That was the birth of Twistys, a glamour girl site which now gets more traffic than Playboy and Penthouse, according to Google Trends and other Internet traffic analyzers. Still based in the Bahamas, Twistys employs 25 people, and it figures to get bigger.
"We wanted to get into the paysite market," explains Shap, owner of Twistys. "We'd already worked in outlets like Big Breast Lovers and Thumbzilla, and we took that same mentality and applied it to Twistys. Things weren't automated back then, so we had to hand code everything. We had to work hard to get bookmarks to build up our traffic, but the hard work definitely has paid off."
"We did a lot of research, and decided the business model we wanted to emulate was Amateur Teen Kingdom, which back in 2001 provided more updates than most other sites, and seemed to really care about their surfers. We made the navigation easier, and we tried to make the site more visually interesting," Shap said.
"Back when we started, we had the choice of following what a lot of other companies were doing, and just go generic without worrying about the brand," Shap told XBIZ. "We opted to skip a lot of short term earnings by concentrating on the brand, and investing a lot of money in that. It's really paid off now."
The beautiful models are what make the Twistys brand impressive, and Shap takes pride in them. He claims that listening to feedback is the entire reason for the success of Twistys.
"We've built our site around what the members want," he says. "We listen to their suggestions and complaints, and continue to change the site to meet their needs. We have a forum in which our members are very active. I've left a few threads on the forum where surfers can ask me anything they want. In general, they want more of the hottest girls. They differ over which girl that might be, and sometimes their forum posts are really heated. They're just so passionate about the girls of their choice."
"And sometimes members actually help us to locate some new girls. We can't possibly know every girl who's modeling, so we occasionally rely on a heads-up from a member. At times, they've sent us to agency sites to book a girl. They really go to great lengths to get their girl on the site," Shap said.
"A lot of times, they'll suggest that we check out this or that other site, which helps us to keep abreast of the trends in the industry. And we've also used their feedback to catch mistakes on the site. These guys know everything about the girls they like, and sometimes we get information wrong. We're so wrapped up in the overall business of running the site that sometimes we forget the little technical things that make it enjoyable. They'll make suggestions, like going to the next photo automatically by clicking on the previous photo. Thanks to their input, we can make the fixes, and we know what they're thinking."
Twistys members certainly are pleased by the sheer volume of content the site offers — more than one million photos in 10,000 photo sets, featuring 2,000 models, according to Shap. The site is updated every day, even Christmas, with four new photo sets and a new video, and this has occurred rain or shine for nearly seven years.
The top draw on the site is the Twistys Treat of the Month, featuring a selected girl. Sometimes the girl will go to the forum and answer questions, which is the only live interaction between members and the models. As with everything else, the choice of the monthly Treat rests mainly in the hands of members on a voting system, although Shap reserves the privilege of final say in the choice.
"Sometimes I go against my gut, and whenever I do, it's always a mistake," he adds. "My gut is always right. Our aim is to give surfers photos and videos of the hottest girls with the hottest content. We employ the best photographers and videographers in the world, and we bring everything together under one site."
This combining of all the content under one roof is, in fact, the new twist at Twistys.
"Our goal is to give our surfers everything we have when they join us," Shap says. "It's a tall order, but we put our hearts and souls into it. We're moving everything to NATS, and putting all of our sites together. Twistys Cash will have our improved tools for promoting affiliates. Also, in the last couple of months we've developed the Twistys Network as a way to package more sites into Twistys to deliver more to our members. We realize that some people have a poor consumption allowance, so we want to make sure that if they only can afford to join one site, it's ours. That's why we created the Blue Fantasies program in our new Twistys Network, so that anyone who joins one of our sites gets access to all of them. Blue Fantasies is a soft core site featuring beautiful girls. We also have added a solo girl site with Annette Dawn, who's always been one of our Top Ten girls. We also just launched a reality site called Naughty Staff, which is hard core."
One of the great coups that Shap has achieved is also beginning to pay big dividends under the Twistys umbrella. Years ago, he bought the domain names Gay Tube and Sex Tube. This was before the YouTube phenomenon.
"We sat on them forever while YouTube exploded," he says. "So now we have Sex Tube, which is a DVD pay site, and Gay Tube, in which guys upload videos of themselves just like on YouTube. That has gone through the roof."
In all, Twistys now has six sites in its all-in-one membership, and Shap promises more of them in the coming months.
"We wanted to build a great site for members, so once people join they feel like they got their money's worth, and hopefully want to stick around for a while," he says. "We try to cater to our market."
In case you're wondering, the name Twistys comes from a family restaurant, owned by the grandfather of Shap's wife. The couple once took a four-hour walk trying to think of a proper name for the site, and landed on Twistys because it "sounded like a really cool martini bar with hot waitresses," according to Shap. "Her grandfather's restaurant really was a pretty swanky and successful venture."
And so is the website.