We did something kind of amazing last week – an interview with Rachel Braun Scherl, a well-known entrepreneur, CEO, business-builder and thought leader in women’s sexual health and wellness.
Rachel is also the author of ORGASMIC LEADERSHIP: Profiting from the Coming Surge in Women’s Sexual Health and Wellness, a book focused on her professional experiences in the female sexual and reproductive health space.
Rachel is currently leading the charge for Manna Molecular (MANNA), a producer of human-centered hemp and cannabis products and the creators of a breakthrough topical serum, Vella.
Vella was developed to address women’s distinct sexual needs and it is the first serum to demonstrate clinical efficacy of CBD for sexual enhancement in the field of women’s sexual health.
“MANNA is the first company to provide scientific evidence supporting the launch of a CBD product for sexual well-being. Our goal was to develop a CBD product that afforded tangible benefits to women. The specific formulation is condom-compatible and paraben-free,” said Nial DeMena, CEO and Co-Founder of MANNA. “Chief Medical Officer, Dr. Harin Padma-Nathan, was the lead clinical trial investigator for Viagra® and instills an evidence-based approach into our product development. MannaSX Business Unit Leader Rachel Scherl lends her extensive experience in working in fem-healthtech, giving us the confidence that we’re building the long-term foundations for the company.”
Read on for our interview with Rachel!
How did you start your career? Can you tell us the “backstory” about what brought you to the cannabis industry?
I would describe myself as an “accidental” Vagipreneur. By 2008, my business partner, Mary Jaensch, and I had built a very successful business in strategy consulting focused on revenue growth – catering to Fortune 500 companies in pharmaceuticals, consumer products, health and beauty. Our work focused on identifying new insights, opportunities, targets, products, line extensions and geographies to name a few for companies and businesses that dealt with women’s issues from the tops of their heads to the tips of their toes. In February of that year, a venture capitalist friend (who had never before shared a business plan with us), passed along an opportunity to work with a company in women’s sexual health, with a topical, safe product that improve sexual health for women of all ages.
When we met with the company, instead of looking for strategists and business builders, they were looking for significant financial investment. While I had run and consulted for businesses, but I never raised money. So we left the meeting but couldn’t get the company out of our minds. The opportunity to be in this space seemed like the perfect storm.
As a business builder and Vagipreneur®, I bring deep experience in menstruation, fertility, sexual disease prevention, birth control, pregnancy, menopause and incontinence to help brands and businesses grow. I continue to identify breakthrough solutions for women and innovating in the space and am proud and excited to have found my way to Manna Molecular, in the role of business unit director for Vella, a clinically proven cbd sexual enhancement for women.
Can you share the most interesting story that happened to you since you began leading your company? Can you tell us what lesson you learned from that?
When Mary Wallace Jaensch (my long time business partner) and I were raising money for Zestra, we had booked thirteen appointments with venture capital firms in two days. After two failed attempts and adolescent-like laughter at the mention of sexual enhancement we knew we needed to adjust their game (and our swing) drastically.
We huddled after the second meeting and decided to go for it in the next meeting (number three out of thirteen for those counting at home)—really try to shake things up and approach the conversation differently in the hopes of getting to a substantive discussion about funding. Eleven more meetings like the first two seemed more like a prison sentence than a great business opportunity. By nature a credit card person, I just happened to have a $100 bill in her wallet. And that $100 bill was both our inspiration and our pitch meeting savior.
As we walked into the next pitch meeting, I pulled the $100 bill, as planned, out of my wallet and slammed it onto the table with a resounding thwack, then paused for dramatic effect. I made my opening statement. “Here is a hundred-dollar bill. If anybody here makes a double entendre or joke that they haven’t heard before, shares a sexual innuendo that makes us uncomfortable, asks a question about the category that they cannot answer, or even makes us blush, this hundred-dollar bill is yours.”
I paused again—a pregnant pause (pun intended). And then delivered what we intended to be a knock-out—the real opening salvo. “She likes it more. She wants to have it more. Now let’s talk about the business model.”
Total and complete silence.
Now we finally had their attention.
At that moment, the energy in the room completely changed.
We had communicated that we could take anything thrown at us. That we knew business—and their business. That we weren’t amateurs. That we couldn’t and wouldn’t be embarrassed. That we were business people talking about a business opportunity, not people looking to laugh about sex with a bunch of strangers.
Spoiler alert: we did ultimately successfully raise tens of millions of dollars for Zestra and got the product into more than 2,000 Walmarts, in addition to building a direct-to-consumer business.
And nobody ever got our $100 bill.
Can you share a story about the funniest mistake you made when you were first starting? Can you tell us what lesson you learned from that?
