Let it Flow with The Fenis
The Fenis is a “portable gadget that can put men and women on equal footing in the bathroom”, invented by Ryan Hale, an entrepreneur from Halifax, Nova Scotia (my home town). Basically, it is a device that allows women to pee standing up, but I like Ryan’s explanation of it better: “…inspired by nature’s own design, intended to bridge the physical gap between the way men and women urinate”.
The Fenis works very well. Because it is made of soft silicone material it is easy to position so you don’t get leakage. Also, because of the soft supple material it is very compact and can fit easily in a small container in your purse, pocket or knapsack once cleaned. I have tried other “STP” (Stand To Pee) devices like the P Style which is made of hard, rigid plastic (much harder to position, and worse to carry discretely), and it just doesn’t measure up to the cleverly named Fenis. So, if you are phallically-challenged (and I believe at least half the population or more is so) and want to be able to pee standing up (or write your name in the snow!), the Fenis is for you." (from Pop My Cherry Review’s The Fenis Review)
Sexlife Canada alumnus Domina Doll learned more about The Fenis from the inventor himself, Ryan Hale.
SLC: What is the Fenis and how did you come up with this idea?
RH: The Fenis is a simple device that allows women the opportunity to urinate in a standing position, and at the same time control the direction of the flow the same way men do. It is made of a soft flexible silicone. One half is a contoured urine receptacle, and the other half is a soft tubular flexible phallus. The Fenis can be folded to make it very compact to carry.
I got the idea for the Fenis after a conversation at a party where the differences between the way men and women urinate was discussed. I was thinking that it might be interesting for women to try to urinate the way men do, and then I thought hmm, I wonder if I could make something for that to be possible, and then I did.
SLC: Why did you think there was a need for this type of product?
RH: I had heard the comment quite a few times from women that guys are so lucky, they can just take it out and ‘go’ anywhere, easily. When I combined that with the concept of making a way for women to try to pee the way men do, the functional value became very apparent. I wanted to give women the same option.
SLC: You said during your pitch on Dragon’s Den that you tested and developed the product with feedback from several people. How did this input change the design?
RH: The Fenis has gone through many variations to get where it is today. In fact, the product you see now is about the 11th generation of the design. The very first model was quite bulky, but functional, so from there the goal was to reduce the size.
The next few designs did reduce the size and improve the look, but then the issue was leakage. Then it was a matter of testing various receptacle sizes and shapes to try and find the right balance between size and function. The design you see today is the best effort to date to combine function, portability and appearance. The goal was always to make it look appealing, and make it one size ‘fits all’ more or less, and at the same time make it easy to carry around, and small enough to be discrete. I think we have reached that point with the current design.
SLC: I understand you have a design background? Can you tell us more about that?
RH: Yes, that is true. I have a degree in Design from the Nova Scotia College of Art and Design (NSCAD) in Halifax. My studies were primarily towards Art and Graphic Design, but I eventually took a course in Product Design, which helped give me the impetus to design products, which was always an interest of mine. Aside from designing the Fenis itself, I also designed and built the whole manufacturing process I use from scratch. Also, I'm still involved in art and design as an illustrator under the name of ICE.
SLC: Have you ever worked with silicone before and what were the challenges and/or benefits working with this type of material?
RH: I had never worked with silicone before I started with the Fenis, however I had worked in a lot of different mediums, and really enjoy trying new methods and materials as an artist. When I started to flesh out how the Fenis could be made, it wasn't long before I started thinking of silicone, since it has all of the qualities I wanted to offer like being soft, flexible and easy to clean. In terms of challenges, there were quite a few considerations I had to overcome initially with silicone. It is a messy, sticky material, and I definitely had to develop a process to handle it, and get it to do what I wanted. I also went through a number of different silicone materials before I found what we use now, which is an incredibly awesome silicone. The benefits of silicone are a decent price point, a reliable result for repeated use, it makes an excellent and durable product, and also it is fun to work with.
SLC: What makes the Fenis superior to other similar products on the market?
RH: Well, from my research most STP or stand-to-pee products out there have one thing in common: they are funnels. In one form or another they are mostly some sort of funnel. About half of these products are disposable. Not to say that disposable is bad, but the Fenis is a re-usable product designed to be long-lasting and reduce waste. A large number of the STP products that are not disposable are a solid material, that is, they are not flexible. The Fenis, being very flexible, has the benefit of being able to fit more places for storage than a rigid model. To me, the key thing that makes the Fenis better than the rest is obviously the phallus, since it allows directional control unlike the others. Also since it emulates what already exists in nature there is a certain fun built into the function, which is unique to the Fenis. And I should add the Fenis is available in a dozen vivid colors unlike other STP products.
SLC: Does the Fenis fit everyone, or how does it adjust to each wearer’s body?
RH: The Fenis is indeed designed to be as close to a one-size-fits-all solution as I can make it. The great thing about it being silicone is that you can reshape the receptacle just by holding it in place, and it will conform to your body shape for a good fit. A rigid material does not have that benefit. I should add that eventually the Fenis will be available in a few different sizes and styles to better suit everyone.
SLC: How does one use the Fenis and what are its applications, or places it can be used?
RH: To use the Fenis, you simply hold the receptacle end underneath the genitals and press it against your body enough to make it conform to your shape. It may take some practice, but once you have a feel for the right position, you can then urinate while holding the receptacle in place, and use the opposite hand to hold the phallus and direct the flow where you like. The effect is very much like the way a man would go.
