The inspiration for my business came after I attended a breakout session organized by Life Coach, Esther Passaris, at the African Feminist Forum in Kampala,Uganda (2010).
At the time, I had a growing customer base but did not know how to take the business idea to the next level. Passaris got me to identify obstacles preventing me from implementing my goals. The limitation of course, was in my mind – I was afraid and extremely fearful of operating out of my comfort zone.
Today however, I have moved forward with the business idea, worked hard to overcome my fears, and I have not looked back since.
How did you come up with your business name?
Intimate Pleasures is a sex-positive adult novelty store for women and their partners. The name Intimate Pleasures Desires of the Heart came after speaking with friends, my husband, and researching what competitors had named their business. I needed to be creative.
Who is your target market?
My customers are women. Cultural norms coupled with religion means that regardless of age, women are yet to enjoy or make demands of a sexual nature within their relationships. My business takes a holistic approach to supporting the sexual health and intimate needs of the Nigerian woman. A woman should be entitled to a healthy sex life. She should also have the ability to ask questions in a safe space without being judged.
Why sex toys?
Those of us in this business say, “adult novelty toys” rather than “sex toys.” I started this business in 2010 and competition is fierce.
Why not adult novelty toys? There is a need for the products in the marketplace and I am comfortable selling them. I ask my clients, Is the sexual experience enjoyable? Can it get any better?
How have you financed your business?
I funded this business with my savings. I also asked my husband to assist with his line of credit. Recently, I asked a few friends for a soft loan. I bootstrap – ensuring that any money earned goes back into the business. This means making sure that financial obligations to the Federal Inland Revenue Service (FIRS) are met, even during months when I have no sales. So far, it has been both stressful and rewarding.
What is your competitive edge?
Intimate Pleasures is Nigeria’s first adult novelty store. In addition to this, our business activities are as follows: (1) we organize a quarterly “wellness and intimacy ladies only” afternoons, (2) we offer counselling services and are often invited to speak to groups of women, men, or couples on a diverse range of issues, (3) we organize bridal showers, bachelorette parties, and (4) as “Madam Butterfly” we are on several radio shows giving advice and answering general questions regarding intimacy. As you can see, we do not only sell adult novelty toys, we provide a sex-positive holistic package.
What is the long-term plan for your business?
Initially, counselling was not part of my business plan but I had to re-visit this idea because it is what my customers want. Customers want to speak with someone about issues related to sex and intimacy.
What challenges do you face?
We have several challenges. The first is challenging the perception that I can start a business focused on selling adult novelty toys in Nigeria. Also, the distribution channel. Some local firms are not time efficient as I would like. The first local courier my company used, closed down. Now we are revisiting how we want to engage partners in the distribution process.
The eCommerce part is a challenge. Nigerians still do not fully trust purchasing anything online. Lastly, the Nigerian market is flooded with fake adult novelty toys. This confuses customers who may not be able to tell the difference between the fake and real toys. Fake toys are dangerous.
What key things have you learned since starting this idea?
(1) Be honest about your capabilities. You will need a clear assessment of yourself to run your business. For instance, there is no need engaging in PR, if you are timid and shy. Be brutally honest with yourself and then begin to do the work.
(2) Understand financial planning and its implications for your business. I had to learn this as it was necessary for my business growth.
(3) Be patient. Not everyone will work at your pace; therefore don’t get upset when a key person works at a slower pace than you.
(4) Use social media as a marketing tool. I quickly had to learn what Twitter, LinkedIn, and Facebook pages could do for my business.
(5) Network. Network. Network: Networking has helped me get the word out about my business. I have learned to become my own advocate. My business is extremely personal, therefore it is important to explain the why of my business.
What five (5) things do start-up entrepreneurs need to know?
1. Learn how the tax system works. The system here in Lagos, is almost geared for penalties and little way is made for SMEs.
2. Develop a business and strategic plan.
3. Be appreciative of your family. Family is important so be grateful and humble. It is important to know this because they are the ones to sooth your frayed nerves after a stressful day.
4. Get insurance. You need to know where to get insurance from. This will affect your products in terms of pricing especially if your business involves being couriered to you through customs.
5. Know your competitors. You need to know who your competitors are and how the market is shaped because you will always need to be innovative and up-to-date on products that you sell.
What advice do you have for youths looking to start an idea but say ‘there is no money’?
Yes, you need money to start a business, but is it possible to bootstrap your ideas? Start small and work your way towards your identified goal. You can also hold on to a part-time job if you have one.
How do you think African youths can continue to support each other?
Young Africans can support each other by speaking up about their experiences, and being passionate about implementing their goals.
How many jobs have you created so far?
Since we started, we have created about ten (10) jobs, including but not limited to hiring a lawyer, web designer, operations manager, and a dispatch rider. Also, we use part-time staff for trade fairs and public events.
How can we support and improve innovation in Africa?
We have to encourage an enabling environment for organic innovation to take root and develop. Often times, getting the needed support is tedious and exhausting – we have to support our entrepreneurs.
Learn more about Intimate Pleasures here:
Phone: +(234) 0818 480 8686