Frances Tang

Founder of Awkward Essentials

Frances is the founder/Captain Awkward/CEO of Awkward Essentials, a company that makes personal solutions for hella personal problems. She is also the inventor of the dripstick – an after-sex cleanup sponge.

She attended UC San Diego and obtained her degree in Communications, with no idea of what she wanted to do. Over the course of the past decade, she’s had a dozen jobs ranging from hula dancing to baking to wedding photography. Her intention was never to build a company around post-sex cleanup. However, after accidentally launching in the UK a month before she got married, Frances built one anyway. She loves experiential marketing, sarcastic humor, and activities that require flexibility (which she does not have). She’s also a super cheerleader for fearlessness, trying new things, and ice cream.

Where did the idea for Awkward Essentials come from?

I’m married, and I always hated the after sex clean up ritual. The crossed-leg-ninja roll off the bed, penguin walk to the bathroom, and camp out on the toilet was not the business. My hacked together solution of toilet paper, crusty old t-shirts, towels and showers still inevitably led to next day gushing, wet sheets and ruined underwear.

Like many founders, I’ve had a lot of jobs. One of them was as a baker. There is a very common kitchen tool called a rubber spatula and it’s typically used to scrape all the last bits of cake batter out of a bowl (know where this is going…?). So everytime I would scrape batter out of a bowl, I’d think about inventing a spatula to get all the last bits of goo out of my vagina…

In short, the idea for dripstick started at the intersection of baking and laziness.

What does your typical day look like and how do you make it productive?

I wake up around 5:30 AM and do a short workout, then log on and get ready to start my day. As an early stage startup, every day is different! Some days I’m packing product and swag, other days I’m in back to back meetings. We’re a sexual hygiene company with a very cheeky product and we like to keep our marketing pretty weird, so there’s always interesting items floating around — right now we have hundreds of Twinkies and a gang of Barbie dolls…In the evening, I can typically be found attempting physical activities that require flexibility (which I do not have).

We use a lot of tech tools to stay productive. I’m an avid user of the usual: Gsuite (Gmail, calendar), Zoom and Slack for communication, Clickup for project management.

How do you bring ideas to life?

I stumble my way through figuring out what to do. I believe there is a lot of really valuable information and business fundamentals that can offer a strong foundation, but I don’t believe there is an exact formula for every business.

What’s one trend that excites you?

I’m so excited to see the growing number of female founded companies, solving uniquely female challenges.

What is one habit of yours that makes you more productive as an entrepreneur?

Having hobbies helps me be more productive as an entrepreneur. It’s how I’m able to actively take my mind off of the business and reset. It also gives me new perspectives and aids in creative thinking. We have a “new hobby” stipend that is up to $125 per quarter at Awkward Essentials because of how valuable I think they are!

What advice would you give your younger self?

Just do the thing. It will 100% be ugly, probably embarrassing, and never near perfect, but it’s the first step to getting there.

Tell us something that’s true that almost nobody agrees with you on.

Don’t spend all your time on advice — the only way you’ll know if it works is to build it! 🙂

As an entrepreneur, what is the one thing you do over and over and recommend everyone else do?

Constantly try new things. It can provide perspectives you never considered.

What is one strategy that has helped you grow your business?

Leaning into our pop culture tone has created a unique brand voice that is wholly authentic to me. I share my personal narrative and I think that resonates with my consumer base. We also do a fair amount of community building through social media and have been able to create a gang of organic brand ambassadors who just love our product.

What is one failure you had as an entrepreneur, and how did you overcome it?

When I first pitched my invention, I pitched it as any founder would — with numbers, statistics, and facts. It was an absolute trainwreck. I distinctly remember several faces in the room, with a look of open-mouthed, horrified shock. Pitching an after-sex cleanup invention with statistics apparently was a terrible idea.

From this, I learned to change the narrative to a personal story entirely, addressing the problem that’s solved. It shifted how I talked about the product and our brand, and ultimately changed how I marketed the company. This voice is also what helped us to secure investment.

What is one business idea that you’re willing to give away to our readers?

Can someone please create a platform to connect creatives with Type As?!

What is the best $100 you recently spent? What and why?

This cost a little over $100, but I bought a pole for my apartment. I used to do aerial silks but there is definitely no way to put silks in my apartment, so I opted for a pole to get me through the pandemic. It sounds cool but really what’s happening is me attempting to hang by my stomach chub and ending up in pain. I promise it’s really fun, though! It’s an incredible way to train mobility, flexibility, and muscles without the gym!

What is one piece of software or a web service that helps you be productive?

I really like using Google calendar in conjunction with Google tasks on the side. I can quickly time block by putting the tasks directly into my calendar.

What is the one book that you recommend our community should read and why?

Never Split the Difference’ by Chris Voss. They don’t teach you to negotiate in school; maybe they do if you’re in speech and debate, but it’s such a critical skill that all students should learn.

What is your favorite quote?

I love this quote from Lemony Snicket: “If we wait until we’re ready, we’ll be waiting for the rest of our lives.” It emphasizes the importance of going ahead and getting started — just trying something when you’re a founder. If I hadn’t taken the leap, I’d still be daydreaming!

Key Learnings:

  • Don’t wait; start now! If you have a passion you’re looking to pursue, take the leap.
  • It’s easy to get caught up in numbers and statistics when you’re pitching your brand to the world, but changing the narrative to a personal story can be far more impactful.
  • Advice from experts can be helpful, but your intuition should be the main force that drives you.