You could argue that 2021's biggest wellness trend — and money-maker — is sex and intimacy. It's no longer a hidden corner of the Internet, and even department stores like Nordstrom and Bloomingdales have launched sexual wellness shops featuring products from female-led and body-positive brands to get in on the explosive demand.
But while femtech brands continue to create products that make it easier to get off in seconds (not that we're complaining), when it comes to actually helping women understand how their bodies work... well, there isn't a ton of innovation happening there. That's where LOOM, a newly launched digital education platform, comes in.
Co-founded by doula, educator, and author Erica Chidi, LOOM'S mission is to empower women through inclusive, anti-racist, and trauma-informed knowledge about their sexual and reproductive health. And Chidi, LOOM's CEO, impressively raised $3 million to build it — making her one of just a handful of Black women who've raised more than $1 million in venture capital, as Fast Company reports.
Previously operating LOOM as an in-person wellness hub in Los Angeles, Chidi realized that there was a massive problem she could solve by going digital. "All of the experiences that cis women have in our bodies are ubiquitous. It's not only women in L.A. having these issues and concerns, it's everywhere. So that was the reason behind raising venture capital," she says, explaining her frustration when met with the assumption that women's health education must automatically be a nonprofit. "When you're trying to solve a systemic problem — which is women feeling a sense of discomfort and dis-ease in their bodies as a result of this knowledge deficit that they have around their bodies — created by systemic issues like misogyny and patriarchy, you have to get capital that actually can fight that systemic issue."
And the way she approaches solving it seems almost too simple: Treating women as real people with lived experiences whose sexual and reproductive health exists on a continuum. "I always say, the same woman who's breastfeeding likes having orgasms, you know what I mean? It's the same person. And that same person will eventually go through menopause," Chidi says.
LOOM's first program, centered around pregnancy and postpartum, features on-demand classes taught by Chidi that cover everything from negotiation skills for productive conversations with your doctor, midwife, or doula to the mental health challenges of new motherhood. (For $90, you'll have access to courses on all of these topics, plus community support — practically a steal compared to the cost of one-off childbirth classes these days.) Inclusivity and empathy are at the heart of the program — "I'm gay, I'm Black, I'm first-generation Nigerian-American, so my perspective is already left of center," Chidi says — but it is also unbiased and science-backed. "My parents were both clinicians so I got a very early introduction to the body," Chidi adds.
Unlike traditional pregnancy programs, Chidi's focuses on the real concerns of expecting moms, rather than the growing fruit size of their fetus. "I'm all about having a size proportion to know what's going on with your baby. But you don't really care about that," Chidi says. "What you really care about is, My vulva is getting bigger, what the f—k! And also, like, I have no desire to have sex with my partner or, I'm so horny and I really want to have sex with a partner but they're scared to. Or, like, I don't know when to tell my manager at work because the last two pregnant people went on mat leave and never came back. These are the questions, right? These are the concerns. Like, baby is grapefruit — amen. But... these things, you know?" she says with a half-laugh.
Chidi says the program isn't just for pregnant women, though — something that sounds groundbreaking until she points out how humans existed for centuries. "Even if you weren't pregnant, you would attend a birth, you'd see it happen," she says. When she entered the space 10 years ago, Chidi says she was one of the first young, childless doulas, a career that's all but trending these days. And bringing more child-free people into the delivery room is something she sees value in. "I don't have kids, I'm not sure if I will ever have children myself out of my own body, but I intimately understand the experience," she says — adding that it's helped her support and understand her closest friends when they became pregnant.
"I want there to be a cultural shift that we're not just taking pregnancy classes cause we're pregnant... that just continues to separate us."
"My dream is to have both pregnant and non-pregnant people take [the course]. I want there to be a cultural shift that we're not just taking pregnancy classes cause we're pregnant, you know? That just continues to separate us," she continues. "The idea is to be an empathetic member of society who can meet the people in your life going through this transition with information."
The virtual village she's building with LOOM also solves a larger problem: "Motherhood in America is like extremely lonely," Chidi says. "And it is lonely because you're only sold one idea of it, you know? What we're trying to fix here is you don't have to abandon yourself when you get pregnant. You don't have to abandon yourself to be a mom."