Q&A with Lindsay Wynn, founder of Momotaro & Oshihana wellness brands
Lindsay Wynn; LGBTQ+ photographer, vaginal wellness advocate, founder of Momotaro Apotheca and Oshihana (she / her / hers); Brooklyn, NY (but San Diego, CA-born and raised)
When it comes to reproductive / sexual health, it’s a difficult terrain is to navigate — considering those two areas remain the U.S.’s greatest education taboos. It’s disheartening to have reproductive health concern, and not know what to do or where to begin. It’s even more so when you turn to healthcare providers, and they themselves don’t any answers, either.
Circa 2016, Lindsay Wynn was running into reproductive health issues, including bacterial vaginosis (BV), yeast infections, and UTIs, and was turning to doctors, to no avail. So she took matters into her own hands. And by trial and error, such as investigating remedies like yogurt-soaked tampons and green-tea vulva masks, Wynn came up with the products that are now make up Momotaro Apotheca. Describing the vaginal wellness brand in her own words, Wynn says, “We make products that compete with companies like Monistat and Vagisil. We aim to not only address the symptoms of these very uncomfortable quality-of-life issues, but the stigma that surrounds sexual wellness, particularly relating to vaginal care.”
In regard to the LGBTQ+ community, that second part and the language surrounding it is particularly important. Momotaro is a “vaginal wellness brand,” not a “women’s health brand,” and Wynn intentionally presents Momotaro as a “non-binary” one at that. Cherry Magazine spoke to Wynn about language and LGBTQ+ inclusion in reproductive health-care, along with Momotaro’s origins, her and her business partner’s creative process, and their latest project Oshihana a “premium cannabis skin-care line, devoted to sexual wellness and recovery.
This interview has been edited and condensed for clarity.
How and when did Momotaro Apotheca come to be? Who works with you on the Momotaro team and where did the name come from?
About two and a half years ago, I began to have recurrent and unsolvable issues such as yeast infections, BV, and UTI’s. Aside from my increasing discomfort, my mental and emotional wellbeing was also fatigued. It became apparent pretty early on that I was going to have to take solving this problem into my own hands, as over-the-counter and prescription medications were actually exacerbating the problem.
After a lot of DIY trials and months of research, my partner and I were able to create something that worked. This is what eventually became our best-selling salve. We now have three products on the market and have other really amazing things in the pipeline for 2020.
The name came after I had spent some time in Japan and was becoming increasingly obsessed with the author Haruki Murakami. Taylor (my business partner) and I had just spent some time in the backcountry of Oregon reading Dance, Dance, Dance together. We had many conversations about what would become Momotaro during this time. It seemed fitting that the name came was inspired during this trip.
We ended up stringing all sorts of different words and sayings together and eventually landed on Momotaro Apotheca. “Apotheca” is the Greek word for a warehouse, essentially. Ultimately, the goal was to create a name that had no connotations to what the antiquated fem[inine] care world was and is using.
What is your process like, from idea to finished product? How do you go about doing research?
It’s a bit different now than it was when we started. My background is in creative fields and I am an extremely visual person: from the way I learn to the way I organize. There were lots of lists and mood-boards. Additionally, because I did so much testing on myself, I knew what I didn’t like and the very few things I did. After making a few initial decisions of what I thought would work for me, Taylor and I spent a ton of time in Powell’s [Books], this amazing bookstore in Portland, [Oregon]. We were sitting on the floor, reading for hours and using the internet, to do market research.
At the beginning, we didn’t know exactly what Momotaro would look like. But the best way I can describe what we have created is: chipping away a solid piece of stone to find the art underneath. We are lucky now to have both grown quite a bit and have a much more sophisticated team of experts and people that help us make new products and support our ideas.
Lastly, during the process of creating new things (and anytime I am working on a longer project), I always wake up in the middle of the night and write things down. I think my brain really sorts through the kinks on its own while it’s at rest — and then wakes me up when I am supposed to remember “the good stuff.”
Why is it important that you present the brand as one for womxn and non-binary people, specifically? What was that conversation with your business partner like?
The brand is for everyone. So are the products. We focus on creating solutions for symptoms of irritation and infection, as well as prophylactic care. These are not gendered issues — they are anatomical.
We are all humans and share a similar collection of body parts that make up our physical and sexual selves. By creating products that are gender-neutral, you open up the conversation to all people [and allow] better opportunities for education and empathy — whether that’s for your own health and wellness, or that of a partner or child.
In regard to talking to my partner about it, I feel lucky that he was open to all of these ideas and has taken the time to learn and grow with the brand to better support all of the things we care about (there are a lot, haha). It is truly important that everyone on our team does this. This includes myself.
There is always an opportunity to learn and unlearn language, biases, and systems of oppression. There will definitely be times when you mess up, feel uncomfortable and have to apologize, and that’s OK. It means you are doing the hard work to affect real change. Always try, listen, and be respectful.
What has the response been like to the decision to present the brand as a non-binary wellness brand?
Well, as far as I know, pretty good. I feel like we have been able to address a diverse group of people, which has given us the opportunity to learn about different types of care people need or want. I will say, since we started fundraising we have had some potential investors say we are “too out there” and “the soccer moms” won’t like us. I think that’s bullsh*t, and we should be giving soccer moms more credit.
What has been a major milestone for you with Momotaro?
I mean this from the bottom of my heart: What we are most proud of are our reviews. The fact that we are having a positive effect on people’s individual lives is the most important aspect of our business. If we are not taking care of the people who buy our product, we have no business. It’s the bedrock of our company values.
What do you hope to accomplish with Momotaro?
Again, I really do feel passionately about the care we give to each individual customer. Changing the industry as a whole is a goal, but we know we have a lot to do and learn before that can happen. There are so many people out there that have had experiences similar to mine. The more people we can help and learn from, the better our business and products will become. Eventually we would like to have a larger product line that addresses more of the issues we find are important. Additionally I would love the culture of our business to support transparency, inclusion, and empathy on a global scale.
Switching gears a bit, can you talk about Oshihana? What is your goal in starting this brand and where did that name come from, too?
As we were doing research and development for Momotaro we began to run tests on a CBD- and THC-enhanced product. My brother has had a long-time relationship with the cannabis industry, so it was always something I was excited to explore. After a few months of testing, we sent out a batch of test product to a women’s retreat. The response we got was pretty mind-blowing.
A lot of the women had said it was “the wettest” they had been in years (one of our products can be applied to the vulva to increase sensation and help with vaginal atrophy). After this feedback and some research into the market, we knew we had to focus on creating inclusive care that focused on pre-, during and post-play care that didn’t have a negative stigma associated with it. Furthermore, there is a major lack of body-safe products that are organic that focus on sexual care in a mindful way.
As for the name, I literally woke up and wrote it down in the middle of the night. I’ll never forget it because I was sleeping in my childhood bedroom at my parents’ house. Haha.
What do you hope to accomplish with Oshihana?
Oshihana will launch soon starting in Oregon. We will (hopefully) move pretty quickly state-by-state where cannabis is legal. With Oshihana, we aim to talk about sex and sexual care in a realistic, safe, and accessible way. We also feel passionately about supporting and advocating for organizations that support fighting against the inequities that the rapidly expanding cannabis industry is still exploiting.
Since Cherry is taking August to talk about wellness, I just wanted to ask: What is your no. 1 self-care tip?
Drink water! It is honestly the best thing you can do for yourself. 🍒