Felicia Hershenhorn Talks Intimate Wellness, Entrepreneurship, and More

RUNI intimate wellness company by Felicia Hershenhorn

MP recently spoke with Felicia Hershenhorn, a 29-year-old beauty-obsessed, former attorney turned wellness entrepreneur. As an attorney, she was the youngest and only female head of corporate governance and legal at an industry-leading development company in Toronto, Canada, where she counseled on large-scale acquisitions and represented the company by drafting complex transaction materials for multinational corporations. 

She eventually left law to co-found a beauty company and consult on growth strategy for multi-million dollar beverage companies, but when the opportunity presented itself to start something on her own, she couldn’t resist founding RUNI

Felicia

Why did you choose to become an attorney?

I didn’t have an incredible passion for law, I was a sort of romantic dilettante, but I was pretty fiery and passionate, so I thought law and fighting for something, or anything really, was the right path for me. Ironically, I practiced more black-letter law, where there was little fighting and mostly reading and contracts.

Why did you stop practicing law?

That passion that I sought was lacking! For me, it was always beauty and wellness. It consumed my free time, so I eventually decided to take the plunge and dive deep into what gave me the most fulfillment. 

RUNI

What is Runi, and what makes it unique?

RUNI is an intimate wellness company focused on pleasure but also emphasizes communication as an essential component of human sexuality, which is fundamental to our overall health and wellbeing. RUNI is fundamentally unique because we ask people to confront whether their pleasure matters if it’s outside the scope of “normal”? And, of course, the answer is a resounding yes!

What does it mean to be an intimate wellness company?

The term ‘Intimate wellness’ invites people to explore their pleasure as a category of health, not just as a kink or little secret meant to be tucked away into the depths of the night. The wellness category is expanding, and the lines between traditional categories are blurring. Skin care is as closely tied to pleasure and orgasms as it is to proper nutrition and sleep, so the gap between your intimate wellness routine and your exercise regime is not as vast as you might expect. You never regret making time for a good workout and certainly don’t compromise your nightly skin-care routine. Why should your sexual wellness be any different? Pleasure as a form of regular maintenance is the ultimate act of self-care, and RUNI believes prioritizing that pleasure shouldn’t be a chore.

What three obstacles have you faced while growing Runi, and how have you overcome them? 

Competition

Sexual/intimate wellness is growing as a category, so there are a lot of movers in the space. The first question people ask me is always about the competition. And while we are disruptive in our medium, message, branding, formulation, operations, etc., I welcome competition because it shows that there is healthy movement in the space. There is a real need for products like ours. I always say there is no limit to the upper shelf. I love different companies attacking the same problem with varying perspectives and solutions because it forces us at RUNI to be curious, stay relevant, and be vigilant.

Subject Matter

Of course, the subject matter of sexual and intimate wellness is still attached to shame and embarrassment, likely due to the portrayal of the ‘male idealization’ of sex in the industry and the antiquated and insufficient sexual education programs in schools. At RUNI, we recognize the history of sex in America. Instead of allowing the fractured representation to continue, we are having conversations based on medically accurate information, transparency, and honesty, wholly separated from shame. We are creating a space to tackle the taboos and unpack the complexities of sexual desires and discover pleasure in new and exciting ways! 

Supply Chain Constraints

Everyone has felt the limitations of the supply chain due to COVID-19 in all aspects of life, so it is not a novel story. Still, there were moments when growing RUNI where our supply chain was stalled entirely: factories were closed for months, ingredients were unavailable, and we had to go back to the drawing board to meet deadlines and make our product work. 

This ended up being beneficial as we created efficiencies that were not present prior; for example, we moved the manufacturing process stateside and cut down on the list of ingredients in our product. We went from 12 to 9 to 6 ingredients, removed all filler, and ensured that every ingredient had a specific purpose that is also comprehendible to consumers. There is nothing worse than looking at the back of a package and not understanding the ingredients or what they do. So, while I felt almost defeated at first, we were forced to adapt, and I couldn’t be happier with the results.

How do you plan for Runi’s future?

With a lot of flexibility! When I started RUNI, it was critical to be flexible and maintain my ability to experiment and expand because the wellness category is constantly shifting, and, secondly, to maintain my competitive advantage. One of the greatest strengths in being a startup is the ability to lunge and adjust. We aren’t bogged down by the same structures, systems, processes, or expectations as legacy players, so we can and should be agile. 

Felicia Hershenhorn founder of RUNI
RUNI founder Felicia Hershenhorn / Photo courtesy of Felicia Hershenhorn

Entrepreneurship

What three questions should would-be entrepreneurs ask themselves before starting a new venture, and why?

