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WIA Profile: Phyllis Heppenstall

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.

You started the company more than 25 years ago. What was your experience as a woman trying to not only start a company but a company in the adult industry?

When I started this business as Women’s Home Parties, I actually wasn’t thinking about being in the “adult industry.” I just had a passion that we — women and our partners — should be able to enjoy our sensuality without judgment.

When I started this business as Women’s Home Parties, I actually wasn’t thinking about being in the “adult industry.” I just had a passion that we — women and our partners — should be able to enjoy our sensuality without judgment. This was really brought home when we opened three retail stores in 1981-82 within 13 months. [As for] women in business — why, that’s just where we belong. I never, ever viewed myself as being less nor more [capable than a man], or asking for special considerations because I was a woman. I always wanted to be given equal opportunity and approached all my dealings with the knowledge that I was equal. Passion, persistence, integrity and great people will always win.

Give us a typical Monday at your desk?

For the past year, I’ve operated out of my home office. The day-to-day operation at Peekay is managed by a great team of individuals headed up by Phy Abramson. One of my biggest challenges as an entrepreneur was to train and plan for that transition. I told myself, “If I’ve invested 25 years in this baby and it can’t walk and run on its own, then my job was not done well.” My Mondays and other days are primarily focused on outreach efforts, publicity work and growth strategy for our company. No matter what day it is, there’s also constant attention to the 1st Amendment issues and our freedoms! And, of course, you always watch the numbers.

Have attitudes toward women in the industry (and in business overall) changed over the years?

If you’re asking me about the [adult] industry, yes, I believe there are those consumers who acknowledge and recognize that there are bright, brilliant women performing, who also happen to be blessed with incredible looks. When you ask about business overall, I have seen both sides of that issue. In my personal experience, neither I nor my company have been the victim of any bias against women. I just have never acknowledged it. For us, that means it doesn’t exist. Are there those that do oppress women and their efforts? You bet. One of my passions is to always be there and educate women that we can prevail. I believe women in this industry always have to be better than average. I always want our actions to show credibility and integrity to the world.

What strategies do you use to maintain balance in your life?

The short answer is: good shoes and sound sleep! I definitely am a Type A personality, as many successful people are. First, I think it’s important to acknowledge that as a good thing. Second, you have to listen to your body — don’t second-guess your gut. That’s why its there. You have to be the best you can be for yourself before you can assume a leadership role because it is a huge responsibility. Simply put, you should always be challenging yourself and asking, “What is the highest and best use of my time when at work?” Then, equally, “What quiets my heart and soul?” Find the answers to those two questions and, as the saying goes, “When you find a vocation you love, you will never work another day in your life.”

What advice would you give other women who want to enter your field?

My advice to anyone, women or men, whatever the field, is be passionate, be honest with yourself. Become a student of life. Never, ever, stop learning. Yes, there will be lots of hard work but also lots of great rewards. This business is not for the faint of heart. But business is just that — business. You must be able to: 1) multitask unmercifully; 2) make quick decisions, at times with little information; 3) “move on” from negative situations without beating yourself up; and 4) be honest at all times.

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