Q&A With Jimmyjane President Robert Rheaume
Robert Rheaume is the president of one of the most popular and design-functional brands in the industry — Jimmyjane. A veteran of consumer packaged goods and retail, Rheaume joined the pleasure products industry in 2014 and hasn’t looked back. We had a chance to sit down with the San Fran native to get his take on Jimmyjane and the state of the industry.
XBIZ: What’s your background and what were you doing prior to pleasure products?
Robert Rheaume: Prior to joining Jimmyjane I spent over 20 years strategically building CPG [consumer packed goods] companies. I worked with established, and early stage, brands including SIGG, Chanel/Bourjois cosmetics, Naya water and Odwalla juices. With these companies I developed brand positioning across a diverse array of retail channels including fashion, health and beauty, outdoors, healthy grocery, mass and more.
XBIZ: What’s your take on the adult industry?
Rheaume: The industry has been an exciting adventure thus far. The majority of people I meet have a deep-rooted history in the industry. I have a lot of respect for these industry veterans who lead the way in this category. These pioneers have built amazing businesses and touched consumers’ lives, often in the face of adversity, stigmas and challenges that traditional CPG companies do not face. As a newcomer, I have found the industry to be very welcoming. I appreciate the strong sense of community and emphasis on relationships in this category.
XBIZ: Any similarities between the luxury pleasure business and what you’ve done in the past?
Rheaume: Like Jimmyjane, a lot of the brands I have worked with in the past were design-centric. Whether you are speaking about a beauty product, reusable water bottles or an award-winning vibrator, the same elements of design, quality and materials resonate with the consumer. I have a lot of experience working in the health and wellness category. At Jimmyjane we provide products and experiences that, I believe, contribute to a more positive sexual well being and relationship with your partner. These are two important facets of an overall happy and healthy lifestyle, so there is some crossover with my prior brands and approach. In my past experiences, these have always been the most rewarding projects. It feels more substantial to provide a real service to your customer, and impact their lives in a positive way. It is something you can feel positive about doing everyday. What is better than bringing pleasure to people worldwide?
XBIZ: What inspired you to join Jimmyjane?
Rheaume: Being a San Francisco native, and design enthusiast, I was familiar with Jimmyjane before I joined the company. Jimmyjane was founded 10-plus years ago, and I remember reading a story about the company on the cover of the San Francisco Chronicle’s style section in 2006. I was always drawn to the concept and presentation of the brand, which disrupted, even my own, stereotypes of sex toys. I joined the company because I saw an amazing brand and product, backed by a strong, dedicated team who was doing something interesting and provocative in a sophisticated, unique way. I never thought, back in 2006, that I would one day be a part of that team, but it is an exciting venture and I think the opportunities for Jimmyjane, and the category, are limitless.
XBIZ: How are Jimmyjane products different from other luxury products on the market?
Rheaume: I believe Jimmyjane customers are attracted to our design-centric approach, quality designs, and guarantee of body-safe materials. Customers have grown to trust the brand, and our three-year limited warranty helps solidify that. We are in the luxury category, and on the higher-end of the price spectrum, however we try to make the brand approachable, clean, modern and fun. A lot of customers feel an attachment to the wit and charm of the brand, and our story. I think the brand comes off as authentic. We don’t try to dictate what sexy is to each consumer, but want our products to be a simple platform, that invites people to explore pleasure and new experiences.
XBIZ: How is Jimmyjane’s vision and approach different from its competitors in the adult toy/pleasure space?
Rheaume: If you look at our SKU story each item Jimmyjane creates a really unique and different consumer experience, from the other. We have a design studio at the heart of our business, which gives us the ability to constantly revisit our items, making improvements and updates when possible. We don’t produce an item then take it off the shelf in year. We are highly invested in each design we create. For example our FORM 6 Waterproof Rechargeable Vibrator first launched in 2006, and was the first waterproof rechargeable vibrator that was completely cordless, meaning it used inductive charging so there were no jacks or holes that plug into the product.
It was a huge success, but, like every product, we felt it could be better. We released FORM 6 G2 (Generation 2) a few years later, with upgrades and design improvements. In October 2012, we released the FORM 6 G3, which had an updated user interface, new, travel-ready charging station and USB charge cord. Because of new technology developments we were also able to reduce costs, which we passed along to the consumer reducing it from $185 to $175.
