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WIA Profile: Brittany Vela

WIA Profile: Brittany Vela

Each month, 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.

Who wouldn’t want to purchase sex toys for a living while being wined and dined by the pleasure industry’s most sought-after professionals? One lucky lady worked her way up the ladder to nab such a coveted career position, but as she’ll truthfully tell, there’s a whole lot more to being a buyer than making dinner plans.

I simply hope to make a positive difference within my company, the industry, and above all, show my daughters that anything is possible.

Nearly 15 years ago, at age 19, Brittany Vela applied for her first adult boutique job, as a sales associate for Sara’s Secret in Texas. Vela instantly fell in love with her work, the environment, and the people around her. As she puts it, “I didn’t walk into another job. I walked into a family, a home away from home that I continue to appreciate every day. I have been so fortunate to grow up within this company, literally and figuratively.”

Today, she is the purchasing assistant for the company’s chain of stores, including Condoms to Go. The myriad responsibilities that encompass her daily life in that role extend far beyond calculating budgets and choosing the best products for her shoppers. In addition to staying in the know on all the latest vibrators and strokers, Vela sets the stage for attractive merchandising displays and social media content, entertaining consumer events — and yes, connecting with B2B colleagues over the aforementioned after-hours dinners to close deals.

In this month’s edition of Women in Adult, we’re letting Brittany Vela spill the tea on what it’s really like to work in what is seemingly the pleasure industry’s most pampered role.

XBIZ: Tell us a bit about your job. Can you give us a peek behind the scenes as a purchasing assistant for Sara’s Secret and Condoms to Go?

Brittany Vela: This is a super-fun question! I could be boring and settle with the simple answer of “I assist with our company’s purchasing in all departments.” However, that title is simply a quick reference point for the multitude of duties I perform daily. Aside from assisting in making purchasing decisions, I also help handle the merchandising of our stores, stay on top of inventories within the locations, set up any new locations, assist our social media department, organize in-store events, build our online store, and I recently became our website handler. Essentially, I wear many hats and am not afraid to take on other tasks sprinkled in along the way.

XBIZ: What does it take to succeed in the purchasing sector of the pleasure industry?

Vela: When I began as a store associate, I made sure I was seen through hard work, consistent ability to adapt to new situations and asking questions to better understand anything I perceived as a need. The only schooling I had prior was an almost complete medical assisting certificate and an EMT-B certification. Other than that, my only experience was working through different departments at a movie theater up to assistant management. My experience working my way up in the company through different stores and departments helped me to have a better understanding of what our customers want. Working in a store first gave me a sense of familiarity with the products our industry offers. I’m not sure that I personally could have walked in off the street and done well in this position without first having gotten my feet wet by experiencing directly the kinds of challenges we deal with on a daily basis.

XBIZ: Tell us about the perks of being a buyers.

Vela: Job perks are lovely! But I do not believe it is everything an outsider may think it to be. My husband always calls any travel I do for work “vacation.” Little does he understand the amount of work it takes to be pulled in what can sometimes feel like a thousand directions. The “wined and dined” experiences are enjoyable, but at the end of it all, there is a boundary you still must maintain to keep a level head. In this industry, we are fortunate to have a multitude of friendships and a level of openness you won’t find anywhere else. However, if you sit back and pay attention, you know which “friendships” are genuine and which are constructed for business purposes only. You have to remember what you are there to do. I love the people in this industry and have wonderful friendships that don’t evolve around what we purchase, and that makes it feel less like work. However, when there is work to be done, it will be done with or without the extras.

XBIZ: Do you look up to any female colleagues in the industry?

Vela: This industry is flooded with incredible people and talent. Of course, I must pay mad respects to our owner, Sara Lee. Without her, there wouldn’t be Sara’s Secret. She and I have worked alongside each other, setting up multiple stores on our own. We have traveled together, and we have had many conversations about so many aspects of life and work; I have taken a lot of that into consideration with my own life and career goals. So much of who I am today, professionally, is because of working with such a wonderful woman.

Though not female, Abe Rojas has been an excellent mentor as well. He has been with me through thick and thin and I can’t thank him enough for it. He has taught me so much about purchasing and many other aspects of the company and the business. With Abe’s encouragement, I have been able to take on new opportunities and not be afraid to venture outside my box.

XBIZ: What advice would you give to manufacturers as a retail expert? Is there anything you wish manufacturers would take into consideration, that would make your work easier?

Vela: We always consider packaging as a key factor in what we purchase. As a merchandiser for our stores, consistency in packaging is key in creating a visually gratifying experience for our shoppers. When there is a multitude of sizes in a line of product, the different packaging makes it difficult to display them together on our walls in an impactful way. Also, being able to see the product is important for many of our clientele due to the nature of the item. Testers are always a great way to show off our items and to get product in hand. I’d also like to see more packaging that can be hung on slat walls or placed on shelves. Every store is different, so the flexibility to merchandise across a variety of store parameters is key. Overall, my advice is to keep packaging visually pleasing and consistently sized for the overall success of a product line.

XBIZ: What do you hope to achieve in your career in the coming years?

Vela: I feel like in this ever-evolving industry I can continue to flourish in new aspects of the business. I have been extremely blessed to be a buyer and broaden my skills in other areas simultaneously. I want to continue that path so eventually I have the tools to do anything I put my mind to. I have a lot of ideas, and many goals I have set for myself. In due time, I simply hope to make a positive difference within my company, the industry, and above all, show my daughters that anything is possible. In the end, I might be tiny, but I’m mighty!

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