On Monday, sexual wellness brand Dame announced a $7 million Series A funding round, serving as another boon for the emerging category’s future.
The funding round was led by Amboy Street Ventures, with Listen Ventures, Flybridge, Echo and Forest Road Company participating. The 10-year-old company’s total funding is now $13 million. Sephora notably began selling both Dame and Maude brands on its e-commerce site in February. Dame is also sold through Nordstrom, Bloomingdale’s, Free People and Goop. Dame has doubled its wholesale business each year for the past two years, which now represents 20% of business sales. About 20% of Dame consumers hear about the brand through its retail partners, according to Alexandra Fine, co-founder and CEO of Dame.
“Retail is a big channel of investment for us and a place that we’re excited to grow, though we’ve always been omnichannel. Omnichannel de-risked the business tremendously,” said Fine.
“Dame is bringing the sexual wellness category into the mainstream by plowing through industry-wide hurdles,” said Carli Sapir, founding partner of Amboy Street Ventures. “Sexual pleasure and wellbeing is arguably the most stigmatized subset of our space. When that stigma is removed from sexual health and women’s health, [then] research, funding and solutions will pour into this underserved area. Dame is unapologetically dismantling shame around sexual wellness and, in doing so, has found incredible product-market fit.”
Sexual wellness, like CBD, has faced a fair number of issues in the past, in terms of advertising and marketing. Dame notably sued the New York City MTA in 2019, alleging discriminatory advertising practices after the MTA rejected the company’s sex toy ads while permitting similarly suggestive ads for male-focused sexual products, like those for erectile dysfunction. In 2021, the company could finally display its ads after settling with the transit authority. But there continues to be red tape surrounding the content that can be featured in Instagram, Google and Facebook ads. Dame e-commerce sales grew 100% year-over-year between 2020 and 2021, according to Fine.
In addition to investing in retail, Dame will use its funding to develop more content and strengthen its community base. Over the summer, the brand led a mix of virtual and in-person events, including fireside chats, dance sessions and workshop series on topics like tantric sex. Dame plans to invest in new content for its existing YouTube channel, with a similar focus to the workshop series plus product-specific education.
“[Funding] means people believe in you. We’re now having an easier time getting people to believe in us,” said Fine. “It was a challenge in the beginning, and there has been a truly empowering shift in being recognized, and seen as valuable and worth investing in.”
Fine said that more than one investor from the company’s previous funding round who had declined to invest in the brand was interested in investing this time around. She said that when a fund changes its mind on the sexual wellness category, she is willing to accept its investment because it demonstrates the exact change Dame is out to make. Sexual wellness as a whole has recently garnered more investor attention, with Cake raising $8.3 million in funding since its launch in 2020, while Maude has raised $10 million since 2018. Investors are also now specifically turning their attention to further developing the space; in 2020, a $25 million Vice Ventures Fund was launched with a mission to “conquer stigmas and strive towards superior returns by investing in good companies operating in ‘bad’ industries.” And an Israel fund called Intimate Capital plans to raise $20 million and invest in developing sextech solutions.
“Building a [sexual wellness] business is about shaping our reality. And people are letting me do it in a bigger way by investing in me. That’s [powerful],” said Fine.