I think our approach is to create a unique consumer experience, and then constantly improve on that throughout the product’s lifetime.
XBIZ: Tell us about your award-winning team and the Jimmyjane corporate culture.
Rheaume: I am lucky to work with the amazing team at Jimmyjane. We are small, but mighty and everyone is dedicated to the brand and its mission. Some team members have been with the company for seven-plus years, which I think says a lot. There is definitely an entrepreneurial environment, and we encourage new ideas, taking ownership of projects and creativity. We definitely work hard, but also like to have fun, which always makes work much more enjoyable.
XBIZ: Jimmyjane places a strong emphasis on education — is this because some of the tech-heavy Jimmyjane products require a lot of education or is this a more broadly focused, sexual health type of education program?
Rheaume: Our education with retailers is two-fold. It includes educating on our products, features and benefits and also includes a more dynamic education platform focused on the broader elements of human sexuality. Our products are technical, and we want our retailers and their staff to be informed on all of the different aspects of every design. In the premium category it is important for a consumer to understand the value of a product when opting for a luxury item.
We revised our training program last year to also educate on the broader aspects of human sexuality. Sexuality can be a daunting subject, and many consumers don’t understand how these products interact with their body. We feel that our retailers and their staff are, not only selling items, but helping their customers navigate the sexual landscape. Many of our retailers already have a strong knowledge of human sexuality, but we still like to incorporate this into our education programs to give them every tool possible to properly communicate with their customers. An educated staff can speak with authority, confidence and connect a customer with the best product to fit their unique needs.
XBIZ: How many items are there in the Jimmyjane collection?
Rheaume: We currently have 26 unique SKUs in the line. We introduced three new items in January, and are planning a few more releases for later this year. Stay tuned…
XBIZ: What is the most popular product?
Rheaume: Our FORM line (Waterproof Rechargeable Vibrators) is really our flagship line. Out of these items our FORM 2 has become iconic for the brand and really garnered a cult following. FORM 2 has a motor in the tip of each flexible ear, which continues to vibrate when it comes in contact with the body. The way the two motors surround a touch-point in vibration creates a unique sensation, unlike any other vibrator on the market. Our HELLO TOUCH wearable fingertip vibrators are also best sellers, and ideal for couples. Unlike a typical vibrator, which sometimes feels like a third party in the bedroom, with HELLO TOUCH it is still your partners moves and touch delivering the pleasure, so they get the credit. It is very interactive in that regard.
XBIZ: Why do you think Jimmyjane has found so much success in mainstream publications?
Rheaume: When I first came to Jimmyjane, I looked through the archives and was quite impressed myself. The company has appeared in some of the leading publications: Vogue, The New York Times, W Magazine, Harper’s Bazaar, GQ, Men’s and Women’s Health, Cosmopolitan… you name it. I think that when the company first started appearing in these mainstream magazines, back in 2004 and 2005, there was nothing like it on the market. Editors were drawn to the modern, discreet presentation that gave them permission, in a way, to speak about sex toys in an approachable manner. Over the years we have fostered those relationships with the media and it has paid off.
Our design and marketing team works really hard on each item we release. We try to create a unique story with each product, backed by the quality, body-safe materials and beautiful design aesthetic that has come to define Jimmyjane. I think that appeals to editors, and they trust our brand enough to make recommendations to their readers. This year we were one of just two sex toys that appeared in WIRED Magazine’s first-ever “Sex Issue,” which was really exciting. We are really honored, and so grateful for all of the mainstream and industry media, who have helped us tell our story over the years.
XBIZ: Can you describe the relationship between Jimmyjane and Pipedream?
Rheaume: In February 2014 Jimmyjane was acquired by Diamond Products, in conjunction with a New York private equity firm. This was Diamond Products’ second acquisition in the space, following the acquisition of Pipedream in 2013. Together as part of Diamond, Jimmyjane and Pipedream Products aim to shape the future of the category as the world’s leading manufacturer of pleasure products.
