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.
Karen Raehpour joined Big Teaze Toys as a seasoned industry pro having worked with some of the biggest manufacturers of the business. As sales and marketing manager for a boutique manufacturer, Raehpour now enjoys the responsibilities of an executive with a hands-on approach to ensuring the success of the brand and its customers.
When you care about what you’re doing, and feel you are part of a cause versus dialing it in, there is naturally more care in the process.
What is your role and responsibility as sales and marketing manager at Big Teaze Toys?
I closely manage our customer relationships at Big Teaze Toys, domestically and overseas. But while growing our core customers’ sales, I’m always on the lookout for new business, primarily internationally and in geographic areas where we lack distribution. The marketing arm of my job has many pieces, from writing product descriptions and press releases to designing our pricing structures and marketing campaigns for new products. I love that about working for a nichey boutique manufacturer like Big Teaze — I have my hands in so many aspects of the business that each day brings a different challenge, and it seldom gets boring. Tony (our company’s founder/president) is very collaborative which works for me in a big way. He listens, and so I feel very much a part of our company’s future. That sense of ownership that he shares makes it fun to do my job, and drives me to be better at what I do.
How did you get into the business and how has your previous experience prepared you for your current position?
I got into the business in 2000 working for Trigg Laboratories (Wet Lubricants). I had met the then COO at a restaurant that I was a corporate trainer for, and he said that he liked my outgoing personality and they were looking for sales executives at the “skincare” company where he worked. I showed up for the interview, only to find that the product line was personal lubricants, meaning the skin we’d be caring for was … well … you get the picture.
At the time the company was restructuring and I was made vice president of sales and marketing within a couple short years. Everything I did at Wet for five years prepared me for what I’m doing now. I learned the players, the industry, the distribution channels and pricing structures, the politics of selling through distributorships. We also sold into some non-traditional mainstream markets so I learned the Food/Drug/Mass and Gift channels, which is appropriate for Big Teaze Toys, too, given the soft sided and “incognito” nature of our products. The only thing I didn’t learn there was toy/novelty manufacturing, which I picked up at Topco in 2010, doing account sales and also private label project management.
My first week there I was a little taken aback by the showroom, stock piled with Cyberskin asses all over the wall. That’s something that you become numb to over time, but at first it can be a bit intimidating. On one of my training days a senior sales person there shoved her hand into an anus to demonstrate that the hole goes “all the way through.” Looking back, I just have to laugh. Let’s just say that my sweet little Duckies and B3 Onyes seem very tame after that.
What challenges have you confronted in your career in sales and how have you overcome them?
Well, I think there aren’t too many of us sales/marketing types these days who aren’t confronted with great challenges driven by weakened domestic and international economies. Efforts have to be greater today to achieve the same results that we did before. The market is oversaturated with product, so messages have to be sharply focused for our brands to stand out in the crowd. Consumers are savvier; they want more function, better aesthetics, lower pricing. And as we develop as an industry everything’s getting more technical. I remember when social media was something you only did on your lunch hour. So I guess my answer is that the biggest challenge is adapting to an ever-changing marketplace. As I do the job, I’m also constantly redesigning it, and that’s the secret to remaining effective.
What is your personal motto or mantra that you live by?
Well, in the workplace I find I’m pretty detailed, so….”Things worth doing, are worth doing well,” I suppose. Otherwise, don’t bother! I tend to be a perfectionist. Lately I find that pleasure in the job drives me to excel. When you care about what you’re doing, and feel you are part of a cause versus dialing it in, there is naturally more care in the process. Yet another…”the third time’s the charm.” Twelve years in and my third adult company, and I’m really feeling “in the zone.” Big Teaze Toys is a special company with a lot of heart. Tony is a great guy to work for, and there is a unique group of extremely talented and bright women working for him, the kind of chicks you want to have as personal friends. It’s a great fit.
What career accomplishment are you most proud of?
Well, I suppose looking back I’m pretty proud of my work at Wet/Trigg back in 2000. In the beginning our customers were frustrated over some packaging changes we had done, and the company had moved buildings and lost several sales people. I’d like to think I was very instrumental in turning around a generally unhappy client base, and restructuring the sales department to be a strong customer service based team. I did a lot of fighting to save the pharmacy side of the business at that time, and from what I understand, that’s a big part of their business now. It’s nice to see that foundations laid in the past are still paying off in the present.
What are your goals for Big Teaze Toys in 2012?
I have some big plans for Big Teaze Toys in 2012. With a year of learning the company and how Tony likes to operate now under my belt, we’re positioned for considerable growth. …What a lot of U.S. industry folks might not know is that Big Teaze Toys does a huge international business that exceeds even our U.S. Sales. I’d like to increase the awareness of our brands domestically, and work more closely with our U.S. distributors and retailers, “bringing things back home” a bit. Another myth is that all Big Teaze makes is Duckies. Sure, I Rub My Duckie is an iconic toy now, but we have a ton of whimsical, clever products that sell just as well, and in some cases better, than the Duck. The B3 line, especially with the launch of the B3 Onye Galerie line this past year, is doing extremely well, and upcoming new product releases will really start to show our customers a new family of unique designs never done before.