(Published on Reckless)
Launching the world’s first custom-fit condoms, former sales trader Joe Nelson swapped the glamorous world of investment for the sex industry. Offering condoms in over 90 different sizes, Nelson’s invention has taken Europe by storm. Thomas Mitchell catches up with the young entrepreneur, who has invented a product that could change the contraceptive market.
Naming the company TheyFit, the 31-year-old Welsh lad released his product online in the UK in December 2011, after rigorous amounts of research found five major factors behind men’s reluctance to use a condom, all of them associated with the fit. “I never had a good experience using traditional one-size-fits-all condoms,” Nelson says. “It’s a surprisingly confusing yet common thing men have to deal with.”
His research found 45 per cent of men complained that normal one-size-fits-all condoms didn’t fit them properly; leading to discomfort that discourages men from using them. “A condom that is too short and does not roll all the way down the penile shaft is clearly vulnerable to catching and coming off. While a condom that is too long is likely to roll-up at the base of the penis constricting sexual pleasure.”
Before setting up TheyFit, the former Cardiff University Graduate studied a degree in Maths prior to beginning an internship at investment bank Goldman Sachs back in 2001 where he was eventually offered a job. Describing his product as a ‘surprisingly simple concept’, Nelson says: “Everything we wear is custom fitted because comfort is critical when it comes to wearing something. Shoes, shirts, trousers and even our watch straps are made to fit around us. TheyFit simply brings this approach to condoms. The more comfortable a condom is, the more enjoyable it will be to use.”
Priced at £6.99, Nelson’s product has received rave reviews from critics, with hundreds of men wanting to spice up their sex life. “Men whose previous condom experience involves a tight-fitting rubber band feeling or a roll of latex at the base of their penis acting like a tourniquet suddenly finds themselves wearing something that fits perfectly. On the other hand, men who traditionally experience their condom slipping or falling off suddenly get a condom that stays snugly in place. Imagine having worn shoes that were two sizes too small or too big all your life and then out of the blue being offered shoes that are the correct size. It’s exactly the same with wearing a condom that fits properly for the first time,” he adds.
With 95 different sizes to choose from, Nelson assures the system put in place to help men find their size is simple and stress-free compared to buying condoms face-to-face in a store. We’ve invented a fitting device called a FitKitand made it available for free online. All men have to do is download the kit, print it out and follow the instructions. If they don’t have a printer, we’ll mail one out for free. It’s that simple, and best of all its quick and fun!
“All we need is two measurements – length and girth to know your size. The FitKit then assigns a random alphanumeric code such as B17 or S11 to a particular size, which helps to avoid the embarrassment of having to order general sizes such as small, medium or large. This process has really helped men to be more honest about their size.”
After a lengthy regulatory battle and extensive product testing, Nelson left his glamorous five-figure salary in Fleet Street behind him, after receiving exclusive distribution rights to the product in early 2011. “My friends and family knew about TheyFit for many years, and I would always be talking about my ideas to them. We all felt that I was onto something, and I knew I had a good chance at succeeding. It took a while for me to realize what I needed to do, but after a while I decided the right thing to do was to move away from banking, and throw all my attention to making TheyFit successful.”
With the help of his girlfriend and brother, who he now works alongside, Nelson’s custom-fit condoms have branched out to 24 of the 27 European countries in just over four months, with buyers from France, Germany and Italy all wanting to try out his product for their own.
“I have a constant flow of phone calls and text messages, and the media have really pushed my idea out there to the public. A lot of people have thanked me for making custom-fitted condoms, and I’ve been very surprised about the amount of positive feedback I’ve received. I never really understood how big of a problem this was to men before they were released.”
Whilst Nelson’s idea of custom-fit condoms is very recent, the sixteenth century was where his idea originated from. Founded by Italian Gabriele Falloppio in 1564, lined sheaths were sized to fit each man’s penis and secured with a ribbon. “TheyFit is simply returning to these early principles, by offering for the first time a latex condom that is so comfortable men actually want to wear it.” The Italian quickly identified their ability to prevent disease transmission, and condoms remained custom fitted for centuries to follow before the concept of ‘one size fits all’ was introduced in 1930.
“We have the potential to impact some pretty bad social trends that have developed over the last few decades – think STD transmission, unplanned pregnancies and abortions. In fact the World Health Organisation tells us that every single day one million people catch a new STD, while current estimates suggest half of all pregnancies are unplanned. Condoms can fix nearly all of this, but men are very reluctant to use them. In fact clinical studies highlight non-use as the biggest risk factor when it comes to condom use,” he adds.
Passionate about TheyFit, Nelson believes his product is a major revolution in the contraceptive market, and insists the business will always be open to men who need help to enhance their sexual life. He tells us that his entire family is proud of him; particularly his grandmother, who he says is extremely proud ofTheyFit’s success.