College women at Miami University have multiple sources for information on sexuality and sexual health. Cosmopolitan magazine, gynecologists, physicians, websites and friends are among these resources, but perhaps a more unlikely source incorporates fun and friends into the mix … Pure Romance.
Think Tupperware parties, but substitute spatulas for personal lubricants and cookie trays for vibrators.
Pure Romance sells an array of bedroom accessories ranging from lingerie to sex toys. CEO Patty Brisben has grown the company to a multi-million-dollar corporation in 17 years. The company has more than 40,000 female consultants in the U.S., Canada, Puerto Rico and the Virgin Islands who essentially run individual in-home party sales businesses. Pure Romance is a privately-owned company that started out of Brisben’s basement in the suburbs of Cincinnati.
Erin Hoschouer, Pure Romance director of training and certified sexuality educator, likened Pure Romance to indoor parties in the industry of direct sales. Women choose to be a part of the Pure Romance sales and operate their own businesses. She said some women have parties for their own group of friends to start and every consultant has to market for themselves.
“(Consultants) contact friends or however they decide to get started,” Hoschouer said. “(Then, they) book parties off their parties.”
Pure Romance parties are for women only, no men are allowed.
Pure Romance targets female customers of all ages.
“Our target market is (women ages) 18 to 80,” Hoschouer said, adding that women older than 80 are also potential customers. “Our parties, regardless of where you are in your sexual development … if you’re 50 and just figuring it out, what’s going on in that part of your life … (it’s) set up for all different phases as a woman.”
Pure Romance gets leads for interested hostesses via its website, www.pureromance.com, and contacts consultants in that area.
“For the most part, consultants find their own business,” Hoschouer said.
The hostess gets the most-est
The hostess of the Pure Romance party pays nothing, but receives free gifts and 10 percent of the products sold at the end of the party to go towards their purchase.
Hoschouer said the average hostess gets between $20 and $150 toward her purchase. Prior to the party, the consultant contacts the hostess to get a feel for the group of women who will attend.
“That’s part of what we call hostess coaching,” Hoschouer said. “(They) kind of gauge who the attendees are and what they’re interested in and tailor to them.”
The consultant mails the hostess a catalogue prior to the party so the women have an idea of what they might like to buy or learn more about.
The naked truth
Hoschouer has ties to Miami within her sorority network and last year came to visit the chapter to talk about Pure Romance and educate the women. She recognizes the sometimes negative sterotype the company has, but said she remembered feeling uncomfortable talking about sex and masturbation in college after visiting.
“Everyone’s like ‘I can’t believe we’re talking about this,’ (and I remember) I was so like that at college,” Hoschouer said. “It was a good reminder for me and what college women really are looking for and from a business perspective, (look) in that population and give them that information they’re needing.”
Pure Romance has a program called The Naked Truth in which representatives visit colleges or universities to give exposure to sexual health on campus for both men and women. Seminars were open to anyone interested. Hoschouer said The Ohio State University has participated in the college outreach program in the past.
“(It was) what students were really asking for,” Hoschouer said. “It was really popular and they really enjoyed the event. It’s always an interesting topic for anyone, but especially in that age group.”
Pure Romance consultant Kim Webb works full-time as a consultant, carrying more than $7,000 worth of merchandise to parties all over southwest Ohio. Webb went to her first Pure Romance party nine years ago and was intrigued.
The single mother has been a Pure Romance consultant since. One group of Miami seniors had a Pure Romance party at their house in December. Webb arrived a half-hour early, set up a demonstration table with perfume, beauty and topical products and a private room for ordering merchandise before the party began. Hoschouer said the process is similar across parties.
“Consultants demo the products,” she said. “(The women can) actually taste or smell it. The fun of the part is that it’s really hands-on.”
After the liquid line, the consultant transitions to bedroom accessories, according to Hoschouer.
“(This is an) opportunity for the consultant to explain how the toys actually work and what parts of the body they’re meant for and why,” she said. “(The women) pass around and hold them and get to explore versus looking on a website where you probably a little hesitant to what it all means.”
Hoschouer said Pure Romance urges consultants to carry a large amount of inventory.
“A lot of girls joke that ‘you pay today, you play today,'” she said, laughing.
One Miami senior at the party, who asked to remain anonymous, said the party came about because the girls thought it would be funny to throw a Pure Romance holiday party. She said the hostess made $660 in Pure Romance merchandise from the party’s sales.
“It’s just funny and we had appetizers and people who were 21 were drinking … it was just a great time and there’s no men or boys allowed,” she said.
There were about 40 girls at that particular party, and about 15 girls made purchases.
“With girls our age, things are obviously very sexual,” she said. “There’s toys out there for a reason at this point. You don’t have to buy anything.”
When the girls were ready to buy, Webb took customers one by one in a private ordering room. Hoschouer said the purpose is to provide a private consultation for women to ask their questions and go through products they’re interested in.
“Patty’s really prided herself on providing a safe environment for women,” she said. “(They can) ask those questions they don’t feel comfortable asking in front of the group.”
Webb, who has done many parties for Miami students, said college students tend to spend ten to 15 minutes longer in the ordering room asking questions.
One student recently called Webb to ask if she had experienced a g-spot orgasm. Webb asked her to explain, so the student did, and Webb was able to tell her that she had.
“Especially on college campuses, women are asking more challenging questions than (they would) their health provider,” Hoschouer said. “We work really hard to make sure consultants are trained really well and answer questions or point them in the right direction.”
Parties last about three hours, Webb said, but the best part of her job is she becomes friends with many of her customers.
“She’s just super goofy,” the anonymous senior said of Webb admiringly. “She friended all of us on Facebook.”
Webb said the money she makes from her job is more “fun money” than anything else.
“We have fun and make jokes,” she said, adding that sex itself is so taboo and when you add masturbation people “freak out.” Webb said she doesn’t want to make people feel uncomfortable because she herself wouldn’t want to feel uncomfortable at a party.
“Pure Romance is … empowering women in and out of the bedroom,” Webb sai
d. “It gives them an area where they meet with friends, have drinks and get information — and the correct information — and have fun with it.”
For more information or to host a Pure Romance party, contact Kim Webb at (513) 509-9104.