Where to go when Insta bans you


Michelle Battersby on creating a safe space for dangerous nipples.
Sunroom co-founders Michelle Battersby and Lucy Mort. | Image: Supplied

There was always a question in Michelle Battersby’s mind while she built the Australian business of the dating app Bumble. As the app went through a million Australian registrations, two million, then three million, the question remained:

“Am I really good at this?”

Or was it just that she had a great product?

She went further afield, heading the marketing as Bumble launched across Asia. “I could travel to different countries, and I seemed to be able to pull the right levers to make then it grow,” says Battersby. But there was always the question.

She ended up leaving Bumble and going to the fitness and wellness brand Keep It Cleaner. “It was a bit of a challenge to me, like, can I go to a different company and make that grow as well?”

Once again, the numbers all went the right way. “COVID definitely helped me, but I was building more confidence in myself and my ability, and I was feeling like I was ready to perhaps do something for myself.”


But what was the product? Then an email came out of the blue from Lucy Mort, the flatmate of a friend in New York. Mort had been a lead app designer at the dating app Hinge.

She was fascinated by the amount of money women were making putting their content on the subscriber-only site Only Fans.

A lot of that was porn.

Mort thought she could build a better platform for women to put their stuff on without the stigma of being next to so much explicit content.

There’d be no porn, but sexualised content would be acceptable. They wouldn’t be censoring the occasional rogue nipple. It would only be for women and non-binary creators who could post without fear of being censored, shadow-banned or de-platformed, as they risked on Instagram and Tik Tok.

 It would all be behind a paywall, and the creators would set the price. If anybody was going to troll them, they could pay for the privilege.

“Only Fans was the original inspiration, but there are some big challenges with Only Fans,” recalls Battersby. “So that’s kind of what Sunroom was born of: How can we build something like this, but in a slightly adjacent space serving a different kind of creator?”

Mort and Battersby raised almost $5 million, more than half of which was from female angel investors and including Blackbird, Li Jin (Atelier Ventures), Cyan Bannister, Sarah Downey, Peanut CEO and Cofounder Michelle Kennedy and Brud Cofounder Trevor McFedries.

They both moved to LA. They launched their app, Sunroom, in February 2022, and a year later, claim a month-on-month revenue growth of 20%.  

Consistently Punished

“We appeal to, like, sexologists, sex educators, people that speak a lot about pleasure, dating, intimacy … We have kinky history classes, sex toy reviews, dating ideas, dating profile reviews are a big one. It’s tough to talk about some of those topics on Instagram and Tiktok because they are censored.

 “We allow those creators a space to monetise that content and it not be turned into something it’s not. We drive home that on Sunroom, and we celebrate women being able to put a price on their time, money, intimacy, creativity.”

  One such creator is Eleanor Hadley, who says she is “consistently punished” for simply existing as a sex educator and a sex-positive woman” on other platforms. “On Sunroom, I feel celebrated for exactly that.”

Sex educator and Sunroom user Eleanor Hadley. | Image: Supplied

Her Instagram account was recently disabled for more than a week for what was alleged to be “sexual solicitation”, Hadley says, “despite literally never soliciting sex in my life”.

 It was reinstated, but the stress of losing her business was immense. “Sunroom is my saviour since it provides a way for me to monetise my content and doesn’t force me to water myself down in the process.”

  She makes around US$2,500 a month from Sunroom.

Battersby says there are creators making US$20,000 a month on the app.

 “I make up to US$2,500 a month on my Sunroom account,” says Battersby. “I share a career-confessions series, as well as the highs and lows of running a startup. I also mentor women via 30-minute calls that can be booked through the app.” 

Michelle Battersby will be speaking on the Power of Product at the inaugural Forbes Australia Women’s Summit on the 22nd of March, presented by NAB Private Wealth. She’ll be joined by other influential women, including Miranda Kerr, Christine Holgate and Natasha Oakley, discussing how to break barriers in business, build wealth and make industry connections. You can see the full lineup and get your tickets at Women’s Summit 2023 – Forbes Australia.

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