When you want to buy sex toys, where do you usually go? Heavy sex toy stores in the hidden alleys of Geylang? Or online sex shops with a lot of confusing products with expensive prices that make you hesitate to buy before trying it?
Taking note of these concerns, Peder Wikstrom and Mattias Hulting, of Sweden, seek to break the taboo and stigma surrounding female sexuality products.
In the past, when Mattias tried to buy a vibrator for his girlfriend (now wife), he realized that the shopping experience was very uncomfortable, intimidating, and embarrassing. Even in Europe, female sex toys were not sold in large retail stores.
They both saw this gap and wanted to normalize the experience of buying sex toys in an easy, spontaneous, and more accessible way for everyone. The Asian market became their initial focus because they considered that there is less competition in this sector.
They continued to raise funds 4.4 million US dollars of angel investors, as well as venture capitalists such as DSG Consumer Partners and Nouvago Capital, to finally launch a sex toy brand called Creators of smiles.
Making the best sex toys in the world
Its mission is singularly clear: to normalize female sexuality and create the best sex toys in the world.
Since none of them had any experience in design or engineering, they conducted focus groups and market research, working together with a strong product development team, as well as experts in sexologists and gynecologists to craft their products.
They have iterated their prototype, getting various tests and feedback to perfect the shape and design. They incorporated stories and personalities for each of their sex toys, inspired by common Western and Eastern female erotic fantasy.
After perfecting cute, friendly and attractive vibrators at an affordable price of US $ 70, they purposely headed to the major retail stores to sell their products.
They avoided shops specializing in sex-related products and approached pharmacies, grocery stores, fashion and cosmetics stores, as well as department stores.
Conquering major retail stores
Launched in Singapore in 2013, the biggest challenge facing smile makers in their early days was to penetrate the retail stream. His approach was new and unprecedented, making it difficult to convince customers and partners to jump on board.
They continued to receive rejections from major businesses who felt that their products did not fit their business image. Until 2015, they still had difficulty associating with major brands.
Her breakthrough came from Watsons, who eventually supported her brand mission to normalize female sexuality: it was the first brand to be incorporated.
Despite receiving positive feedback from satisfied and curious customers, barriers still existed. Initially, the products could not be displayed on the packaging and there were limitations in the guidelines for use.
Today, Smile Makers has become a global brand with a presence in 4,000 retail stores 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 like Watsons and Guardian pharmacies, Isetan department stores, as well as at fashion retailer Cotton On.
They also promote sex education
In addition to persistent and relentless demands on major retailers, smile makers were also pushing for universal sex education.
They have worked closely with governments and non-governmental organizations (NGOs) to launch sex education campaigns and push for legalization in conservative countries, because they hope to educate people about the importance of female pleasure for overall well-being.
They threw themselves Vulva talks program, which is a positive sex education program for pleasure developed by Smile Makers with sexologists to answer questions about sex and all things vulva. They believe that in addition to developing top-notch sex toys, it is important for women to understand their body in order to experience sexual satisfaction.
In conservative markets such as Malaysia, they partnered with NGOs such as the Malaysian Reproductive Health Association (FRHAM) to launch sex education campaigns. FRHAM is the service-based 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 young people.
Gradually, all his efforts and determination began to bear fruit.
With the rise of the female technology industry (femtech) in 2016 and the viral spread of #Me too movement in 2017, empowering women’s sexuality vindication has become more traditional. Beauty and fashion brands also began to drive women’s messages of well-being and body positivity, including prioritizing sexual well-being.
In late 2018, many conventional media started introducing them and retailers finally started telling them yes.
In fact, the demand for their products has changed dramatically in the last two years. They have witnessed a great demand in the main market and its revenue rose 123 percent from 2019 to 2020 only in the US.
In October 2020, they conducted a feedback survey among their clients (collecting data from 7,000 women in seven markets) and found that more than half (56%) prefer to buy vibrators at retail, while that 63% prefer to buy in beauty stores.
This is a testament that his drive toward major retail was the right move all the time.
The ultimate goal is to legalize the sex toy industry
Smile creators are constantly improving the design and branding of their products to make them more accessible, relatable and easy to use for maximum female satisfaction.
They are ready to relaunch their original collection of innovative vibrators, with a range of updated designs driven by user feedback.
Smile makers increased the weight of the product by 150% for higher vibration and feel. They have incorporated the latest and greatest technology available to provide stronger but softer vibrations, while the increase in size makes the products more comfortable to hold and allow for accurate use.
Commenting on the design of the product, Cécile Gasnault, brand director of Smile Makers dit that customers love the affordability of their designs, so they intend to keep it.
“While we’ve increased engine power and product size, we’ve kept the proportions accessible and it seems to suit a first-timer audience, as originally intended,” added Ariel Chen, brand director of ‘Asia to Smile Makers.
They developed simple and ergonomic designs with a beautiful palette of pastel colors that are very attractive. They have branded and customized each product with erotic fantasy characters such as The firefighter (before the firefighter), The billionaire (formerly The Millionaire), The Tennis Pro, i The French lover.
The new packaging features positive body artwork, while product names have been updated to relevant, fun and relevant descriptions.
In an interview with Vulcan Post, Ariel said that moving forward, Smile Makers remains committed to pursuing its original mission of normalizing the perception of female sexuality around the world.
Its ultimate goal is for smile makers to become ubiquitous and their sex education campaigns to help normalize perception and drive the legalization of the industry around the world.
They want to reach as many countries as possible, even in countries where the sex toy industry becomes illegal, such as the Arab countries, Thailand and Vietnam.
Featured Image Credit: Smile Makers