Calling her failed crowdfunding campaign ‘a blessing in disguise,’ founder Audrey Hutchinson plots the next move for her probiotics-for-women startup.
By Jeff Bercovici (San Francisco Bureau Chief, Inc.)
Remember Sweet Peach? A probiotics startup that promised to help women avoid yeast infections and other vaginal disorders, it went accidentally viral after an investor prematurely, and inaccurately, previewed its product plans at a tech conference last fall.
Founder Audrey Hutchinson, who had been operating in stealth mode, was forced to do damage control, telling anyone who would listen that, no, she wasn’t trying to make women’s private parts smell like fruit.
Hutchinson hoped she might be able to make the unasked-for attention work for in her favor by drawing people to Sweet Peach’s crowdfunding campaign, launched in December. It didn’t work out that way, though. Sweet Peach’s campaign on Tilt concluded this week, $14,000 short of its $40,000 goal.
This even though Hutchinson extended it by several weeks and started out ahead of pace thanks to a $10,000 gift from an unnamed benefactor, which she earmarked to give 100 women free DNA sequencing with their starter packages.
Hutchinson believes the shortfall has something to do with the high cost of the product: Without the subsidy, a Sweet Peach starter package cost $139.
But she also attributes it to the initial burst of notoriety “unfortunately and prematurely bringing Sweet Peach to the limelight,” before Hutchinson was ready to go out with the product as she’d envisioned it. “It was launched too early,” she says, via email.
If at First You Don’t Succeed…
Starting out on the back foot, beating into a headwind of hostile press, was difficult, Hutchinson says. “I was feeling more traumatized than I found it rewarding for a while,” she acknowledges.
But it’s not all bad news. Among the people who heard about Sweet Peach during the craze were some who’ve turned out to be valuable partners. Hutchinson calls the crowdfunding false-start “a blessing in disguise,” saying she thinks the slow-growth approach is more in tune with her original vision.
“I’ve received a bunch of support from Bard alums and an ad agency reached out to me and some really cool ladies to make this as legitimate as I hoped it would be before I introduced it to the world,” she says. “I’ve been shown a lot of unexpected support and am trying to find joy in this endeavor again.”
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