When you want to buy sex toys, where do you usually go? Boasting sex toy stores in the hidden streets of Geylang? Or online sex shops that offer a range of confusing products with expensive price tags that make you hesitate to buy before you try?
Noticing these concerns, Peder Wikstrom and Mattias Hulting of Sweden aim to break the taboo and stigma surrounding female sexuality products.
In the past, when Wikstrom tried to buy a vibrator for his then-girlfriend (now his wife), he realized that the shopping experience was very embarrassing, intimidating and embarrassing. Even in Europe, women’s sex toys were not sold in regular retail outlets.
The two of them saw this gap and wanted to normalize the experience of buying sex toys in a way that is easy, spontaneous and more accessible to everyone. The Asian market became their initial focus because they felt there was less competition in the sector.
They continued to raise funds for $ 4.4 million from angel investors as well as venture capitalists such as DSG Consumer Partners and Nouvago Capital to eventually launch a sex toy brand called Smile Makers.
Making the best sex toys in the world
Their mission is particularly clear: to normalize female sexuality and create the best sex toys in the world.
Since none of them had any design or engineering experience, they conducted focus groups and market research, working together with a strong product development team as well as sexologists and gynecologists to come up with their products.
They replicated their prototype, receiving multiple tests and feedback to perfect the shape and design. They included stories and personalities for each of their sex toys, inspired by a common western and eastern female erotic fantasy.
After perfecting simple, cute, and eye-catching vibrators at an affordable price of $ 70, they deliberately targeted major retail stores to sell their products.
They avoided stores specializing in sex-related products and turned to pharmacies, grocery stores, fashion and beauty stores, as well as department stores.
Conquering major retail stores
Launched in Singapore in 2013, the biggest challenge Smile Makers had to face in their early days was to break into mainstream retail. Their approach was new and unprecedented, making it difficult to persuade clients and partners to step in.
They constantly received rejections from major outlets who felt that their products were not in line with their business image. Until 2015, they still faced difficulties in partnering with major brands.
Their breakthrough was achieved by Watsons who finally supported their brand’s mission to normalize female sexuality – it was the first brand to appear on board.
Despite positive reviews from satisfied and curious customers, obstacles still existed. Initially, the products were not allowed to be displayed on the packaging, and there were restrictions within the guidelines for use.
Today, Smile Makers has become a global brand present in 4,000 retail outlets in more than 25 markets, including Malaysia, Hong Kong, South Korea, Australia, Taiwan, Mongolia, South Africa and the United States.
They can be found in stores such as Watsons and Guardian pharmacies, Isetan department store, as well as fashion retailer Cotton On.
They also promote sex education
In addition to persistent and relentless demands on major retail outlets, Smile Makers has also advocated for universal sex education.
They have worked closely with governments and non-governmental organizations (NGOs) to launch sex education campaigns and advocate for legalization in conservative countries, as they hope to educate people about the importance of women’s satisfaction for overall wellness.
They started Vulva Talks program, which the sex education program was positively developed by Smile Makers with sexologists to answer questions about sex and all vulvae. They believe that in addition to developing top-notch sex toys, it is important for women to understand their bodies in order to experience sexual pleasure.
In conservative markets like Malaysia, they have teamed up with NGOs like the Federation of Reproductive Health Associations in Malaysia (FRHAM) to launch sex education campaigns. FRHAM is a leading non-profit NGO in Malaysia that advocates for and promotes sexual and reproductive health (SRH), including family planning and the reproductive rights of women, men and youth.
Slowly but surely, all their efforts and determination began to bear fruit.
With growth female technology industry (femtech) in 2016 and viral spread #me too movement in 2017, empowering women’s claims about their sexuality has become more common. Beauty and fashion brands have also begun to push women towards wellness and a positive physical message, including giving preference to sexual wellness.
In late 2018, many mainstream media started showing them, and retailers finally started saying ‘yes’ to them.
In fact, the demand for their products has changed dramatically in recent years. They witnessed great demand in the main market and theirs revenue increased by 123 percent from 2019 to 2020 in the US only.
In October 2020, they conducted a survey of feedback among their customers – collecting data from 7,000 women in seven markets – and found that more than half (56 percent) prefer to buy vibrators from regular retail, while 63 percent prefer to buy from beauty stores.
This is proof that their effort towards the usual retail has been the right move all along.
The ultimate goal is to legalize the sex toy industry
Smile makers are constantly improving the design and branding of products to make them more affordable, easier to use and easy to use for the ultimate satisfaction of women.
They should relaunch their original collection of innovative vibrators, with a series of upgraded designs guided by user feedback.
Smile manufacturers have increased the total weight of the product by 150 percent for stronger vibrations and an enhanced feel. They incorporate the latest and best available technology to deliver stronger but smoother vibrations, while increasing the size makes the products more comfortable to hold and allows for precise use.
Commenting on product design, Cécile Gasnault, brand director at Smile Makers he said that customers love the affordability of their designs, so they intend to keep it.
“Although we have increased engine power and product size, we have maintained affordable proportions and appear to satisfy the champion audience, just as originally intended,” added Ariel Chen, manager of the Asian brand at Smile Makers.
They have developed simple, ergonomic designs with a cute pastel color palette that are very appealing. Each product was branded and personalized by erotic fantasy personalities Firefighter (former firefighter), Billionaire (formerly Millionaire), Tennis Pro, i French lover.
The new packaging contains body-positive artwork, while product names have been updated to modern, fun and relevant descriptors.
In an interview with the Vulcan Post, Ariel said that moving forward, Smile Makers continues to faithfully pursue its original mission of normalizing perceptions of female sexuality around the world.
Their ultimate goal is for Smile Makers to become ubiquitous, and their sex education campaigns would help normalize perception and encourage the legalization of industry around the world.
They want to reach as many countries as possible, even in countries where the sex toy industry is illegal, such as Arab countries, Thailand and Vietnam.
Credit for featured images: Smile Makers