The Cool Condoms: Making Safe Sex, Sexy!

For many up and coming young entrepreneurs, making money and building a brand is usually at the forefront of their mission. But for Jason Panda and Elkhair Balla, co-founders of b Condoms, finding a way to marry their entrepreneurial spirits with a social cause gave birth to a unique vision and lucrative company. EBONY.com sits down with Jason Panda to chat about the new and cool condom, coming to a store near you!

You did not start in this field, so what led you to become the co-founder of B Condoms?

Do you know about getting to a place where you’re not happy? Where you are not doing your life’s mission?

Yes, I sure do.

Okay, So I’ll start there. I am from Boston and growing up, my mom ran a detoxing center there. And I was always working at that detox center with her and it was good because it was the only African American ran detox center in Massachusetts. So she was ahead of it. I went to Morehouse [for undergrad] and went to law school at Georgetown in D.C., and was working as an attorney, extremely miserable. So I had gone into law, making great money, was working at a big firm. But I was not happy.

So [one day] I was talking to my mother, and I had told her I was not sure what the next thing was going to be for me but I was sure it was not going to be law. Somehow, we started talking about the Black community, HIV and AIDS and she had mentioned that it was interesting that all of these non-profits give away thousands and thousands of free condoms, but she had never heard of a black owned condom company.

So from there, you just decided that you would own this unfounded enterprise?

Yes. I thought about a brand that would kind of be like a real sexy luxury brand, but that could also be community focused and engaged in moving the community forward. So I approached my best friend, Elkhair and he was in the same place. Elkhair was working in investment banking, but he was also unhappy. So I told him I had an idea, not only that we could make money off of, but we could also help the community and do a lot of good as well.

What does the ‘b’ stand for?

Elkhair was the brain behind making the decision to name the company “b”. When we were really discussing this he was like, “ we need a brand that is exceptionally hot but that can be open and connect with anybody.” So you can “b” aware, you can “b” responsible, you can “b” exceptional, and you can “b” protected. You can "b" anything. And that was the whole reason we called it “b condoms”.

B Condoms

The Cool Condoms

How did you find the manufactures for the condoms?

I had lived abroad, I worked in Japan, so I had already had some international experience.  I went to China, Thailand and Malaysia and visited many manufacturers to see which one I wanted to go with, which was Malaysia.  I wanted to make sure that what ever product I sent out to my community was not only the best quality, but I also just wanted to make sure that from beginning to end, the quality that I speak to is one that I had personally seen attempted.

So all of the investment into B Condoms came from the two of you?

Yes! Out of our pockets. All of the marketing, all of the programs that we were doing came out of our pockets, so we had to believe in it.

Did you both make this plan to save up for a period of time and then take off with B Condoms?

No. We knew that if we were going to leave [our previous jobs] we were going to have to go all in. We were like “our full times jobs are overrated now.” But we put everything on the line and we said if we’re going to do it, lets do it.

When did b Condoms officially launch?

We launched last year! December 1st, 2010. We are only a year and a couple of months in. We just have been real fortunate. We are the only ones really doing this. No one’s ever tried to do what we do: match public health and community progress and have a Black person own a condom company. You wanna talk about black history? This is it! It has never done before!

When making the decision about the brand, what did you learn your consumers wanted out of a condom geared to them?

One of the things early on that we recognized, is that people in the streets wanted a platinum brand. Everyone was rocking with Trojan but nobody was wearing Gold anymore. So we gave them the Platinum condom.

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