CalExotics: Trailblazing Into the Future

Alex Glass

The history of California Exotic Novelties begins 20 years ago when Susan Colvin was the general manager for the distribution company CPLC and Video Team, which had a small novelty branch called Swedish Erotica.

Back then video dominated the market and sex toys were mostly an afterthought. Relegated to the back of the store and intended to be purchased by the male customer, whose main focus was videos and magazines, sex toys weren’t considered nearly as important. Vibrators were made of hard plastic, had loud, unruly motors, and boasted few selling features. Toys were ivory or black and the packaging was basic. Generally the products were unimaginative devices that lacked innovation, style and reliability.

The company officially opened its doors in 1994 on the corner of Halldale and Adams Streets in Los Angeles. After six months CalExotics outgrew that location and moved to Chino, Calif., where it eventually expanded to three buildings, encompassing more than 200,000 square feet.

Vibrator motors were inferior and the wires on many rabbit-style vibes would easily pull out. The original Swedish Erotica boxes were plain, inexpensive and uninspired. They were red and yellow with a flimsy window that didn’t really show off the product inside.

This didn’t make sense to Colvin, who saw potential in the market and knew things could be done differently.

“I wanted to make packaging with personality,” Colvin said. “I wanted to create toys that were reliable, quiet, more powerful, and with wires that didn’t easily slip out. I knew the market was ripe for something better, and I wanted to make that happen.”

That was the inspiration for California Exotic Novelties. When CPLC disbanded in 1994, Colvin bought Swedish Erotica, and changed the name to California Exotic Novelties.

The company officially opened its doors in 1994 on the corner of Halldale and Adams Streets in Los Angeles. After six months CalExotics outgrew that location and moved to Chino, Calif., where it eventually expanded to three buildings, encompassing more than 200,000 square feet.

Established with a family-like, collaborative environment, the company set out to do things differently. Jackie White, who today is the company’s vice president of sales, was there from the beginning.

“The goal for California Exotic Novelties was to create a company that was in-tune with, and created products for, women, men, and couples,” White said. “Then, as now, we want to create something for everyone!”

With a team of all-women product developers, and an understanding of what it meant to market products to women and couples, CalExotics introduced many innovations to the industry.

Packaging became a priority and marketing was a focus. CalExotics was the first company to do photo shoots for their catalogs and marketing material. Tastefully done, the art was only graphic when it needed to be.

CalExotics introduced the first vibes in vibrant colors such as pink, purple and many others. Simple concepts like this would create a long list of industry firsts for the company.

Many thought it was crazy to cater to women and couples. They felt the market couldn’t bear higher price-points and that consumers didn’t care about better quality products with sharper packaging.

Now, 20 years later, Colvin and CalExotics have proven the value of such concepts.

Today, California Exotics Novelties is an internationally renowned pleasure product manufacturer. With a motto that declares: “When you win, we win,” the company is dedicated to the success of its customers. CalExotics has a 98 percent fulfillment rate and a turnaround time of 48 hours from order to shipment.

The company offers the widest selection of adult pleasure products with 60 individual collections boasting “Something for Everyone.”

Among its popular lines are: Body & Soul, Coco Licious, COLT, Dr. Joel Kaplan, Dr. Laura Berman, Embrace, Entice, First Time, Love Rider, Nick Hawk GIGOLO, Phil Varone Sex Toys and Rock ‘n Roll, POSH, Scandal, Shane’s World, Sue Johanson, Tantric, and more.

CalExotics’ support tools include: customizable Visual Merchandising Plans, store signage, P.O.P. displays, the Where to Buy section, Find-A-Vibe, product videos, shareable social media content through Club CalExotics, and a supportive team that makes itself available to help.

2014 marks the 20th anniversary of California Exotic Novelties. The company’s continuing goal is to empower adults to embrace their sexuality by educating and promoting sexual health and wellness.

Famous Firsts

As the first sex toy company founded and operated by a woman, and global leader in innovation, CalExotics has compiled a list of its Famous Firsts — several of which have since become industry standards. California Exotic Novelties was the first to…

  • Make packaging a priority — created collections with personality.
  • Introduce feminine colors like pink and purple.
  • Market the Original Jack Rabbit.
  • Release a water-proof line of toys.
  • Make a remote-control egg-style vibrator.
  • Advertise and follow up with manufacturer warranties through Vibetronics.
  • Make products using 100 percent premium silicone.
  • Create pulsating vibrators made in the USA.
  • Introduce rechargeable rabbit-style vibrators.
  • Manufacture a talking vibrator.
  • Bring an eco-friendly, solar-powered toy to market.
  • Have an all-women product development team.
  • Design butterfly-style vibrators.
  • Conform to E.U. directives. California Exotic Novelties was an early adapter of RoHS and WEEE standards for motors, though there was no requirement to do so in the in USA.
  • Have sales staff travel on the road, visiting stores and customers.