From Rock Bottom to Solid as a Rock
Who would have thought that a dude who went totally broke with his novelty business would build it up again … and succeed beyond his wildest dreams? It’s almost like a fairy story.
Well, adult-biz fairy story.
Steve Callow — the CEO, head designer, and all around guiding light behind primo novelty design/production/sales company Perfect Fit — is the first to admit that he didn’t get to his prominent position in the industry by simply snapping his fingers. Quite the contrary.
“I didn’t enjoy going out of business, of course,” Callow candidly confesses. “But sometimes that’s the best lesson ever.”
Callow, a true entrepreneur if ever there was one, also notes that he was pretty much made for the adult-novelty industry.
“Some people might find it interesting, or crazy, that I created my first dildo out of wax when I was 13-years-old,” he humorously relates, with a dash of sentimentalism and pride. “I repeatedly dipped a dowel in melted beeswax for a few hours and then molded it by hand. I don’t tell too many people that, but I guess it does show my passion for the industry.
“Then my interest progressed, and I made vibrators out of race-car motors and electric sanders. If only my dad knew what I was doing in his workshop! I’m an electronics and mechanical engineering geek. I love to make things! Currently, I have a full robotics setup in my office, and I work at this level making my own circuit boards with my smoldering iron and diagnostic meters.”
But we’re getting ahead of ourselves — or, rather, Steve is.
From his teens, Callow went from one strength to the next. At age 14 he was a computer wiz, and by the time he hit 19, he owned a computer retail store which developed medical software application. While undertaking his engineering degree in college, Callow expanded his business into a fiber optic network technology company. And by the time he hit 25, he was cleared to the Canadian Military top-secret level, becoming head supplier of secure fiber optic networks for major hospitals, universities, oil companies, refineries, as well as the Maritime Defense (Navy) in Canada. He sold the company at age 26, taking on the title of “young executive,” culminating his career in New York City as Senior Vice President in a specialty consulting firm called Network Strategy.
“It was an exciting ride,” he vividly recollects, “very demanding and stressful, but also very educational — and the pay was pretty amazing! But after 9/11, I shifted gears, moving to Florida to pursue to path that I’m on now. I started in this industry in 2005 and went all in!”
That he did.
After spending a year researching, going to inventor workshops, and participating in monthly association meetings, our man started Callow Innovations, Inc. with his own savings, soon developing his first invention: the StreemMaster.
“Prior to StreemMaster, douches were always a product that was part of another brand or lineup. I focused on creating a brand around the category itself, and it became the premiere brand, really unifying the category and creating the douche market opportunity that’s now so lucrative.”
But, as Callow further points out, it was a “very risky venture” considering that he had no knowledge whatsoever of the adult-novelty industry. As he stated earlier, he really “went all out,” contracting engineers, product designers, and marketing firms which branded and packaged his product with top-quality design skills. He also built a small factory, did all the tooling in Canada, and erected a production line where his company assembled the products themselves and shipped them from Toronto. Additionally, Callow took on a “financial partner” once his product had a “positive focus group assessment.”
Yet, just as things started taking off, they began to eventually take a slight downward turn, as well.
“Business was overall good,” says Callow, “but the numbers weren’t what I expected. Over time it became apparent that I needed to add more SKUs to make the company viable. But after running through my savings, and the limits of my investment partner, I had to make the ultimate call.”
Naturally, hanging up the “Gone Out of Business” sign in one’s proverbial shop window was no fun. For anybody! But Callow didn’t completely throw in the towel. Or should we say ‘dowel’?
“That was a difficult time. I approached Cal Exotics and Doc Johnson to see if they had any openings, but there weren’t any at the time.
“But through a bit of luck, and some people who believed in me, I was able to start producing some of my new ideas under the Perfect Fit name. Fort Troff was always a big supporter of my ideas, and they helped fund many of my new product concepts, like the Ergo Cleaning System and the Fat Boy. This continued to expand and, with my increased interest and support of my new financial and distributions partners, VenWel Logi, business took off.
Today, Perfect Fit is most definitely a widespread, literally, business, allowing the company to keep its fingers on the pulse of the adult-novelty business. That is, Perfect Fit’s logistics and finance are handled from their offices in Toronto; sales and marketing are conduced out of a Fort Lauderdale locale, which, according to Perfect Fit’s Chief Marketing Officer Rob Reimer, “is becoming quite the hub in the adult world, with several lube and production companies located (there)”; and Perfect Fit’s shipping and receiving is done from their warehouse in Los Angeles.
