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.
Angela Wells started her sexual wellness career journey on the nation’s most painful day in modern history, and she’s since made it her mission to fight for our sexual freedoms.
When it comes to my customer-facing roles, I make it a point to listen carefully and see customers how they want to be seen.
Wells is responsible for the success of BeVibrant.com, a sex-positive, all-inclusive, and stereotype-bashing online boutique that helps fund Wells’ local Planned Parenthood chapter in central Colorado. Since Vibrant’s first day on the web, Wells has been pulling the strings and motivating the tight-knit team that’s made this e-store a pillar of progressive pleasure and health.
Wells is a true wonder woman, balancing her life as a mom while going to battle for reproductive rights and the LGBTQ community, and that’s why she’s our pick for this month’s Women in Adult Woman of the Month. Wells tells XBIZ the story of how she turned her neighborhood Planned Parenthood into an initiative for the future of sexual health.
XBIZ: What a lot of people don’t know is that Vibrant is actually a Planned Parenthood company. How did you first become involved with Planned Parenthood?
Wells: Before embarking on this venture in the pleasure industry, I started working in a temporary role as an assistant to the CEO of Planned Parenthood of the Rocky Mountains (PPRM) on Sept. 11, 2001. From the first day, on a day where everyone was grieving across the nation, I saw the strength, resilience and support within the Planned Parenthood community. Shortly thereafter, I became a permanent employee and over the next 15 years, moved up the ranks from development coordinator and events manager to director of volunteers and finally senior vice president of business development and administration. I became known as the fixer who could turn stagnant business sectors profitable.
Planned Parenthood gives people so many opportunities to change their lives, especially when they are in a situation that can have a dramatic effect on their future. As a mother of two young women, working for PPRM was an opportunity to give back to an organization that looked out for their best interests and also gave me so many opportunities to advance in my career. Ensuring that my daughters — and really all people — have the same opportunities in life is very important to me. This career background lay the foreground for my new career in the pleasure industry that combined both my career past and present.
XBIZ: A lot of industry folks might also be surprised to learn you actually helped birth BeVibrant.com and the Vibrant arm of Planned Parenthood. How did your team decide to create an online boutique, and what was it like transitioning into the sex toy leg of the industry?
Wells: My first exposure to the sex toy industry was six years ago when I began working on a social enterprise exchange cohort. We went through the program with the goal of creating a new business that could fund Planned Parenthood and extend the organization’s mission. Of the top four ideas, selling body-safe sex toys rose to the top. We followed that up with extensive business research and met with several sex toy manufacturers to better understand the business. We were fortunate enough to meet with industry-leading executives such as Metis Black, the CEO and founder of Tantus, and Brian Krieger, the co-founder and CEO of Minna Life. It was incredibly inspiring to learn more about the industry up close, and it further ignited my passion to create Vibrant and offer a safe space for everyone to seek pleasure.
XBIZ: What did you love the most after finding your footing in the sex toy space?
Wells: I quickly realized that the sex toy industry felt like a community the way that Planned Parenthood did. Just like Planned Parenthood, the sex toy industry is attacked, experiences unfair laws and legal judgments, and often employees in the sector are judged by others for their perceived lifestyle choices and personal beliefs. Yes, we are all competitors, but at the end of the day, we watch out for each other. When we are under attack, we unite as a family to defend the same freedom to be who we want to be, to love who we want to love, and to be the fullest people we can be on our own terms. Planned Parenthood and the adult retail industry are cousins from the same family.
XBIZ: What are your responsibilities like now at Vibrant, and how do you leave such a memorable impression on everything you touch?
Wells: As the founder of a startup, I wear many, many hats. Whether that is curating new products for our selection, guiding online or pop-up shop customers to the right pleasure product that fulfills their needs, digging into our SEO and Google analytics for sales intelligence, working with community organizations and nonprofits to educate on pleasure and safe sex, getting knee-deep in spreadsheets analyzing the financials or leading a board meeting with Planned Parenthood, I’ve done it all.
When it comes to my customer-facing roles, I make it a point to listen carefully and see customers how they want to be seen. Inclusivity is a core value at Vibrant and one that we live every day. We define inclusivity as acknowledging a wide spectrum of gender identity, sexual orientation, racial and economic diversity, and bodies of all types and abilities. We aim to acknowledge everyone through our communication with customers as well as the products we choose. When it comes to my larger overall business role, we aim to be the largest body-safe sex toy e-tailer in the world and currently offer over 500 products to choose from. I am proud how far we have come in only two years.
XBIZ: Who helped you carve a path for both Vibrant and your career in the pleasure products industry?
Wells: Wanda and the late Larry Garland of Eldorado Trading Company have been friends of Vibrant since the very beginning. They were both instrumental in answering those basic questions of what are the brands and products that align with Vibrant, how do we find banking that is friendly to our industry and so many more. Additionally, they are big supporters of Planned Parenthood so I feel that we were destined to have a strong relationship.
From the moment I met Jackie [White] and Lupe [Martinez] of CalExotics, I felt an immediate connection and they have both been instrumental to the success of Vibrant thus far. Jackie shared with me her story about the early days of the business and I have to say that there has been more than a few times that I have drawn upon those stories for inspiration and strength. Lupe has been not only my sales contact but my guide in the industry. I know that I can ask her anything and she will point me in the right direction. Her support for Vibrant is nothing but amazing.
XBIZ: How do you keep Vibrant moving and at the forefront of your local community?
Wells: It’s very busy! As a startup, our team is lean and mean, so there is never a dull moment. In any given week we could be throwing an event like Orgasm Day to address the orgasm gap in people who identify as women, hosting a pop-up shop at drag queen bingo, adding the latest body-safe sex toy products to our collection, sharing blogs on topics such as transgender pleasure, kink 101, and a beginner how-to guide on pegging, or throwing some serious shade at the Trump/Pence administration on our Insta. It’s never a dull moment!
XBIZ: Regale us with some of your favorite inspiring stories from Vibrant customers. How have you changed lives through your mission?
Wells: How much time do you have? One that stands out is a young woman who was going on a backpacking trip, and she wanted something that could serve her pleasure needs while she was on her adventure. She specifically wanted a dildo that could stick to a shower wall so that she could take care of business anytime and anywhere. Her open and adventurous spirit was inspiring! The Avant Blush series was perfect for her — the dildos are made of body-safe silicone, easy to clean, and can easily suction to any hard surface. Another story that brings a smile and a tear to my eye is a woman who was advanced in years who had lost her husband. She wasn’t looking for a partner, but she did want to explore her own pleasure and didn’t know where to start. She had never used a pleasure product before. We slowly and carefully explored all of the different options, and she settled on an external vibrator. It made me so happy that I could help someone become empowered in that way.
XBIZ: How is Vibrant creating and nurturing positive change in the industry?
Wells: Since we began Vibrant, we have seen the industry making positive change towards becoming more inclusive in their packaging, product selection and marketing tactics, although there is still a lot of change to be made. Words and imagery on packaging have a huge impact on how a manufacturer expects retailers to market to customers. If a product uses an image of two semi-nude heterocentric white people with perfect bodies, it misses the mark on so many levels — gender identity, sexual orientation, body type, race and ability. Stereotypes don’t serve anyone, and everyone is having sex. We applaud the companies who are leading the charge with us!
XBIZ: What was one big highlight for you and the Vibrant team this year?
Wells: We were incredibly excited to be nominated for Online Retailer of the Year by XBIZ. It’s a huge honor to be recognized in this way and to know that our hard work is paying off.