There are so many things I have learned along the way – through on the job training, from generous co-workers, colleagues, friends, and thought leaders, but a few always rise to the top.
- In order to be successful in my mind, you must know how to sell. Whether it is an idea, a business, a solution, an approach, so much relies on one’s ability to convince others to buy, invest, collaborate, participate in what you are trying to accomplish. You need to be able to compel others with the strength and appeal of your ideas, your story or approach.
- Know how to negotiate. This concept covers so many different situations – fundraising, partnerships, your salary, someone else’s salary, equity stakes. The answer is always no if you don’t ask. So come armed with the facts, the data, the key points whenever you enter a negotiation. At least, when a negotiation works out – when both parties have come away with something of value, I literally feel a rush of endorphins (the same feeling you get after a strenuous workout). In my mind, negotiating is never about decimating the other side, but finding solutions that are mutually beneficial, the proverbial “win win”.
- Be prepared that whatever business you are trying to build will likely take more time, money, resources of every kind than you anticipate. Unexpected challenges will block your path. You will need a support system – find one, create one, access one and use it. Make sure to take care of yourself physically – whatever that means in your personal case. And never, ever, lose your sense of humor. Many were the days when finding a way to laugh in the face of enormous challenges not only kept me from becoming totally discouraged, but also gave me the lift I needed to keep moving forward.
Do you have a story about how someone you knew reacted when they first heard you were getting into the cannabis industry?
Because I am in the business of female sexual health, people tend to be curious about new solutions and products to solve problems we have a hard time talking about publicly. I work with women and help develop solutions and products that will benefit them from the tops of their heads to the tips of their toes. In particular, I am the one that is pleasantly surprised when I share Vella as a CBD sexual enhancement product and women of all ages are thrilled to try it!
You are an expert in the cannabis world. If you had to advise someone about the cannabis industry, what would you say?
Make sure the companies you decide to buy from have scientific data backing up the products. Vella is the first CBD product developed to address women’s distinct sexual needs. The product was thoughtfully developed by Manna Molecular, a leading producer of human-centered hemp and cannabis products. This breakthrough topical gel is the first CBD product to demonstrate clinical efficacy.
Can you share something that excites you about the cannabis industry?
Innovation utilizing Cannabis-derived ingredients is fascinating. Every day there’s a new product released in the market that indicated to have a specific benefit to the body and/or mind. I’m also excited about the studies that are being done about the long-term benefits of these products.
How did you become a firm believer in the power of the cannabis plant, and it’s potential for enhancing your wellbeing (in and out of the bedroom)?
My belief has always been in research. Vella, which contains CBD, is tested and proven to work. Since creating and clinically testing Zestra, I’ve always believed in the benefits of botanicals and natural products to enhance overall wellbeing. While Zestra did not have cbd ingredients, we were pioneers in the industry of enhancing arousal, desire and satisfaction in the bedroom using plant-derived formulas. Vella, with cannabis-derived ingredients, is a big step further in that direction.
How is the social stigma surrounding cannabis-use changing?
As legislation changes and more and more trustworthy companies research the uses of cbd products and the positive impact it can have in a person’s various life stages, consumers are more open to trying products. It’s an exciting time. The consumers do as much or more “background checks” on products before they try them, so we are doing diligent, solid work to bring products and solutions that work. People are also more open and willing to talk about cbd and cannabis openly, it’s becoming less of a taboo.
Can you explain how to use CBD for sex and suggest a few ways to try using CBD to spice up your love life?
CBD helps you feel more aroused and relaxed at the same time it enhances the sexual experience. When used topically it has so many positive effects! It improves blood flow and naturally boosts energy. It also helps the sexual excitation system, helps you become less nervous and be more responsive to your partner. Because it’s used on the skin’s surface, Vella can provide all these benefits without any psychoactive effects!
Are cannabis and sex a match made in heaven?
Can you get “too high” and ruin “the moment”?
I believe anything in excess can “ruin” a moment if we lose sight of our surroundings and company.
How long does it take to feel the effects of CBD?
There are no good pharmacodynamic studies to pinpoint onset and duration. So, we have to rely on testimonial and interview data and those indicate an onset of CBD Vella (it has to be liposomal) of 15-20 minutes. That’s much like Viagra when things are optimal.
Men vs. Women – What’s the difference in impact?
It hasn’t yet been studied, but it is only a matter of time.
We loved having Vella in our 2019 gift guide – here is the link again if you missed it. Vella is the FIRST CBD product to address women’s distinct sexual needs. The product was thoughtfully developed by Manna Molecular, a leading producer of human-centered hemp and cannabis products.
This breakthrough topical gel is the first CBD product to demonstrate clinical efficacy.
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