In case it wasn't already clear, the Velvet Thruster company invented the sex toy that spawned the entire hand-held sex machine niche. Well, at least that's what co-founder Alex Fima would like to think. “We kind of started the category!” exclaims Fima of his proprietary thrusting dong design. “By the time we engineered the sex machine down to dildo size, it was impossible for people not to compare them side by side with pulsators, rabbit dildos and wand vibrators. We had to deliver great products against stiff competition, literally.”
While Fima later admits he's only joking, the family-founded business behind the eponymous sex toy, The Thruster, is more complex than meets the eye.
Thrusters weren’t even a product category, but fucking machines were, and our goal was to disrupt that business.
Now a pleasure industry sensation known for its unparalleled penetrating power, The Thruster collection of pulsating, vibrating dildos has a less-than-sexual backstory rooted in the aerospace industry. Just prior to co-founding the pleasure brand with his wife Danyell, Alex Fima drew inspiration from an engineering concept that was never meant for orgasms.
“The drive mechanism for our Velvet Thruster products was a concept by my dad, back when Danyell and I owned a metals machining and 3D-printing business for aerospace,” explains Fima.
“Once we sold that company in 2014, we decided to do some engineering in the sextech space to see if we could make a powerful handheld thrusting sex toy,” he recalls. “At the time, thrusters weren’t even a product category, but fucking machines were, and our goal was to disrupt that business.”
While Velvet Thruster wasn't technically the first sex toy company to introduce self-thrusting vibrators to the market, the company has plenty of nerdy R&D credentials to set them apart from and high above the crowd.
“Danyell and I had engineering and manufacturing experience, but ... we fell into sextech products unintentionally and without previous sexual health industry experience,” says Fima of his family company's past. “We knew what we liked and started to navigate the barriers of the industry to build successful products and brands.”
And build a successful brand they sure did. The Fimas say their sales numbers doubled and then tripled as lockdowns were enforced. Unfortunately, all celebrations were stalled as this husband-and-wife team was forced to navigate the early days of COVID- 19 in the worst way possible.
“In March 2020, Alex managed to get COVID-19 right when it arrived in New York and we encountered some extreme COVID circumstances in the family,” says Danyell Fima. “He was in the hospital for weeks, which led to me taking over all operations management.”
In a surprisingly positive twist, though, Alex Fima's trying bout with COVID — which left him unable to work for nearly two months — forever changed the course of Velvet Thruster as a truly family-run venture.
“I knew he’d want me to take care of business, so I did,” says Danyell Fima. “We had always worked together both starting and operating the brand. We had management divided between us.”
With Alex out of work during that time, both Danyell and her daughter Kassidy were given the opportunity to apply their unique talents in full.
“She absolutely kept the business alive and she crushed it,” gushes Alex Fima. “Now Danyell is still managing the Thruster brand and added her adult daughter, Kassidy Wasserman, to take over the social channels. My job is new product engineering for all Velvet brands.”
Considering the Fimas’ resilience, it is perhaps not surprising that the company is now ready to expand once more.
“In the next 90 days we are launching three more brands and nearly 20 new products,” reveals Fima.
The Thruster brand already houses differing dildo designs, from anal beads to realistic penis shapes to G-spot curves, all with the ability to self-penetrate at 140 strokes per second. Consumers can even build their own Thruster on the company's retail website by adding accessories or changing the color of the base and the shaft. However, Danyell says what's to come is even more exciting than eight hours of rechargeable battery life and non-stop thrusting silicone.
“We're adding a ‘Universal Thruster’ in November. It turns any vacuum plug dildo into a Thruster. It's compact, has a suction cup or can be used with a harness,” says Danyell Fima. “And with the completion of our website's ‘build your own dildo’ interface, we will increase the offering of shapes and colors to include natural tones and unnatural shapes. Fun surprises ahead!”
“Also, in November, our new personal care brand, Gleam, will allow consumers to select from unisex lubes, washes and arousal balms,” Danyell Fima said. “ The focus of Gleam is to provide body care for everyone and every occasion.”
According to Alex Fima, in the very near future he'll be introducing more opportunities for retailers and distributors to get involved. Fima says adding wholesalers to his customer lineup has been an intentionally slow process, but he expects to ramp up Thruster's brand offerings for the B2B market within the coming year.
Danyell Fima concludes that Velvet Thruster's rapid growth has allowed the company to re-invest in its production and design, lending a momentum that's influenced brand direction and family values alike.
Danyell's daughter, Kassidy Wasserman, might be the newest team member on the scene, but she's culled the knowledge and life lessons from her parents' pleasure business.
“The sexual health industry has so many different aspects to it,” Wasserman points out. “It’s not just about making sure someone has an orgasm, although that’s obviously our product’s purpose. It’s also about sexual health, education and feeling comfortable in your own skin.”
“We did not have any background in the sexual health industry, but we have always been pretty open with one another about all things,” she concludes. “Having a family business has created even more of a positive environment overall for our family.”