Jimmyjane and Pipedream are sister companies. Nick Orlandino, the CEO of Pipedream is also CEO of Diamond Products, so I work closely with him on business development. When Jimmyjane was first acquired, skeptics thought that Jimmyjane would be absorbed into Pipedream and there was concern that the approach to our products would change. The two companies have very different products, SKU stories and serve two completely different price points and audiences. Nick has built an amazing company and team. With their manufacturing abilities, they could have easily created a Jimmyjane-like line to meet their market needs. As sister companies we are able to each play to our strengths, collaborating and sharing resources when needed, but keeping the two brands separate. I have learned a lot from Nick, who is a strong leader and pioneer in the industry, and am happy to have him, and the entire Pipedream team, to help navigate the category.
XBIZ: How has the company benefited from Pipedream/Diamond resources?
Rheaume: With new resources the company has become more agile. We have more product releases on the horizon than ever before. When needed we have the ability to collaborate with Pipedream on business opportunities and strategy. Pipedream has a much larger team, and we occasionally team up to alleviate creative resources, operations and more. I think it really reinvigorated the team, and has given Jimmyjane more opportunities to continue to bring the quality, innovative pleasure products to our fans and customers.
XBIZ: Has Jimmyjane fallen victim to piracy? Are you finding knock-offs online? How do you combat this?
Rheaume: In my experience, any consumer packaged good company in the premium sector will always have emulators. We have seen a lot of products emulating our LITTLE SOMETHING Line as well as our FORM 2. Just last week I saw a new item that looked to have the same shape and dual motor design as our FORM 2. This is to be expected with top-selling, unique items. Our product development puts a lot of time and energy into our products. We do invest in intellectual property to protect ourselves, though we have not yet enforced any suspect patent infringements. There is more that goes into these products than just the shape, it is about the minute details in technology, and engineering that achieve a certain experience. A product that “looks like” is not usually “equal to.” Customers tend to discover this for themselves after an experience with a like-product. In the end, with our commitment to quality, and our warranties it is worthwhile in the long run to get the real thing.
XBIZ: Generally speaking, where do you see the pleasure products industry in five years?
Rheaume: I think the industry is at a very interesting point, which is really what drew me to it. Sexuality has universal appeal, and enhancing the sexual experience is something that is going to continue to be sought after. I think that we are going to see the audience for pleasure products continue to grow over the next five years, as younger, more open generations of consumers enter into the market. I also think that the taboos will soon be gone and these products will be available in a mass way.
XBIZ: How often do you travel?
Rheaume: Since I joined Jimmyjane, in September 2014, I have been on the road quite a bit. Coming from outside the industry it was really important for me to get to know the category. I wanted to attend all of the shows and conferences to absorb as much as possible, and meet with our amazing retail partners. I have been dedicated to growing the Jimmyjane brand, and that meant understanding the ecosystem in which Jimmyjane lives. This requires travel, which I am always eager to do if it means improving upon our existing relationships and building new ones.
XBIZ: What’s your favorite place the business has taken you so far?
Rheaume: I really enjoyed the eroFame show in Germany, because it was my first show with the company and our amazing sales team, including Alicia Sinclair our vice president of worldwide sales and business development. It really gave me a crash course in the industry. It is also fun when our partners come to us. I enjoy hosting friends of the brand in our S.F. or L.A. offices when the opportunity presents itself.
XBIZ: What’s the most valuable lesson you’ve learned so far in this industry?
Rheaume: I have learned that in this industry there is a lot of emphasis on relationships. It is a small industry, and everyone seems to know each other. I have found it to be very welcoming and enjoy the environment in which this industry works. The shows are always filled with familiar faces, where people balance a fun atmosphere with business. I believe that the possibilities for Jimmyjane, and the industry as a whole, are limitless. Collectively we are paving a new path, creating, molding and growing this industry. Everyone is expanding on the concept of pleasure in their own way, and impacting millions of consumers worldwide, in the process. While some might still think it is taboo, I have learned that for a company, providing pleasure is a really special achievement, and something to be proud of.
XBIZ: How does the prez of Jimmyjane relax?
Rheaume: As of late he doesn’t. I am jesting of course; I believe work life balance is important for creativity and longevity in any role. I previously worked in the outdoor world, and enjoy most sports. I am always open to catching a San Francisco Giants game when I have the time. Lately any time off I spend with my family, taking my son and daughter to the skate park or paddle boarding out on the bay in San Francisco.