accidently creating a vegan condom option…

Together with Jonny’s mission to lift women’s choices, the company succeeded in creating a vegan condom for those who identify as vegan. According to Bec, the product journey was a serendipitous one. “Honestly, that was a beautiful case of stars aligning. We were in contact with a number of different manufacturers, obtaining samples etc. When reviewing the samples, we all unanimously liked the feel and scent (or lack of) of one particular condom sample. Upon further research and conversation with our manufacturer around the specifics of that condom, we discovered that it was also vegan. At that point, we actually had no idea that condoms couldn’t be vegan! Most condoms contain casein, a milk derivative, in the manufacturing process but Jonny condoms do not.” Interestingly, Jonny’s founders are not vegan. “I personally eat a very predominantly vegetarian diet, and am very much a conscious meat eater – only free-range and organic meats,” Bec says. “We certainly didn’t intentionally set out to create a vegan product. However, we are proud that it is so that it is even further inclusive and accessible for the vegan community.”

So, what else makes Jonny eco-conscious?

Being a vegan product means that Jonny is already one step in the right direction when eco-consciousness is involved but it doesn’t stop there. The company goes all the way by using natural latex from rubber plants in the manufacture process, and is free of palm oil and polyurethane. Plus, their boxes are PEFC certified. The foil wrappers are not biodegradable because all condoms need to be wrapped in foil by Australian law. However, Jonny includes biodegradable FabLittle Bag bags for disposing used condoms. The FabLittleBag can also be used to dispose sanitary products. Being eco-conscious is another major facet of the business. “We have a responsibility as humans and as business owners to do what we can to minimise our environmental impact. The FabLittleBag was a discovery by my co-founder Bec, through online research. FabLittleBag was a female-founded creation, based in England. So, we reached out to them to discuss Jonny as a good fit (no pun intended) in a partnership for our packs. It was a no-brainer, really, given they were a biodegradable bag that fit perfectly folded in our packs.

“The real clincher in that decision was when we held a focus group with a group of young women, aged between 18 and 25, the year before we launched. We posed the question: ‘How do you dispose your used condom?’ Much like their tampons, many of them flushed them down the toilet. So, we knew we had another mission to help shift that behaviour and offer a clean and neat alternative. Be a lover, not a flusher!”

How does Jonny act more globally?

Another way that Jonny is helping to empower women is by giving back to the global community. Jonny donates $1.00 from each online order to i=Change, an online movement that accelerates the impact of extraordinary development projects focused on empowering women and girls. Companies like Jonny can get onboard to donate. “We wanted to be able to give back somehow because we believe that a business can be profitable and give back at the same time,” Bec says. “Through research into how to go about this and who to support, we discovered i=Change. They make it super easy for brands to be able to do this, acting as an amazing platform between a brand and a charity. They’re a dream partner to work with.”

Jonny travels overseas despite COVID-19

Now the world is facing the effects of the COVID-19 pandemic, the world seems more connected. This connectedness is helping Jonny expand outside Australia into New Zealand, Singapore and Hong Kong. It also helps when customers are spending more time indoors. Online customers can order Jonny condoms as one-off packs or via four or eight-week subscriptions; a convenient purchase model that isn’t usually synonymous with condoms. “It’s not worth risking it with unprotected sex,” Bec explains. “This way, you never need to think about whether you’re out of condoms in the heat of the moment.”  

Condoms are also synonymous with travel. Here in Australia and in Hong Kong, Jonny can now be found in a selection of hotels. “We are currently stocked in a few,” Bec confirms. “The Calile Hotel in Brisbane, Pier One in Sydney and The Fleming in Hong Kong. We’re definitely aiming to add more to that list in the year to come.”

However, despite local and international interest, Jonny isn’t immune to pressures as a result of the pandemic. “Wow, who knew that 2020 would shape up to look like this?” Bec laments. “Unfortunately, we have also been amongst those small businesses affected as it caused a major stock delay. Our next shipment of condoms was due to land at the end of February/early March from Malaysia. Let’s just say that we are still waiting. However, thankfully, it is due to land with us within the next week! We have been out of two of our packs for quite some time, which does have a knock-on effect with sales. We are very lucky in that our retail stockists have been very understanding and supportive as we navigate the challenges.”

Explore the range of Jonny’s condoms and product range at their website. For a full list of stockists, visit Jonny’s store locator. Or, you can purchase a subscription via Jonny’s website. You can also join in on the fun with Jonny via their Facebook and Instagram pages.

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