CEO and co-founder of The Healthy Pleasure Group, Dominnique Karetsos, prides herself on being an industry disrupter. With two decades of brand architecture, global business development, and marketing strategy under her belt, she is determined to transform the sextech industry from the ground up.
Karetsos’ resume is impressive with extensive experience across 35 markets in beauty, health and wellness. Her calling as an agent of sextech change began eight years ago upon observing incongruities in both her personal and professional life. After having a child and going through other major life changes, she started to seriously question why women were held to arbitrary expectations concerning sexual and intimate health.
Around this same time, Karetsos began working in the sexual health sector. It was here that the need for a shift in the way society addresses intimacy became clear. In a recent interview, she told XBIZ, “having come from retail I realized just how disconnected the world was, as far as business was concerned, when it came to understanding the most innate human experience, pleasure.” She continues, “from a human perspective, we know so little about it — the value and the benefits of it mentally, physically, psychologically, for connection, relationships, friendship, self-love, all of that.”
She encountered repeated hurdles on this side of the business. “Telephones would be put down on me. I’d be asked to leave a boardroom. I would be asked to come and talk about a product without saying the word sex. It took three years to put Intimina Menstrual Cups on the shelves of Boots.”
These experiences solidified Karetsos’ commitment to legitimizing sextech and shifting it into the health and wellness realm. After she teamed up with urologist, andrologist and sexual medicine expert Dr. Maria Fernana Peraza Godoy, they founded The Healthy Pleasure Group in 2017. There are six businesses under the HPG umbrella: The Lab, The Agency, The Demand, The Fund, The Finance and The School.
The Agency and The Lab were the foundational elements the pair initially focused on. The Agency is the first full-service, fully integrated sexual health and technology communications outfit. Currently servicing over 60 clients, The Agency is dedicated to building strong brands through authentic marketing. Their client roster spans four continents and includes companies like MyHixel, iPlaySafe at-home STI testing, and Morari. Karetsos adds, “we were the first to really specialize in sexual health and technology. And from there, Dr. Maria and I built the lab, which is the only commercial innovations lab.”
Known as “the clit whisperer,” Dr. Maria heads up The Healthy Pleasure Lab. Through innovative technology and research, The Lab aims to redefine the way we understand and receive pleasure. This includes everything from improving medical and surgical devices to developing platforms that teach people how to better self-pleasure, control ejaculation, and modify behavior to counteract a variety of sexual dysfunctions.
“They come up with the most incredible game-changers in behavior and social change,” remarks Karetsos. “We have the first sexual profiling-based algorithm that is medically backed, scientifically-backed, and tested on 11,000 people. It’s called Sex360.”
Recognizing that “this space only becomes fast-tracked through innovation, investment, and education” the pair next created The School of Healthy Pleasure. Starting as an offline event company, The School pivoted to online education when COVID-19 hit.
The School’s mission is to create a cultural shift around sexuality by building a healthy space to talk about intimacy, normalize shame-free sensuality, and boost erotic intelligence. Inclusivity is Karetsos’ top priority. “We talk about the trans community, sexuality and pleasure amongst disabled people, how to spark desire and relationships.” She goes on to say The School is another element that helps HPG create “the future of good, healthy pleasure.”
HPG most recently launched The Fund, which is the world’s first venture arm focused on sextech. Although sexual and women’s health is a fruitful market, it is often passed over by investors. According to Karetsos, this is a valuable missed opportunity for venture capitalists and is just as legitimate and lucrative as other sectors. “While there are many funds that are dedicated to fintech and health tech, we are a tech fund in other ways.” Healthy Pleasure Group’s Reclamation Ventures focuses on billion-dollar industries like erectile dysfunction, telehealth and menopause.
Some of Karetsos’ proudest accomplishments include bringing sexually affirming brands to market. One of these is EXO. Most pleasure devices are designed to enhance cis people’s pleasure, leaving those with different experiences without resources. Inspired by the trans female community, this tool allows hands-free self-pleasure in a way that feels more feminine. “It just blows my mind, because this is a community that has been underserved, has been largely ignored, and doesn’t have a lot of options for pleasure along the journey, no matter how far across the journey they decide to go. So it’s one of those real heartwarming, incredible products that’s launching now.”
2020 has been an outstanding year for the company. Karetsos speculates that COVID-19 lockdown gave HPG’s already rapid growth a boost. “If you look at it from a social perspective, never before have we had social permission to be able to consider our sexual lives as part of our everyday living. Your sex life, whether it’s desire, a sexual dysfunction, whatever it might be, most people put it somewhere on the to-do list and then never really get to it. It’s like Mother Nature has sent us all to our roots, to rethink what makes us happy and healthy.”
Looking toward the future, Karetsos is confident that HPG will continue to aim to change the face of sexual pleasure and women’s health both in business and everyday lives. She urges others to take up the charge and join the movement. “Even if it’s an idea on a napkin, bring it to us and we’ll help you. It’s going to make a positive change. We need to create an internet of smart sexual health and we can’t do that on our own. It has to be a collective movement that only comes with great entrepreneurs and great innovators.”