WIA Profile: Becky Merbler
Each month, industry news media organization XBIZ spotlights the career accomplishments and outstanding contributions of Women in Adult. WIA profiles offer an intimate look at the professional lives of the industry's most influential female executives.
If there is something new coming through the product pipeline at Adult Empire, it crosses the desk of Becky Merbler.
The Cleveland native is the Director of Product Management for The Empire, one of adult entertainment’s largest online retailers. But that’s just part of Merbler’s scope of responsibility at the Pittsburgh, Pa.-based juggernaut.
Merbler also heads up Adult Empire’s mail-order catalog and is half of the dynamic duo that produces lighthearted videos for Adult Empire’s YouTube channel. She and Chelsea McCain keep The Empire’s legion of loyal supporters up to date on all the goings-on at the company, hosting weekly updates, conducting interviews, doing product reviews and more — all while maintaining a sex-positive attitude.
In this exclusive Woman of the Month interview, Merbler discusses her professional background, the current trends in mail order and the best part of her job.
XBIZ: Where were you born and raised?
BM: Born in Cleveland, Ohio, and raised in the suburb of Garfield Heights.
XBIZ: What were you doing before you joined Adult Empire?
BM: I had just completed two service contracts for AmeriCorps, working with inner city kids in the Pittsburgh school system. I had to be a mentor and tutor plus complete service projects within the community. The whole experience changed my perspective from being focused on myself to thinking more about what others may need. However, not to get too political, it is a hard job working with children and there is basically no vacation time and crappy pay. I guess if I weren’t doing what I am currently doing, I would be vocal about getting better pay for the day care and after-school workers and not the companies.
XBIZ: How did you get started in the adult biz?
BM: After I had completed my two service contracts, I was working two part-time jobs: one at a party center and the other at a coffee cart in a hospital. I was doing 12 hours a day and making minimum wage. It seriously sucked. But 10 years ago, I saw an ad in the Pittsburgh City Paper for a ‘Scene Indexer,’ which offered better pay and benefits. So I applied and got an interview. I remember I was told I would know in a couple of days and those days passed so I called The Empire trying to find out if I got the job. I think that call is what set me apart cause they knew I wanted the job. Really, at that point, the only porno I had seen was a lesbian ’80s scene at a friend’s house the summer of 6th grade, ‘Deep Throat’ at an awkward party and some Andrew Blake movies. So there was a major learning curve.
XBIZ: What is your role with Adult Empire?
BM: My current title is director of product management, but I feel it doesn’t fully encompass all of my duties and such.
XBIZ: What are your various duties and responsibilities?
BM: I am the manager of data entry, so anything that is new, being brought in or coming through our VOD pipeline, goes through my staff to get entered in for the site. We content screen items to make sure we are not bringing in items that do not follow our guidelines. I also put together the catalogs for Spice TV and Adult Empire that go out to people who still appreciate having printed material in their hands. Lastly, I am half of the duo for the vlogs, reviews, some interviews and weekly updates on the Adult Empire YouTube channel.
XBIZ: What’s a ‘typical’ workday like for you?
BM: I get in between 7 and 9 a.m. and I start answering emails. Chelsea [McCain] usually comes in and starts asking me questions about what we are doing for the week/day and reminding me that I have to do something. I assign blurbs and tasks related to the catalog to my wonderful staff to help me out. I am usually proofing or getting something ready to print and mail, so coordinating between mailing list and printer comes up... getting products or specials for the catalog and then asking for the materials. Probably some coffee and problem solving in there somewhere and checking the new releases.
XBIZ: What’s the most challenging part of your job?
BM: For the mail-order filling 32 to 48 pages with product is very challenging; having fresh content without reusing a ton of carryovers and keeping the look new but not deviating from our style. With Chelsea, not being too serious and thinking of more fun questions for our interviews or like when we went out to talk to people at Pride. Also, making time to try out new sex toys and watch porn on my own time as a reviewer.
XBIZ: What’s the best part of your job?
BM: First, working with my staff and Chelsea. Everyone is really great and we all work together very well. Also, working with the vendors. I feel I have created some great relationships and in general I really like everyone. The owner here at Adult Empire also trusts me and values my opinion with mail-order issues or even the videos. I am not going to go anywhere else and get what I get here.
XBIZ: How would you describe the vision for the videos you create with Chelsea?
BM: We want to be sex-positive in a lighthearted way. I think there are a lot of people that take things too seriously in life and sex should be fun. So we will continue to approach our videos in different ways and yes, have Barry and Chaz visit in to give the male view! I want someone who doesn’t know us to say, ‘I want to know what Becky and Chelsea are doing this week!’ and tune in and get surprised.
XBIZ: What are the current trends in mail order?
BM: I think a lot of standards are shifting. There were bigger names you could always expect a sale from but now maybe not. But I think ‘weird’ is better overall. You have to think about what may be too embarrassing to go to the local adult shop to buy. If you look at the cover of a movie and say ‘oh my god’ or ‘huh?’ that probably should go in your catalog. Also, bigger fonts, because that population is aging and they need to be able to read about what you are selling.
XBIZ: How do you see the future of mail order?
BM: I see that we probably have some good years left, but the catalog makers have to be creative with what they are offering. You are not just going to be able to jack up the prices and expect the consumer to keep buying. With planning, I think you will still have to keep it simple but try to stand out.
XBIZ: What are your hobbies or interests outside of work?
BM: My new year’s resolution is to read two books a month and I am currently doing OK with the challenge. I am half a book behind at the moment but plan to make that up when I take a few days off in August. I am also heavily into animal rescue. Currently, I am the permanent foster mom for two wonderful +FELV cats for Kopy Kat Sanctuary here in Pittsburgh. Klaus and TB came to me with their brothers in 2014 and they were dealt a shitty hand at life by carrying the Feline Leukemia virus. Earlier this year their brothers Kol and Elijah passed away when the virus took hold and they couldn’t bounce back. But my job with them is to make sure they have the most awesome life while they are here and I go out of my way to make sure that happens. Other than that, I do like riding my bike. Aside from some lazy beach rides, I don’t have much planned yet.