The Founder's Story
It was early 2015 when I was watching a Dateline about a girl who had been hacked and blackmailed through her webcam. I sat on my sofa thinking, “put a sticky note over the camera”. But moments later I corrected myself…
Ten years earlier I had written a term paper in college for my design degree titled, “The Good, The Bad, The Ugly in Design”. I was frustrated that earbuds were uncomfortably too big for my ears. I didn’t have awkwardly small ears. In fact, I realized I wasn’t alone. My girlfriends also suffered from this fundamental mis-hap in design. The earbuds were badly designed.
Back in my late twenties, sitting on the sofa, the “aha moment” came quickly. A sticky note covering the laptop’s webcam wouldn’t solve the problem. In fact, it would gunk up the camera, you would have to remember to replace it every time you had an e-meet, and ultimately, the position on your laptop is perfect for advertising.
Checking online, there were webcam covers - but they again weren’t designed for the audience. The intimidating packaging was scary and harsh - teenage girls and young women weren’t going to purchase this. And the customer reviews noted that the covers were plastic and “bulky” - they wouldn’t close with laptops, but especially the demographics’ ultra-thin MacBook Airs. Finally, the sales experience wasn’t right. The transactional websites like Amazon and Gadget.com weren’t welcoming either. My memory flashed to all the moments my friends and I had invested in simply shopping, not necessarily buying, but enjoying perusing beautifully made makeup, clothes, and even, well, things. I said out loud, “these need to be sold in Nordstrom”. My gut told me I would make the right covers for women. I would make a product that functionally and aesthetically was made for the demographic, and then sold in a place where women could feel comfortable, understood, heard.
It took two more years of saving before I officially started. By this time my research had led me to many manufactured tech products that were clearly not built for women. The InstaPot was too high for my 5’-4” frame. I had made soggy vegetables twice because I simply couldn’t open the lid on-time. And I was tired of hearing about drones and Oculus when my friends and I had much more everyday real problems technology could solve. When asking a few of my peers if they could “invent anything” to help their lives, a young mother hesitantly responded, “I’m not sure this is possible…but…I would like a machine that can fold laundry. Is that possible?” The other women standing around nodded in agreement, “yes, that would be great!”. While outwardly I gave the brave launderest a hug, inwardly I was furious. Not only do laundry folding machines already commercially exist, engineers made the F-16 fighter jet in the early 1970s. They sure as hell can make laundry folding machines for moms today.
It took 14 months to prototype the minuscule webcam cover. I patented it, sourced 200 prototypes and beta-tested them all over the country. I filtered through hundreds of manufacturers to be able to make the .001 tolerances. I designed 10 initial colorways for the front, as well as the packaging. I built the website, started the social media and email groups. I learned about Amazon, Etsy, wholesale, and created sales packages for my initial network reach-outs. Four months after the SKUs were live, Nordstrom sent me my first PO.
It was too late. My runway had run out. I was able to fulfill that order, along with further orders from the retail conglomerate. But I didn’t have enough money to pay my mortgage and invest in growing the company. Fundraising was out of the question - I had been told by many there was less than a 1% chance of gaining a backer. And even then, it would take 6-9 months to find an investor willing to take a risk on a “sole female founder.”
Still, during my year of building Femtech products, I had made many connections. I had written a book about being in the trenches of a startup. I had traveled to Shenzhen to tour manufacturers and meet sourcing agents for future products. I learned about SEO, and manufacturing well-beyond my webcam cover. The men surrounding me in my co-working space had initially taken bets against me. But a year later were paying me for my direction and insight. They had come to learn that though my background wasn’t in engineering, my focus on bringing the right solution to the audience had proven I could execute.
It took a few years to figure out how to pivot. I worked odd jobs - project managing other manufactured products to-market, working retail myself, as well as starting my own interior design business.
It wasn’t until 2021, when we were all shut inside that the business model changed. The challenge still exists - women are not thought about, heard, understood, designed-for, or sold-to with a deep empathetic understanding. But more and more companies, founded by women, are creating solutions. Lee London doesn’t need to be the only manufacturer, we want to partner with these new, unique, or under-marketed femtech product manufacturers, to bring their ideas to the right audience.
So here I am, a sole female founder, who has witnessed for the better half of two decades how technology is not built for half the planet’s population. Kitchen appliances, laundry appliances, home, office and car tools, health and beauty smart-products, even cell phones are often scaled un-proportionally, unnecessary “bells and whistle” buttons are added, and as more and more IOT, AR, and tech filters into our lives - the largest, strongest, and most loyal buying demographic is completely overlooked.
With my design background, intent on solving this world-wide challenge, and hands-on experience with R&D, logistics, finances, customer service, IT, operations, sales, marketing and management of multiple companies, Lee London will be prosperous. We will make sure, come hail or high water, women will have a voice in manufactured-tech.