“Thank God for Skype!” Reimer jokingly chimes, his many tasks including advertising, social media, PR, trade shows, customer service, website maintenance, product training, “and a host of other things that come with working for a small company.”
However, things still begin with Steve Callow.
“I’m still the guy!” Callow laughs. “I sketch all of the designs myself or hand whittle foam or clay models. I work hand-in-hand with my design team at all stages of the product development lifecycle.” Obviously things really haven’t changed that much since Steve was designing his own dildos with beeswax in his garage when he was 13 years old.
The top design firms then take his ideas and manufacture them into functional designs. It’s a design/development/production process that takes anywhere from three to six months per new product.
Consequently, once the products get to Perfect Fit’s LA warehouse, their sales and marketing team take over and sell the items wholesale to distributors, retail chains, online stores, and mom-and-pop shops around the world. The company also has their own online store where they sell products directly to the consumer.
According to Callow, Perfect Fit has continued to grow more than 100 percent per year since its inception in 2011. “We focus on sales and marketing, and roll out new products as fast as we can.”
Callow stresses that what makes Perfect Fit’s items so in-demand is their uniqueness. “If the item is not amazing in some way, we don’t make it.”
“Amazing,” according to Callow, can be reflected in such Perfect Fit areas as design, performance, style, price, quality, and/or material.
Callow specifically notes that Perfect Fit’s trademark materials, SilaSkin and PF Blend, are some of the best feeling materials available, garnering much consumer praise.
From a product-design standpoint, he’s also quite proud of the Speed Shift (one of PF’s best-selling products): a cock ring offering true non-stretch restrictions with extreme adjustability in small increments. Aside from being easily adjustable while wearing, the Speed Shift has a quick release. Adds Callow: “No other product, to the best of my knowledge, offers these features.”
Callow also sings the praises of Perfect Fit’s Jock Armour cock rings. “They affix to your body because of their patent-pending, ‘Body Hugging’ shape. Also, they’re insanely fun and ego-boosting to wear, giving any man something to show off!"
“And the Ergo Cleaning System lineup is FULL of category-killing features, like the air-valve technology and a 9-inch bending TPR nozzle. We’re also the originator of the Molded Tunnel Plug, a concept which has spurned a number of knockoffs and followers.”
Additionally, Perfect Fit is proud of its educational product videos — about 20 to date and all featured on their YouTube channel, Youtube.com/PerfectFitBrand — covering their entire range of products, and playing all over the world in brick-and-mortar stores, as well as online stores.
“Our analytics show that we have people viewing these videos in Iraq and Iran, which is quite interesting,” says Reimer. “And by the time this article comes out, we’ll have launched our first brand video, produced here on our beautiful beaches and parks in southern Florida, with four really sexy guys. It’s a fun, up-tempo, three-minute piece showcasing our products in a sexy environment. It’ll be a great tool to help sales to the consumer. We can’t wait to hear people’s reactions.”
And speaking of the people… We’re curious if Perfect Fit sees itself as strictly a company catering to a gay audience?
“Actually, we see ourselves in the past years as expanding from a gay company to a male and couples brand,” Callow said. “Our research shows that many of our customers are male/female couples. I mean, we’ll always have products designed specifically for our gay consumers, but we also have products we’ve designed specifically for women, like the ORBIT vibrating cock rings. Also, many of our newer products are being reviewed by women and the designs reflect their feedback.”
Regarding that same female patronage, Rob Reimer further adds: “We obviously have a huge gay consumer base, but we like to say that we’re a male brand because our products are used by all men, regardless if they’re gay, straight, or bi. And, yes, we also have a large couples market with products such as our Fat Boy extenders.”
The company is also investing heavily in innovative strap-on concepts, including the capability of putting on a strap-on within five seconds. “It’ll be more comfortable for both men and women,” says Callow, “than any other product on the market.”
Per Callow, there will be two “flavors” to this strap-on lineup: the Armour Knight series for the gay market, and a yet-to-be-named series appealing to women, all debuting at the ANME show.
Anything else to add, Steve?
“Well,” he states, with usual modesty, “perhaps I’m most excited about some of the products that we haven’t released yet. But it’s too soon to speak of them.”
And what exactly are the pros and cons of being in charge of a successful but, surely, crazy-busy business?
It’s a no-brainer for Callow.
“I love my job. The pros are certainly having the rewards of seeing your vision mature into a popular brand and being able to choose with whom you work. I don’t really have a lot of cons to mention. It’s also always a pleasure to meet our customers and hear their feedback.”