  1. Am I passionate about my idea?
  2. Is this something I can talk/think/ideate about ad-infinitum?
  3. Do I have the runway to make this thing fly? If not, is it possible if I change my current expectations of myself?

Starting something is easy. You have the adrenaline that keeps you going, but once you’re 6-12 months in, money is drying up, you haven’t launched, and people start second-guessing you, it can get very tough and lonely. I would say to ask these questions constantly, even if it’s just ritualistic, as a sort of reminder of why you started.

In this way, questions one and two are closely tied, and then question three gives you the ability to maintain your passion but adjust your expectations. When starting something, with or without a partner, isolation is one of the most challenging aspects of being an entrepreneur. I have spent many nights into the early mornings alone trying to solve problems or make the impossible possible, and the only thing that keeps me going is my passion. Because even if I wasn’t getting paid to talk about beauty and wellness, I would be consuming myself with the very same things almost 24/7. 

What does your typical day look like, and how do you manage your work-life balance?

5:30 to 7:30 am:  I typically wake up around 5:30 am and send out all the emails for the day for the next two hours as I drink my coffee and eat my breakfast. This allows me to run through everything that is important to me without interruption because most people are not awake yet.

7:30 to 9 am: I usually do yoga, shower, and prepare for my day.

9 am to 12 pm:  I am on zoom calls with my manufacturer, my social media manager, my growth strategy team, or my creative team to ensure everything is running on schedule.

12 to 2 pm: I usually see responses to my emails trickling in, so I try to respond in real-time.

2 to 5 pm: This is when I reach back out to my team with any lingering concerns and also when I film content or do PR interviews.

5 to 7 pm: I spend time editing and reviewing creator or personal content or coming up with ideas for social content.

Around 7:00 pm: I try to shut off my laptop and spend time away from my computer. I always finish my day with some meditation, even if it’s two minutes of really focusing on how good a donut tastes. While most days and nights are consumed by my work, RUNI really is an extension of me and my personality. Meditation in any iteration helps create space to grow, think, learn, cry, laugh, taste, really anything!

What three factors contribute to an entrepreneur’s success, and why? 

1. Passion

If you can’t tell, I am passion- and pleasure-driven, but dedication isn’t enough for me. I was very dedicated to law, but it was not my passion which is why it didn’t stick for me. And that’s not to say you cannot be successful at something you are not passionate about. I know many fabulous accountants who are not incredibly passionate about taxes; for some, that is enough! But as I mentioned earlier, there is an aspect of loneliness and isolation that generally comes in tandem with entrepreneurship, and you need that little something more– that je- ne sais quoi that makes the disconnection of relentlessly going after your goals worth it, and for me that is passion. 

2. Organization

Organization is so important, and sometimes as entrepreneurs, because our to-do lists are so long, we want to cut any corners. 

3. Celebration

Lastly, celebration!! Again, as an entrepreneur, you can quickly end up on a lonely island fast. So, when you slow down and celebrate, even the small victories, with the people who care about you, it can make the journey much easier and more fun!

Leadership

What three characteristics define an effective leader, and why? 

1. Kindness

Being kind is often overlooked as a characteristic of a successful leader, and it is something I observed working for other people. When I felt like my boss was kind, I was willing to take more calculated risks. I was willing to go above and beyond my job description. I would ask better and more informed questions. I would feel more connected to my work and my colleagues. This was true because I was not operating under a constant state of fear. And now, as a leader, I always try to lead with kindness because I know how the positive effects can cascade and multiply. 

2. Positive-Affirmations

This is kind of an off-shoot of kindness, but I always try to affirm the positive qualities of the people around me. Negative talk can produce physiological stress in the body, and constantly having people work in fight or flight mode is not the environment I want in my workplace. Again, when people feel supported, empowered, and generally content, I find they are willing to give that much more effort.

3. Open-mindedness 

As founders and entrepreneurs, we hopefully take our ideas from nothing to something. But sometimes, this results in tunnel vision, so keeping an open mind and listening to the people around us is essential. It is imperative to constantly flow new ideas and fresh perspectives to ensure we stay relevant, forward-thinking, and cutting edge. 

Other

Is there anything else you’d like to add?

Think big, and you’ll be big! Don’t let anyone tell you your dreams are too big for you. I promise if you take even micro-steps towards your goal, you will get there faster than you know. RUNI is my childhood nickname, and it is a reflection of me and who I continuously aspire to be and wanted to be growing up. At RUNI, we constantly strive to embody that there is nothing more powerful on this planet than a strong person who has a great sense of self, knows what they want, and exactly how to get it. So set your sights on something and go for it!

Cover photo courtesy of RUNI.