The Female Health Company (a)

8 Pages Posted: 30 May 2017

See all articles by Elizabeth A. Powell

Elizabeth A. Powell

University of Virginia - Darden School of Business

Gerry Yemen

University of Virginia - Darden School of Business

Abstract

As the president of the Chicago-based Female Health Company (FHCO), Mary Ann Leeper had faced many business challenges, but none had prepared her for what she now faced. As a biochemist, activist, and entrepreneur, Leeper wanted nothing more than to slow, if not halt, the spread of HIV/AIDS. FHCO ushered its novel product, the female condom, through a tortuous FDA approval process knowing that female condoms would be a tough sell to consumers, so Leeper had sought the best advertising and PR help for the U.S. product launch. But the public response to the product was not at all what they expected. After spending years and millions of dollars on developing and launching the female condom in the United States, FHCO was operating with seriously depleted resources. Why wasn't this lifesaving product moving off the shelves?

Excerpt

UVA-BC-0146

Rev. May 24, 2013

THE FEMALE HEALTH COMPANY (A)

As a biochemist, activist, and entrepreneur, Mary Ann Leeper wanted nothing more than to slow if not halt the spread of HIV/AIDS. Though massive public health efforts targeted at gay men had begun to slow the spread of disease among that population, statistics indicated that, between 1992 and 1995, the number of women with the disease had begun to rise. A female-controlled method for HIV/AIDS prevention had been discussed at the 1987 World AIDS Conference. Since then, Leeper had found an inventor who had designed one—a female condom. She persuaded him to work with her to perfect the design, and she ushered the product through a tortuous U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) approval process. As the president of the Chicago-based Female Health Company (FHCO), she had successfully faced many business challenges, including most recently a major restructuring of the company, but none prepared her for what she confronted now.

Knowing that a female condom would be a tough sell, Leeper had sought the best advertising and PR help for the product launch in the U.S. private and public sectors. It was obvious to both Leeper and the big-name firms that a novel product such as a female condom would take time to catch on. But the consumer and public response to the new product was not at all what they expected. It was 1996, and after spending years and millions of dollars on the female condom's product development and launch, the company was operating on seriously depleted resources. Leeper spent a lonely winter weekend in her office on Michigan Avenue. She kept thinking, “Here we are with a revolutionary, lifesaving, and important product that is not moving off the shelves and is costing big dollars to promote.” On the verge of giving up, the question for Leeper now was how to respond to what she was hearing.

The Spread of HIV/AIDS in the United States

. . .

Keywords: communication process, communication strategy, entrepreneurship, social change, social responsibility, crosscultural behavior

Suggested Citation

Powell, Elizabeth A. and Yemen, Gerry, The Female Health Company (a). Darden Case No. UVA-BC-0146. Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=2973866

Elizabeth A. Powell (Contact Author)

University of Virginia - Darden School of Business ( email )

P.O. Box 6550
Charlottesville, VA 22906-6550
United States
434-982-2730 (Phone)

HOME PAGE: http://www.darden.edu/faculty/Powell.htm

Gerry Yemen

University of Virginia - Darden School of Business ( email )

P.O. Box 6550
Charlottesville, VA 22906-6550
United States

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