What does the penis say to the condom? Cover me, I am going in.
Double click on a link to receive three trial issues of Maxim and earn points toward condoms. The consumer gets a few magazines and a few condoms – all free of charge. The advertiser receives publicity and some of the consumers’ personal information. And Peter Martin and Rob Jewell, founders and owners of the D.C.-based FreeCondoms.com, get a largely successful dot-com company.
“The consumers are earning free condoms while seeing deals from advertisers,” said senior Mitch Rothenberg, co-shipping director at FreeCondoms.com. “Different offers are worth different points.”
Since its creation in February 2000, FreeCondoms.com has sent more than 2.5 million condoms to more than 1 million men and women across the country completely free of charge.
It takes less than 10 minutes to create a personal account on the Web site. The next step is to choose from a list of advertisers and programs on the site, such as Columbia House DVD, Netflix or Maxim magazine and participate in free offers to earn condom points. It takes 200 points to earn 20 free condoms.
Rothenberg has worked for FreeCondoms.com since his sophomore year and enjoys the laid back atmosphere at the Adams Morgan office. Rothenberg began as a part-time packer and slowly rose in rank. He is now in charge of the shipping department.
This relaxed setting is caused by the fact that Martin and Jewell, both 26, have been lifelong friends.
“We played together as babies,” Jewell said.
Both men grew up in Winston-Salem, N.C. and attended college at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. Martin and Jewell had their first experience with Web businesses during an independent study. The two formed an online “pooper-scooper” business for the class.
So how do two guys from North Carolina get into the condom business in the heart of D.C.?
“I overheard someone say ‘free condoms’ while eating lunch,” Jewell said. “I heard those words and thought that it would be a big hit on a Web site.”
Jewell shared his idea with Martin, who was already living in D.C, and decided to move to the District to start their new business. They shared Martin’s one bedroom apartment and hired friends to help run FreeCondoms.com out of their home.
“We’d pack orders ourselves, eat pizza, drink beer,” Martin said. Both men spent most of their days working to push their new company off the ground. They took the orders, packed the orders, and carried bins of condoms to the post office.
Jewell and Martin worked hard in the beginning to promote their Web site to advertisers and slowly attracted more advertisers to the site as user rates increased.
“We didn’t even start with a table, we packed on the floors,” Jewell said.
Their entire apartment was filled with towers of condoms. Sometimes boxes fell on top of Jewell, who slept on a mattress on the living room floor at this time.
Six months after launching the Web site, FreeCondoms.com was successful enough to move into an actual office. Neither Martin nor Jewell were completely sure how lucrative the company would be when they started. Jewell said that they “were overwhelmed by the word of mouth.”
“I would have been surprised, but I would have believed it,” Martin said.
Condoms were a good product to push on a Web site for a number of reasons, Martin said.
“It’s a unique item that is lightweight, easy to ship and expensive to buy,” Martin said. He also commented that people were drawn to the anonymity of the Web site.
“It’s awkward,” he said about buying condoms. “Some people are embarrassed.”
Although the site is mostly popular among college students, people from all over the country have logged on for free condoms. Sixty percent of users are men.
The Web site deals exclusively with Durex condoms, but also provides other items like shirts, key chains and beer cozies that users can buy with their points.
“We’ve expanded it a lot,” Rothenberg said. “We have tons of lubes – flavored lubes, regular Wet lube, Afterglide and non-latex condoms.”
“It’s a pretty good deal and depending on how often you have sex, you can have a package of condoms that can last you five years,” Rothenberg said.
Jewell also mentioned one of the perks of the Web site was that it makes users more prepared and allows them to have condoms in stock.
FreeCondoms.com allows people all over the country to have safe sex without paying a cent. The success of the company is obvious, Martin said.
“Why pay for something you can get for free?” Martin asked.