Lessons And Love From a Community Focused Queer Entrepreneur

Community is a word which has been floating in my head ever since Samuel Douek got in touch with us. 

When I first received an email about CBD anal lube I was both amused and thrown off my normal morning routine. In-fact I had to take a second look at my coffee before getting back to my emails. We get a lot of messages from businesses and individuals, but when I looked further into this particular story, I found an overwhelming sense of community.

Samuel is an ex Architect, turned Filmmaker, turned queer entrepreneur. Founder of HOWL – a new queer lifestyle brand which started as a festival and developed into a full queer business venture. HOWL has now branched out into the sex industry with the famous CBD lube – however, when you scratch beneath the surface there is more to it than business.

Listening to his stories, a deep love of communities comes out. As a queer man myself, communities have been incredibly important in my development as an adult in a bloody terrifying world. I think Samuel mirrors the desire to connect, build, and make shit happen.

It’s an interesting intersection between the desire to build a brand, a business, a project, a thing – and have it give back to the people you love. This interview was a chaotic but fascinating look at building an ethical venture from the ground up, and how community drives this.

Now more than ever, these stories of making shit happen for your community are meditations of entrepreneurship for a different mindset.

Q: Thanks for your time Samuel, can you tell our readers a little bit more about yourself

Thanks so much for inviting me to this interview! Yes, I can certainly tell you a bit about me. I’m a 30 year old queer man from London. I spent many years training to be an Architect but gave it all up in 2016 when I decided that buildings weren’t for me and I wanted to pursue a career in film.

It’s been almost 5 years since I made the jump and there have been some wonderful highs and some staggering lows but all in all, I couldn’t be happier to be a film director, working mostly on music videos, experimental documentaries and commercials. Now I am branching out into the world of narrative writing my first script! 

Oh and of course, I recently founded a sex-positive queer lifestyle brand, HOWL that aims to break down the taboo surrounding anal sex with a range of game-changing anal lubricants infused with CBD, supporting the queer community by donating 50p of every bottle sold to a queer charity.

Q: We’re really intrigued about the HOWL launch, how’s it been so far?

HOWL technically launched in August 2019 as HOWL: QUEER CITY – an LGBTQ+ techno and performance art festival. It was the birthchild of two other live projects I have been working on for a few years; BUM.P, a bi-monthly club night and CAMPeVAN, a travelling queer performance and community caravan.

Combining these events together, I wanted to launch an event that brought together a multitude of queer collectives together for one night under one roof, and HOWL was born! We had big plans for growing the festival but of course, the Panny D put a stop to that. 

So in the meantime I was approached by some friends from Kings Cross Cannabis (KXC), who are specialists in the legal cannabinoid field. Together, we wanted to create a CBD lube product to improve the sex life of the diverse queer community. HOWL was the perfect fit for this new brand given it’s sex-positive identity, its live events and its commitment to supporting the community. 

The launch of HOWL and our products happened in late November 2020 and saw the release of a Water and a Silicone based CBD Anal Lube alongside Issue 001 of HOWL ZINE! The response has been amazing so far and we have been so happy with the incredible feedback! It has been a beautifully organic journey and I’m so excited for the world to get to know the brand.

Q: What is your experience like as an entrepreneur in queer spaces? Is it different to normal business?

I never thought I would be an entrepreneur. In fact, I never thought I would be a film director either. It’s funny how life leads you in unexpected directions. But looking back on my experience of producing and curating LGBTQ+ events like BUM.P and CAMPerVAN over 5 years, I realise that this was all incredible exposure to branding, marketing, networking and producing. So when I was given the opportunity to turn a queer party into a lifestyle brand I realised how well-equipped I was to take on the challenge. 

To be honest I don’t know what it’s like to run a normal business as opposed to a queer one. All I know is that ethics guide absolutely every decision we make. We triple check and cross reference every colour decision, every copy decision, every product or design decision against what would be most meaningful for the community and its allies. 

Q: What was the mission behind HOWL?

The overarching message of HOWL is LIBERATION THROUGH EXPLORATION. This can mean a few things. Our immediate goal in creating CBD sex products that work is to break down the taboo surrounding anal sex and create a healthy dialogue that challenges gender stereotypes and says; anyone can enjoy anal pleasure. 

But HOWL’s mission goes much further than just that. One of the first things I wanted to do when establishing the brand was to create a Manifesto. 8 guiding principles that demand equality and consent, encourage fluidity and gender-nonconformity, and lay out a policy of anti-discrimination. But most importantly, whilst we are a brand made by the LGBTQ+ community for the LGBTQ+ community, we are a brand for everyone. All sexualities genders, races, religions, creeds, shapes and sizes. 

Because you don’t have to be queer to have a queer belief system, and that is one of celebration, love, respect and most importantly, fun. 

Q: We’ve seen that HOWL also has a zine and music playlists out, can you tell us more about that and what you have planned in the future for the brand?

We have created 6 ‘Brand Pillars’  for the single purpose of supporting the LGBTQ+ community and its allies. They are: 

THE ZINE, THE MIXCLOUD, LIMITED EDITION MERCH, LIVE EVENTS, CHARITY PARTNERSHIPS and SEXUAL WELLNESS PRODUCTS.

