Richie Harris is among the 90 percent, and he thinks you’re probably somewhere in there, too — but he’s not talking politics or income here. Harris’ proposed 90-percenters are the pleasure industry veterans who never could have dreamed — even in their wildest, kinkiest career fantasies — that they’d end up selling orgasms and rescuing relationships, all while making a damn good income doing so. But several decades later, not a single one wishes they could go back and do it all differently.
After 22 years as the CEO of pjur group USA, Richie Harris announced that he was turning his focus on his other businesses Lucom USA and Rock Solid Brand with his partner Jack Palmquist.
Business to me is just as much about relationships as it is about good products.
Prior to that, Harris spent three of his own decades taking the formerly-named Eros silicone lubes from a minuscule brand line headquartered in an unknown town in Germany to one of the world’s most trusted sources for all things sexually slippery. Harris’ unexpected walk down pleasure lane founded a multi-faceted career, claims to several “industry firsts” in sales and marketing, and even a husband — Jack Palmquist, Harris’ partner in life and business.
“There are so many ways to grow if you’re looking with fresh eyes and clever marketing,” remarks Harris, who was inspired to create one of the biggest campaigns in adult history after a serendipitous work trip to Amsterdam.
In the mid-1990s, Harris was living in Hong Kong and working for a large company who held the manufacturing and sales license for Head Sportswear in Asia. Just a few years later, Harris’ wildest dreams came true. An enthusiastic tennis fan, Harris was promoted to manager of the André Agassi tennis accessory program, though this career move would eventually change Harris’ passions forever.
“While I was attending a bi-annual meeting at Head Sportswear’s headquarters in Amsterdam, like most youngish gay men, I wandered into an Amsterdam sex shop looking for some personal lubricant. The store clerk suggested a new product from Germany, Eros. He told me it was safe, non-sticky, non-greasy and extremely long lasting. It also stood out since it was made of 100 percent medical grade silicone. This was music to a gay man’s ears,“ says Harris.
The price tag was exorbitant, Harris recalls, but he was so impressed by Eros’ then unheard-of attributes that he sprung for a bottle before returning to Hong Kong. After a trial run at home, Harris knew he had struck marketing gold — if only he could get the right person on the line.
Before the days of companies hosting at least five social media accounts, Harris did the dirty work of placing phone calls and sending faxes to trace Eros’ origins to Trier, Germany, a tiny town, which held the title of smallest in the country. Luckily his sales pitch couldn’t have fallen on better ears.
Harris made contact with Eros partner and sales manager Alexander Geibel, a man who nowadays needs little introducing in adult industry spaces across the world. Geibel soon handed over the keys to Harris, putting him in charge of the company’s North and South American sales and distribution. Harris’ efforts over the next decade show exactly why pjur remains a top-shelf choice for retailers across America.
Harris hit the road and strove for brand momentum in the U.S., Canada, Brazil, and Mexico, but, as Harris recalls, “it was not easy.” Battling adult product bias, he and business partner Jack Palmquist needed to go back to the drawing board.
The pair spearheaded the free samples movement in the pleasure biz with a unique marketing campaign that centered on Harris’ philosophy of “feeling is believing.” This new sample program took Harris and Palmquist to some of North America’s most historical moments in sexual freedom.
They showed up at dozens of gay circuit parties and fundraisers, and worked with health organizations and political activists’ groups as well as major market gay pride events and street fairs. The famous Greenwich Village branch of New York’s Pleasure Chest chain was one of the first shops to stock pjur’s revolutionary lube, and Harris was only getting started.
Once armed with a web presence, Harris grew direct-to-consumer sales in a time when online shopping wasn’t seen as secure. Harris was one of the first to promise security for web consumers, all while maintaining price integrity and working with a one-person creative team to maintain his websites.
Harris also decided to tangle with Amazon, a mere bookseller at the time, long before pleasure companies were forced to consider the marketplace giant as a daily threat.
“I made it a mission to keep pjur off of Amazon.com,” he says, “as I figured it would lower the luxury appeal and integrity of the brand. I worked closely with Amazon’s legal department and became my own ‘Amazon police’ department.”
From turning the world on to the wonders of silicone-greased sex to championing a new way to buy online, Harris’ well-earned reputation as the lodestar behind pjur USA is only the tip of the iceberg. Even some of the most seasoned industry vets don’t realize he was a key player in securing the Titanmen license for Doc Johnson and developing retailer Babeland’s lubricant.
“During my 23 years with pjur, we always had many other projects, as I wanted to use my branding and marketing talents in a broader sense, inside and outside the adult industry,” he explains.
Harris was a central figure in bringing the Bathmate, Extase and Sensa-Max product lines to America. Harris’ own branding company created the identity of Brand One, the exclusive U.S. distribution partner for the Bathmate brand and owned by Vadim Daysudov and Danny Knecht. Harris also served as sales director for Bathmate USA’s initial two years.
With a Walmart special project under his belt, a warehouse and fulfillment business owned by Harris and Palmquist, and his own research-backed cock ring manufacturer, Rock Solid, it’s hard to picture Harris relaxing on any of the sunny Atlantic coast beaches where pjur is headquartered in Florida. When Harris does get a chance to chill out, it’s often to build friendship with a colleague — a foundation of Harris’ success that’s driven him from day one.
“Our way of doing business is just different. We work with clients who look at us as part of their team and we treat each other the same way. Problems, which are rare, are resolved together,” he says. “Business to me is just as much about relationships as it is about good products. True relationships are the foundation and takes years to build. It’s like any friendship, which takes dedication, honesty, integrity, time and transparency.”
Even after three decades of hard work, Harris isn’t ready to slow down. In fact, if you’d like to catch some of his coveted attention yourself, starting a conversation about Lucom USA’s next moves is a great place to start.
“I can’t wait to see what’s around the corner for us,” he concludes. “We will keep expanding and stretching. It’s a way of life!”