First-generation alumna builds national brand on sexual openness
Sexologist Rebecca Alvarez Story is the founder and CEO of Bloomi, which specializes in intimate health products for a bilingual audience
San Francisco State University alumna Rebecca Alvarez Story (M.A., ’17) didn’t get much sex education growing up. She went to an all-girl high school with an abstinence-only approach to sex ed, and her parents weren’t comfortable stepping in to explain the birds and the bees.
“In my home, we didn’t talk about sex education,” Story said. “My parents did try to have one awkward sex talk.”
Today, however, sex talk is far from awkward for Story. In fact, it’s both her business and her mission.
Story is the founder and CEO of Bloomi, a company offering intimate health products — oils, personal lubricants, sex aids and more — with an emphasis on bilingual marketing. The Bloomi line can be found in local spas and boutiques as well as national retailers like Target and Saks Fifth Avenue. The daughter of Mexican immigrants, Story says she hopes to use Bloomi to bring quality sex education to a billion people around the globe, with an emphasis on expansion in Latin America.
Unfortunately, Story’s own sex education journey included a traumatic detour. A Bay Area native, Story originally went to Southern California to attend college. While there, she was sexually assaulted.
“That experience made me return home to reground myself,” Story said. “After that, I was very apprehensive about intimacy. I actually feared intimacy.”
Back in the Bay Area, Story became inspired to use her experiences as a way to heal, and she enrolled in the Women’s Health and Sexuality program at UC Berkeley.
“That was the beginning of me starting to understand the power of education in the category,” said Story.
Following graduation, Story worked with startups in sexual wellness focused on intimacy products, sex coaching and sex education. Eventually she decided to continue her education in the field at San Francisco State, where she enrolled in pursuit of a master’s degree in Sexuality Studies.
“I was a single mom when I started the program. My daughter was 3,” said Story. “She actually came to a few courses and was on the side with her headphones.”
On top of being a single mom and a graduate student, Story was working full-time as a sexologist.
“It made me feel good that I was doing things I love,” said Story. “My daughter learned a lot about me at such a young age. It was an important time in my development, and it was all things that I loved.”
Being a single mother and working full-time while pursuing a graduate degree is no small feat, and Story was fortunate to have support from her family and professors.
“All of the professors in the Human Sexuality program were incredible,” said Story. “They are very passionate about the work, which comes through in what they’re teaching.”
It wasn’t just the teaching that Story found inspiring. Thanks to her time working with startups, she also knew there were untapped audiences for sexual wellness products.
“I had a lot of experience seeing what worked well and not so well with products in the category,” said Story. “The way that products were being marketed was very binary and stereotypical. I felt there was a world where we could be more inclusive about that.”
Story had also seen brands undervalue the Latinx market. She created Bloomi to be a bilingual brand, carving out an inclusive space within the sexual wellness industry and making the brand both unique and, for her, personal.
Despite her parents’ reluctance to discuss sex when she was younger, Story says her family has been supportive of Bloomi from the beginning. Now it gives her a deep feeling of satisfaction when, for instance, she and her father pass her company’s products for sale at Target.
“The feeling is incredible, but it’s hard to explain to people who aren’t children of immigrants,” said Story. “It’s very emotional because it’s not just another product on the shelf. It’s the realization of several generations of people striving to get ahead and get a better education and the American dream of starting this business.”