WIA Profile: Kristen Tribby

Women In Adult / Ariana Rodriguez

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.

At the end of the day it’s all about helping people have better sex, says Kristen Tribby, director of creative development and strategy for the oldest sexuality boutique in the U.S. — The Pleasure Chest. Tribby’s efforts to improve people’s sex lives can be seen in the careful planning of The Pleasure Chest’s growth and branding image that reflects a balance of the company’s founding core values with a modern twist. The Pleasure Chest continues to expand with new locations and a greater focus on sex education and sex positivity. In this exclusive interview with XBIZ Premiere, Women in Adult spotlights The Pleasure Chest’s Kristen Tribby, a self-proclaimed shameless promoter of sex-positivity.

Every New Year, I create a mantra as a reminder of the overarching theme of the year to come. Sometimes they are silly, sometimes they are meaningful, and sometimes they rhyme, but they always seem to help tap into the energy that I have felt at the beginning of the year.

What is your role and responsibility at Pleasure Chest?

Most importantly, I help people have better sex! As far as day-today operations, I strategize on the company’s immediate and long-term goals, co-direct the purchasing department, and directly oversee education, marketing and PR. I work closely and collaboratively with the owner of the company, Brian Robinson, and the director of business development and strategy, Sarah Tomchesson.

How (and when) did you get into the adult retail business?

I’ve been in the adult industry for eight years. While working my way up the corporate ladder in the hospitality industry, I couldn’t kick the feeling that something was missing. I took a leap of faith, quit my job and started a new life path. A few years later, I launched a personal stylist company called Queerstyle, which focused on gender non-conforming clients, helping folks from all walks of life find their power through fashion. Queerstyle connected me to Babeland, and I was offered the position of marketing and education coordinator for their Los Angeles location. I found fashion and sexuality are similar: both are regulated by oppressive social messages but can also be incredibly empowering. I quickly fell in love with the adult industry and was very inspired by its rich history and somewhat unrealized potential. In 2008, I was offered a position as director of education and marketing for The Pleasure Chest and was honored to become a part of the oldest sexuality boutique in the U.S.

What challenges have you confronted in your career and how have you overcome them?

From the moment I entered this industry to the present, my challenge remains the same — legitimizing the adult industry. The stigma that is attached to the work that we do in this world comes up in almost every aspect of my career and in the overarching work at The Pleasure Chest. In marketing and PR, we struggle to create ongoing relationships with media outlets. In our daily operations we struggle to find companies to support our basic business needs like banking, renting space, and online advertising. I overcome this by not giving up, holding true to our guiding principles and always looking for those mainstream partners who celebrate our mission. I have no problem turning down mainstream opportunities with those who want to use our brand to perpetuate negative images of the adult industry. I’m a staunch believer in what we do and am a shameless promoter of sex-positivity.

What is the most rewarding part of your job?

The people! Our team at The Pleasure Chest, my colleagues in the industry, and our customers continue to be a source of inspiration. As an educator and a managing director for The Pleasure Chest, I have the rare opportunity to have access to both the manufacturers and our customer base. It is very satisfying to spend time on the floor, teach workshops, and gather ideas from our staff and then take that information to our industry partners. The ability to move seamlessly from the inception of an idea or strategy to its implementation is a testament to our relationships within the industry as well as the awesome team we have in our stores.

What is your personal motto or mantra that you live by?

Every New Year, I create a mantra as a reminder of the overarching theme of the year to come. Sometimes they are silly, sometimes they are meaningful, and sometimes they rhyme, but they always seem to help tap into the energy that I have felt at the beginning of the year. This year it is “Balance begins with you.” I’m also a big believer in the power of thought and try to reset my inner voice when it goes in a negative direction by remembering what my grandmother always says: “Anytime you have a bad thought, replace it with two good thoughts.”

What career accomplishment are you most proud of?

I’m most proud of my contribution to the re-branding of The Pleasure Chest. From the moment I started at The Pleasure Chest, I fell in love with its history and its potential, but I knew that there was a lot of work that needed to be done to wake up this sleeping giant and grow it into a relevant and forward-thinking brand. Sarah Tomchesson and I met with each staff member, collecting information. Then, we started the process of transformation by reinterpreting the mission statement to reflect the core values from 1971 — with a modern twist. We wanted to rethink the sex-positive retail model and create an environment that is educational yet playful, sexy rather than sterile, and more importantly, one that supports a diverse customer base. Some of our accomplishments along the way have been implementing a free education program, core customer service standards, a strong manufacturer partnership program as well as our new Upper Eastside location, which I think is really going to put Pleasure Chest on the map. Looking back at where we started and comparing it to where we are today continues to make me proud.

What are your professional goals for 2014?

2013 brought a massive amount of work and change for The Pleasure Chest. We opened our new Upper East Side boutique in New York and launched a sex positive storytelling website called Sex is Back. This year is about settling into that work, re-visiting our structure, and creating the building blocks to help support another big growth spurt. The theme this year is balance and collaboration. I’m going to be putting a lot of effort into freeing up space for myself and within the organization for passion and creative projects to help keep inspiration alive within the company: it’s like any long-term relationship, there’s ebb and flow and you’ve got to put work in to keep things vibrant.