As part of XBIZ Premiere’s “Execs of the Year: The Year in Review,” prominent members of the adult retail community share their thoughts on the trends and strategies that drove success in adult retail in 2017.
Each of the executives we spoke to below has one thing in common — they are among the finalist nominees for Community Figure of the Year in the retail industry edition of the 2018 XBIZ Exec Awards.
As a community, everyone is working toward common goals. Productive industry growth becomes a key stepping stone, benefiting all participants. -Michelle A. Marcus, Vice President of Sales and Marketing, Sliquid
These individuals represent the spirit of our industry and are a shining example of strength, character and business acumen.
How does a sense of community within the industry benefit its growth?
Global Head of Sales, Hot Octopuss
“The pleasure products industry is an extremely close knit, intimate group, which makes it important to establish a sense of community and support one another on all levels whether it’s individually, on a company scale or within — bringing big and small brands together to collaborate on a macro level. A sense of community in this industry drives innovation, keeps authenticity and supports natural reinvention so products can continue to reach the market in an effective and valid way. Hot Octopuss is well versed in community creation, as we’ve created innovative, cool, utilitarian products folks can feel comfortable and safe buying for years. We strive for all-inclusive messaging, focusing on building long-lasting bonds of loyalty so end-consumers can feel a sense of familiarity and HO’s brand integrity. Let’s face it: people all over the world crave a sense of community whether they are buying a television, a head of lettuce or a sex toy.”
Briana Honz Watkins
Senior Sales and Merchandising, Pipedream Products
“Having a sense of community within the industry is very important for its growth. When one feels confident and comfortable, that will translate to sales. This industry is all about relationships, very different from most mainstream industries. In fact, it is quite incestuous — incestuous in a way that we all support each other and come together when needed, competition or not. That’s what a community does. When there is a good sense of community, business thrives. You want to feel good about what you do. You want to feel good about who you work with; after all, it will help you succeed both personally and professionally. Being surrounded by a positive community will reflect success. It’s up to us as individuals to lift those up around us and to lend a helping hand when needed. Be a good human, reflect positivity, create a community that others want to be a part of. I consider everyone I work with family. My customers, my colleagues — they are my community and family, in my eyes.”
Product Educator and Sales Executive, Classic Erotica
“My belief is that to live your fullest life, you must first create a foundation that is built on solid, trustworthy relationships. This foundation organically cultivates a positive-thinking, supportive and thriving community. This is no different in sales. Our relationships are at the core of the adult community, where accountability and follow-through are fundamental to building successful partnerships and sales growth. I enjoy getting to know all community members, business owners, executives and sales teams. Each member is an integral part of the community and an opportunity to be a contributor and advocate for the company and products I represent. That’s why I am so grateful when invited to participate at our partners’ open house events and sales trainings. These opportunities promote stronger partnerships with our immediate trading partners and enable our network to reach even further out to retailers and sales associates who are key to helping us grow our business.”
Director of Purchasing and Product Development, Good Vibrations
“These days, no one individual is responsible for moving our industry forward. Growth and evolution happen through impassioned conversations, disagreements and continued discourse. This diverse community of ours is made up of founders, innovators, ambassadors, workers and colleagues. The community we create when we come together in meetings, over a meal, on the Internet or through text is what drives us forward. It’s these relationships, the passion between us — even when driven by business — that brings us all to the next level. And it’s those moments that are some of my most cherished in this industry.”
Contract Performer, Wicked Pictures and Spokesperson, Wicked Sensual Care
“Being a part of the adult industry, while extremely rewarding, can also be challenging. In a world where mainstream media seems to accept open sexuality more readily yet banks still discriminate against us and stereotypes keep sticking, a sense of community serves us in multiple ways. It’s true that there is strength in numbers, whether we’re educating folks, leading movements or influencing voters — and often, more importantly, a sense of community is important because we need each other. Providing help and support to one another both in good times and in bad is what truly helps us grow. My goal is to be present, to stand up for our industry, to mentor and nurture my colleagues, and to use my platform that I’ve cultivated over many years.”
Director of Operations, Clandestine Devices
“Being a part of a community helps build success for a variety of reasons. I believe when we can feel truly heard by our colleagues and peers, it opens up facets of creativity and productivity and grants us each a feeling of appreciation that we so often need in order to keep striving for greatness. Having a team of people that we can rely on and bounce ideas off of is an integral part of building something; whether that be a business, an event, a brand, etc. I believe that if each of us in this industry can find the common denominator in why we are doing what we are doing, we can help create products that will bring consumers comfort, pleasure, confidence and so much more. I especially believe this to be true of the sexual product industry because it’s such a deeply personal way to connect with one another — and without feeling shamed, we are able to pass that on to the public. I may be going on 15 years in the industry, but it wasn’t until I started applying the team spirit that I learned as an improvisational performer that I started to see what this sense of community can do for business. I will always try to make my team shine so we can all come up on top. I’m fortunate enough to be friends with so many people that others might consider competitors, but the truth is we all have the same goals. So, let’s help each other reach them and celebrate each other’s success.”
Michelle A. Marcus
Vice President of Sales and Marketing, Sliquid
“As a community, everyone is working toward common goals. Productive industry growth becomes a key stepping stone, benefiting all participants. This represents an element of camaraderie in a familiar space where learning from one another’s experiences is a crucial building block in sustaining a viable sense of community. Productivity leads to a boost in human morale, which in turn results in a greater level of respect and trust among those in the community. The great African proverb coined phrase, ‘it takes a village to raise a child,’ perfectly encapsulates the importance of all participants’ commitment to growth as responsible and caring individuals. It is this togetherness that is essential to effectively demonstrate a paramount sense of community within the industry to deliver positive results.”
National Sales Manager, Electric Eel
“One of the things I love the most about our industry is our sense of community. Having been in the business for almost 20 years, I have become friends with many people in the adult business around the country and the world. Some are even competitors, but healthy competition is a good thing; it pushes the industry forward. It’s always fun to see the sales reps, buyers, distributors, owners etc. at shows like XBIZ, Altitude and Expomark because we’re all in it together. We’re all eating the same trade show food, missing our families and doing our best to create and sell good products that bring pleasure to the world. Our community is what makes this industry so special.”