Given the fact that we started as a queer festival, the LGBTQ+ community and music are at the very root of what we do. So we set up a monthly Mixcloud designed to soundtrack your sexual escapades called, 1-800-MAKE-ME-HOWL spotlighting queer DJs from around the world. Our debut mix is from the iconic Jamaican based Sippin-T’ from the BBZ Collective. Go to our Music page on our website to check it out! 

As for the Zine, I have always wanted to create a magazine and HOWL finally gave me the chance to feature some incredible and underrepresented artists, writers and thinkers from my network of partying for 15 years! We will be running the zine in quarterly issues inspired by a theme. For ISSUE 001 the theme is LIBERATION and in honour of Black History Month, when the zine was commissioning, we invited QTPOC contributors to submit.

ISSUE 002’s theme will be Affirmation and will be supporting trans and gender non-conforming contributors. It’s important for me to give a voice to those who are seldom heard. 

Q: You’re a big supporter of UK Black Pride with HOWL, tell us more about your involvement with them.

Along with each theme we collaborate with a relevant charity. For our first Issue our chosen charity is UK BLACK PRIDE. 50p of every bottle sold goes towards supporting Europe’s largest celebration of LGBTQ people of African, Asian, Caribbean, Middle Eastern and Latin American descent and the vital work that the charity does.

I wanted UK BLACK PRIDE to be our first featured charity to ensure that a dialogue around POC representation in queerness continued beyond Black History Month and the Race Revolution of Summer 2020. 

So in addition to invited contributors, part of our zine was dedicated to featuring members of the UK Black Pride network including artwork from Aisha Piquer and Myles More as well as writing from Ayanna Blair-Ford and Z B Hunter. In February we will be collaborating with UK Black Pride to curate a discussion panel on the theme of Liberation. Keep your eyes and ears peeled for info!

Q: Going back to your roots in queer arts, can you tell us about how you got involved with your other projects like CAMPerVAN and BUM.P, have queer community project always been important to you? 

BUM.P, the bi-monthly club night, and CAMPerVAN, the travelling queer performance space, were both born at similar times for similar reasons. Whilst I was studying for an MA in Architecture at the RCA, instead of designing buildings I spent the majority of my time making my first ever films; documentaries of my favourite gay bars in London closing down because of the legacy of Conservative Government Austerity. 

With BUM.P, my friend Nicco Torrelli and I were tired of people complaining about bars closing so we decided to start our own night at Dalston Superstore reminiscent of iconic parties like Trailer Trash and Boom Box in the early 2010s. 

CAMPerVAN, the product of my Architecture Thesis, was an exercise in building my own queer space immune from the threat of gentrification. It was a fantastic project that took on a life of its own after I graduated when my good friends Zoe Marden and Fiontan Moran came on board the project. Since 2016, we have done performance shows at Tate Modern and Konig London to name a few, as well as a 2 week tour around Europe! That said, it saw the end to my drag career given that I spent 90% of the time ‘backstage’ monitoring people’s mics!

Q: What drives you to queer community projects? What is the biggest motivation in these projects?

It’s funny. I spent so many years doing projects like BUM.P and CAMPerVAN for absolutely no money. I simply did it because I wanted to contribute to the queer community. Like most people my age I felt very misunderstood in the traditional community I was born into and had to go out of my way into Soho and East London to find people I could relate to. 

The queer community defined who I am. They are the people who taught me to embrace my campness, to never apologise for being who I am and to strive to be fabulous in everything that I do. I am so in awe and in love with this diverse community that has no admission policy like religion or supporting the same team; it’s simply a space for anyone who feels they don’t fit into the real world. 

It is my love for the community that drives me to want to explore LGBTQ+ subject matter in my films, to hire queer crew, to launch a queer focussed company and to share the ethics of queerness with the mainstream through products, events, educational tools and publications.

Q: What do you hope for the future of queer spaces and community projects?

Wow that’s a big question. I famously never think too much about the future. If I did then I certainly wouldn’t be able to be freelance; up all night with fear about my next pay cheque. Luckily I live in blind faith that everything will turn out just fine. 

That doesn’t mean that im not concerned for the future of queer spaces which seems to perenially be under threat. However, it’s been over a decade since I entered into the queer universe and I have witnessed the young kids i used to party with grow up into activists, business owners, DJs, event promoters, charity organisers and founders. I have so much faith in the community that supports itself and will do anything to ensure that we have the freedom to express ourselves in safe spaces that I am not worried about the future, in fact I’m very excited about the next generation. Queerness is forever evolving and will always need a space in which to evolve. 

Q: Do you have any upcoming events that Unicorn Magazine readers can follow and check out?

YES! On Saturday 30th January 2021, HOWL is collaborating with the amazing LGBTQ+ stripclub party Harpies in the Sky for a 1 hour Digital Queer Strip Symposium at 8pm (GMT) and again at 8pm (CST). The event will feature some incredible films, readings and strip performances from some amazing queer and trans sex workers from the Harpies network. 

Everyone has suffered as a result of the pandemic. Sex workers and strippers have been particularly affected and often had no access to any form of help from the government. Not only will this event be a hella lotta fun on a Saturday night to relieve the dread of lockdown but it will be a chance to support some incredible performers during these difficult times.

 

Go onto the LIVE channel of the HOWL WORLDWIDE website at 8pm GMT on Saturday 30th January 2021 and lose yourself in the world of HOWL x HARPIES!


Samuel Douek

He / Him

HOWL’s Instagram | Samuel’s Instagram

Samuel was interviewed by Lev Alexander

MORE UNICORN