Mariessa Mahfouz of SYLK

I’ve written and talked a lot about my journey into green beauty. One of the biggest aha moments for me was definitely thinking about natural lube and why it matters! Think about it - not only is skin the largest organ of your body…so everything we put on it, we should be conscious about…BUT you are putting lube near your most precious (and delicate) of parts!

As I discussed in my post on maude, it has since become one of my own values to partner with people who are changing the conversation around sex + pleasure - and I’m happy to say that SYLK has been a part of that mission for me, from the very beginning.

It seemed almost natural, then, that three years ago when I was helping the founder of the W.E.L.L. Summit look for sponsors and vendors, I would be committed to including a natural lube brand. After I spoke to Mariessa about partnering, I was even more convinced. This is a product that needed to be part of the conversation around wellness.

My sister and I had a curated booth of various wellness inspired small batch makers whose products we were representing for them. In this room full of hyper-wellness focused practitioners, entrepreneurs, and consumers, I figured the lube would be one of the things we would sell out of. Sadly that was not the case.

In this room, like so many others, we found women to be uncomfortable talking about lube and why it was important - let alone why a natural version was key.

And, even though I consider myself super progressive and dedicated to the cause of changing the conversation, the truth is that I also sometimes find it awkward to hand out my SYLK samples! Knowing Mariessa and her dedication to natural wellness definitely helps - just one of the reasons I’m stoked to share her story with you here.

I’ve also written a product review of SYLK - which you can read here. And if you do want to try for yourself, you can use the code LAKAY to try a tube for $19.95 + free shipping!

The more I write about incorporating your values into everything you do, I’ve also learned that being really clear on what those values are helps alleviate much of the anxiety that comes from having what could be considered awkward conversations.

My takeaway: Getting clear on what matters to you and why takes the anxiety out of awkward conversations and helps us all have more wellness.

Website: SYLK USA IG/Twitter: @WeAreSYLK

Tell us about your business. What do you do? Who do you serve? How long have you been at it?

I am the Co-Owner of SYLK Moisturizing Personal Lubricant. SYLK is the only water-based personal lubricant made with 100% purified, natural New Zealand kiwi vine extract. Yes, it's a lube :)

We are a family business (which makes for interesting dinner conversations, haha), and so we all do a bit of everything, but if I were to narrow down my particular role, I mainly handle the business development of the company including strategic partners, wholesale, distributor, and brand ambassador acquisition and management -as well as direct-to-consumer retail initiatives to increase brand awareness.

While SYLK has been trusted and sold for over 30 years internationally, my company acquired the rights to SYLK for the US and other select territories in late 2014. Since then, we have completed a full brand restructuring, including manufacturing distribution, pricing, retail website and social media, etc. and notably, we took our product through the FDA to become 510(k) cleared, which is a legal requirement for all lubricants!

Needless to say, it's been a BUSY four years but we are super excited about the position we are in today. We said from the beginning, we want to do things the right way or not at all, which is a motto we have stuck to throughout our entire business.

Why did you start your business?

SYLK is a product that does more than help people - it changes people’s lives - literally!

When I first started in the space, I was VERY green, but we knew from the product’s rich history of customer satisfaction and doctor recommendation that this was a unique product. Anyone can sell you anything with the right marketing spin, but it takes genuine product quality to be a lasting and sustainable business.

I (we) knew wholeheartedly that the people around the world NEED this product and it became our mission to make that possible on a large scale.

What does "social good business" or "values based earning" mean to you? 

This means that there is purpose, quality, and integrity behind the business/company that goes beyond the company itself.

To have value behind your business means that you create and offer something that goes beyond a simple exchange of money for a good/service; it means that there is a greater purpose to your offering that makes people's lives better.

What is your favorite part about running a social good business or your favorite experience since you started? 

My favorite part of running a values-based business is hands-down the people that we help just by being a business. Hearing customers say that my product saved their marriage, helped them with intimacy after cancer treatment, or has been the only product they have been able to use due to their extremely sensitive skin is simply amazing.

I have literally had people thank me for creating this product (which, I can’t take credit for since SYLK has been around for longer than I have been alive!).

This truly brings me back to the center of our business - that all of our daily, weekly, and yearly efforts, - the blood, sweat (literally - transporting 40 lb. boxes of lubricant is hard work!), and tears (lots of those) - are all worth it to make such profound impact in our customers’ lives.

What is your biggest struggle in running a social good business? 

Entrepreneurship is not short of struggles - that’s for sure! Combine that with working in the FDA-regulated sexual wellness space with my family AND maintaining the utmost professionalism and values? Let’s just say, it’s not for the faint of heart :)

This might not necessarily be a struggle, but when running a values-based business, the most important part is surrounding yourself with partners who share your vision, values, and greater purpose. Curating the best team to all work together harmoniously is crucial to your success and your personal sanity! You have to be 1000% sure that your core values align. That can sometimes be difficult to see when opportunities appear to be very appealing, but you have to take a step back to think about the impact of your decisions on the greater good of the business.

What would you like most to accomplish in the next year? 5 years? 

In the next year, I would like to scale our business, build our company up, and very carefully and selectively find a larger, strategic partner who can take the company to the moon and beyond. SYLK is greater than me and while we have completed all of the R & D and “dirty work” to get it perfectly positioned, I know that it needs that final partner to truly take the company where it deserves.

That’s my main focus and after that, my 5 year plan will be written ;)

Who are your business icons, heroines or mentors? 

Business icon/hero - definitely my dad. He’s truly one of a kind. My parents were married and had children at a young age. My dad went to the “school of hard knocks” and is one of the most inspirational businessmen you will meet. I am lucky enough to be able to work closely with him and learn from him, which has been tremendously helpful throughout my entrepreneurial journey. Don’t get me wrong, we can butt heads (he’s my dad after all), but I am so grateful to be able to learn from him, learn with him, and grow as business people together.

What's your #1 tip for someone just getting started running a values-based business? 

If you are starting a values-based business, my tip would be to stick to your guns and follow your gut.

You’ll know in your heart if a situation, contact, or acquaintance is aligned with you - listen to that and never falter. Sometimes our judgement is off and you find out later that a person or situation does not align with you and your values. In that instance, take deep breath. Know that there is a solution, and fix it immediately.

Remain steadfast in your views and focused on your vision and realize everything outside of that is just noise.

What are your favorite conferences or retreats to attend?

While my schedule is constantly changing based on the company’s needs, pivots, and opportunities, I love being able to take time for some amazing local female boss babe communities. My friend started The Dames Collective, which brings women entrepreneurs together to connect, collaborate, and help one another. It’s refreshing and uplifting to get into a room with other women who are all on the entrepreneurship journey together!

What is the last book you read? 

The last book I read (or rather, listened to on audiobook) was Chop Wood and Carry Water by Joshua Medcalf. It provided helpful lessons and reminders to focus and enjoy the process not the outcome. I recommend adding it to your book list!