Amidst a sea of bright lipstick, various skincare lines, and bold hair extensions, a pair of vibrators caught our eye. Immediate thoughts: What is a sex toy doing at a beauty conference? And how does this fit into the beauty landscape? At FounderMade Beauty Summit 2017 we were drawn to the pastel-hued booth of Dame Products, the sex toy company determined to breathe creative life into an industry that has lost its (sexual) touch with its consumer base.
Dame Products is the brainchild of two women who share a common goal of making the world a happier place one vagina at a time. The customer-centric business engineers for intimacy by using high-quality materials to construct designs that easily fit into their customers’ sex lives. This objective has resulted in two phenomenal vibrators and, as the young company continues to expand, their mission remains steadfast: to design well-engineered sex toys, to heighten intimacy, and to openly empower the sexual experiences of womankind.
Below Dame Products co-founders Alexandra Fine and Janet Lieberman give us the inside scoop on how their company is redesigning the sex toy industry and spreading positive vibes.
What did your friends and family say when you told them you were launching a vibrator company?
My family [Alex] was thrilled that I didn’t want to get my PhD but was instead going on to start a company. I’ve been wanting to pursue my passion for sexuality since I was 18. My parents are used to it.
We came across your products at both beauty and wellness FounderMade conferences. How would you categorize Dame Products?
We make toys for sex, but really, we’re a wellness product since a healthy sex life helps contribute to a healthy mind/body/spirit. We make super fun, hands-on products and we don’t want the playful aspects of trying new things with a partner to be made to feel clinical. We’re very mindful about being educational with a sense of humor!
What did the design process entail-what were the steps you had to take from concept to filing for a patent? How many prototypes did you go through before arriving at the final design?
For both Eva and Fin, we bought every vibrator that claimed to perform a similar act, brought it home, tested them, and reported back. We spent time figuring out what exactly we liked or disliked about each product. We read their reviews, and took them apart to see how they were made. We spoke to retailers about the gaps they saw in the market and their insight on the customer base. We surveyed about 200 people, asking people what products they had used, what worked or didn’t work, and what they would want from a finger vibrator. After identifying key features (ease of use, versatility, power, and dexterity) we got cracking on a range of potential products. Using our fleet of 3D printers we were able to create prototypes quickly, test them, and then iterate on those designs until we had something we were proud of. It is a human-centric design approach, which is not widely used in the space because it takes a lot of work, but we believe it results in better products and your vulva deserves it!
What is the inspiration behind the names of your vibrators?
For Eva we wanted a name that sounded feminine and we were really into the letter V. We played around with it and—voilà! Eva. (It was actually the prospective name for our company at one point!) Fin was actually—believe it or not—just a 3-letter abbreviation for the finger vibrator that the engineers on our team used (‘fin’). It stuck.
What's your favorite customer feedback on the products or brand that you have received so far?
We had this one woman write us a letter telling us that after using Eva for the first time she wanted to have sex with her husband twice in a row. It was such a small anecdote—but it always stuck with me. Imagine being able to change someone’s sex life that powerfully. Makes me love what I do.
What was one of the biggest challenges that you are most proud of overcoming in starting your own business?
One of the biggest challenges facing us, specifically as a femtech/sextech, are advertising regulations which stem from a general societal/political regulation of sexuality (I’d go on to argue female sexuality but we can stick with just sexuality). Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter do not allow us to advertise, which feels anti-sex and anti-body positive. It is a pretty interesting dilemma because they do not allow products of an ‘indecent sexual nature,’ even though we’d argue that Dame Products is decent. 🙂
Is another vibrator in the works or do you plan to expand into other categories?
Our immediate plans are to keep really listening to our consumers. We want to keep giving them the vibrators that both speak to their needs and intuitively work for their lifestyles.
Dame's color scheme includes trendy millennial pink-are millennial women your primary customers? Do men factor into your decision making and design process?
Actually, about half of our customers are men. Because, thus far, we’ve made products that are aimed at enhancing intimacy, they’re created in order to be used as a couple (though they’re also great on their own!) This means that men play a big role in this. We’ve found that the more innocuous, or ‘cute,’ we make our products, the less … well, intimidating (or seen as a replacement for the partner) they are, and the more likely they are to go over well in the bedroom when introduced.
Why did you choose to crowdsource fund versus another funding source? Why did you decide to use Indiegogo as the platform? You ran a successful funding campaign, so what tips can you give to hopeful entrepreneurs?
Crowdfunding is a really impactful way to raise money for a sex toy (it allows people to communicate what they actually want in a sex toy, vs. having companies make products that they ASSUME people want, but don’t really need … as has been the tradition), which is part of why this is so important. It’s a big step in changing the sex toy market and allowing for more innovation.
Has launching this company affected the way you think about sexuality in general? Has it had a positive effect on your sex life?
Yes and no, actually. It has definitely empowered both my partner and I to be more open and communicative in the bedroom. I think a lot of men can be intimidated by women asking to use toys in the bedroom at first, because they maybe get the sense that they’re not enough, but it’s not about that. Using a toy can be a really intimate experience, and it’s nice to switch things up every once in awhile! That said, starting a company, even a sex company, means that you don’t have enough time for your partner and end up spending less one-on-one time together—never a good thing for sex. It’s all about finding a balance, and I’m constantly working on that!
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