Almost like a sitcom, some mistaken identity and crazy timing led to the first real innovation in “intimacy products” in decades. Janet Lieberman and Alexandra Fine, millennial visionaries, had the same idea—create a personal toy that focused on what women really want and not just variations on the same old poor design and subpar materials. Instead of empowering its customer, the industry continually churned out kooky shapes and poor quality items that left women frustrated. Knowing that there had to be a different approach, each woman decided to start her own sex toy company. But each knew there was some expertise she needed but didn’t have.
Janet, an MIT educated mechanical engineer, knew she could build a better product. Alex, who holds a Masters degree in Clinical Psychology from Columbia University, knew something different was needed in the space and just how she would market it to women like herself. Turns out, they were each half of a whole; they just didn’t know it yet.
Alex decided the first step would be to find a like-minded engineer who would be able to help her build a better mousetrap. In the hopes of connecting with the right person, she went to a few engineering Meetups in New York. After a few tries and no luck, she decided to skip a few meetings and keep looking for the right match.
Enter Janet, who started attending the very same Meetups, but mere weeks after Alex stopped going. When she began to mingle and explain her vision, she started hearing comments like, “Oh right, I met you last time.” Or “You must be that other woman’s partner.” Of course, the answer to both was no, but it got her thinking that she must have a kindred spirit somewhere in the city. And she knew they needed to connect. Soon, the two were put in touch by mutual connections made at the Meetups and met for coffee. “It was love at first sight” from a business perspective says Alex. “We have different strengths but our visions nicely aligned and it was a no-brainer.” Dame Products was born.
Not content with just creating something in a vacuum, Janet and Alex did a great deal of research before settling on a design. Focus groups were an important factor when it came to tweaking the product and the messaging around it. It was dubbed “Eva.” Before long, the dynamic duo was ready to start churning out Evas, and making history. The innovative device had an interesting design and pretty colors. They selected quality materials and a manufacturer. Now, how to pay for it all?
In October 2014, Dame Products kicked off an Indigogo campaign with an initial goal of $50,000. Within the first week, the company had nearly quadrupled that by receiving $179,142 in crowdfunding. As their story started to get a lot of press online at sites like the Huffington Post and BuzzFeed, more pledges rolled in. The campaign remained open and they raised $575,000 to get off the ground. In addition to the good media buzz, Dame’s beta testers were so effusive in their praise of the Eva that the initial early bird special sold out almost immediately.
The women and their company were off and running. They were able to meet all their orders and launch their eCommerce business on their own website in February 2015. Soon, as Janet and Alex’s business continued to grow, they began to run up against a common problem for retailers and eCommerce businesses—cash flow ups and downs. The company needed to order and pay for inventory upfront, months before it was delivered to their warehouse for sale. This of course meant a big cash outlay while existing product was selling. “Cash flow for a consumer based company is nauseating–$300,000 of inventory just sitting there and I was writing enormous checks for more units,” says Alex. “In order to normalize cash flow so that we wouldn’t be flush with cash one day and nearly emptied out soon after when the checks cashed and before the existing product sold, we decided we needed a line of credit to get us through the ups and downs.”
Oddly, though the company had raised a significant amount of cash, had strong sales and terrific financials, Dame Products wasn’t able to get an SBA backed business loan from a bank. To Alex’s surprise, she found out that “our product is considered pornographic and therefore a restricted industry. The SBA wouldn’t touch us.” Though a little taken aback, the partners refused to be disheartened and began to look for alternative lending options. After quite a bit of research, Alex, who handles the business side of things, found there was only one company that offered what they needed, an inventory line of credit, and that was happy to work with them without judgment regarding their product. “Dealstruck makes it simple—lending against our inventory is so simple. It was really a no brainer,” according to Alex. Another plus of the line of credit is the revolving aspect, “We considered some other short term financing but once you use it and repay, you have to reapply if you need more funds. I knew we wanted a revolving line.”
The lending experience was pretty streamlined and painless for Dame Products and Alex says that she “would tell anybody with an inventory based business to check out Dealstruck. It’s the only product out there if your problem is cash flow due to inventory. You need an inventory credit line.”
Dealstruck salutes Alex and Janet, two innovators who didn’t let anything get in their way of building a better mousetrap. We are proud to be part of their success story and look forward to helping them continue to grow and succeed.
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