As far as applications, that list is growing all the time. I still continue to get suggestions for how and where it might be useful. Some of the most common applications or places so far are public washrooms/portos, camping or hiking, driving, travel abroad, boating, at the beach, while golfing, skiing or other sports, during pregnancy or other health or medical scenarios, or really anywhere you might be that a proper washroom is not.
SLC: Who are your customers mainly? Is it a diverse bunch of women, or do they fall under certain demographics?
RH: From what I see of our Facebook fans, it seems to be popular with younger women, however, I get a lot of email too, and women of many ages and types are expressing interest in the Fenis there. It is definitely popular within the transgendered community, and you might be surprised to hear it, but an awful lot of my customers are actually men!
SLC: What was your experience like being on the Dragon’s Den?
RH: I did a lot of preparation before we went to the Den, so when the time arrived I felt I was ready for anything. What happened once we entered the Den was we introduced ourselves and stated our offer, as everyone must, and as soon as I said the product name, and what it was, the Dragons took over with their comments and questions. It was a few minutes before I got to really speak after that. Once I got into the pitch, the opposite of what I expected happened; I expected Arlene (the only female Dragon) would understand the concept, and the guys would not. However, the exact opposite was true. Arlene was the most resistant, and almost seemed disgusted by the idea. Kevin O'Leary on the other hand, who is well known for being very harsh with pitchers, actually was quite intrigued and liked the idea. His issue was that we had no sales at that point, so he felt we could not justify the valuation of the business.
In fact, he advised me to go get some sales, then come back. Even though I pitched and failed (like many do) I got a real boost when we left the Den, and I heard Kevin say "that was a good idea"…priceless.
The great thing about being on Dragon’s Den was that I went in with no sales, and little more than an idea for a product, but by the time it went to air 6 months later, I was prepared to sell products with a website I finished a day before broadcast. That show allowed me to launch my business in a way that would not have been possible otherwise. Since then I have been making lots of sales, and I do hope to return to the Den to do battle again.
SLC: While I found your pitch very professional, I found the Dragon’s were very childish with their comments on your product. I would think after years of the Sunday Night Sex Show with Sue Johanson, that Canadians (and mainstream TV) would be more comfortable with their sexual anatomy. Do you think the Canadian public and media are still very conservative when it comes to that?
RH: First of all, thank you for your praise on my pitch. I spent a lot of time prepping for that. The Dragons’ response was, as you mentioned fairly childish and silly. I must say they are playing characters as any actor does, and so they ‘play up’ their reactions to a certain extent. I did enjoy watching Sue as well, and probably at some level having a show like hers on TV exposed me to wider ideas in regards to health and sexuality. I think the younger generation in Canada are more open-minded as you would expect, and a lot of older Canadians too, but as a whole I would agree that Canada is quite conservative when it comes to sexuality and body functions in general. Why that is, I don't know.
SLC: What has been the response from the public and media regarding the Fenis?
RH: Well, the public response has been awesome. I've received a lot of emails thanking me for making the Fenis, telling me it's a great idea, and saying the Dragons made a mistake not to invest. I'm really glad the idea is resonating with women out there even more than I expected. As far as media attention, that has been minimal. I have not sought it out, as I am kind of working a curve in growing the business at a manageable pace, as my only investors are my customers. As my ability to manufacture expands, I'll seek out more exposure media wise. I'm also surprised how many of our neighbors south of the border have taken notice as well.
I should add that the use of social media has been a powerful tool in promoting the Fenis, and connecting with our customers. We're using Facebook, Twitter and Youtube as free promotional tools which are really incredible and drive a lot of business. They are also great platforms to get feedback from customers, and interact with them in general.
SLC: What kind of customer feedback have you gotten back about the Fenis?
RH: Customers have been very supportive in their feedback. A lot of ladies write with suggestions for where we should sell, or sometimes an application I might not have considered. The responses in regards to experiences with the function of the Fenis have been very positive, but I will say lots of ladies prefer to keep that info to themselves. Some of the best feedback for me is seeing a customer order a second time. That tells me I'm doing something right.
SLC: What are your plans for the future of the Fenis?
RH: I have a lot of ideas for advancing this product. Some things I am working on are carrying cases, different sizes, an anatomically correct model, a glow-in-the-dark model, and some new colors to name a few. I am dedicated to improving the Fenis in every way possible to make it the best product around for the job. I am planning on expanding internationally, and am interested in licensing the Fenis in foreign countries as well.
SLC: How can people get in touch with you if they want to buy the Fenis, or even sell it in their stores?
RH: There are a few options. You can send me an email at email@example.com , leave me a voicemail at 902-800-0909, visit our website at thefenis.com or Google the Fenis, our check out our page on Facebook or even follow us on Twitter. I can be reached any of these ways to answer questions. I even accept snail mail.
SLC: Anything else you’d like to add?
RH: If your readers would like to see the Fenis in a store near them, give them a call and let them know. We are really just starting to crack the retail market and will be expanding that in the year ahead. I'd also like to thank our numerous supporters who have allowed me to turn the Fenis from an idea into reality, which has been like a dream come true. I'd also like to add that the Fenis is made in Canada, and I still make them myself. Lastly, keep an eye on our website over the next few months, as I'm planning a major overhaul to help move the Fenis to the next level. Thanks very much for this opportunity to share the story behind the Fenis!