LAST WEEK I MET: LEA-SOPHIE CRAMER
My mission was to find Berlin-based female CEOs with unusual business ideas. With my first interview partner, I hit the bull’s eye: Two years ago, Lea-Sophie Cramer started an online sex shop.
LEA, LET’S GET THE ELEPHANT OUT OF THE ROOM. HOW DOES ONE DECIDE TO START AN ONLINE SEX SHOP?
(Laughs) Well… back in 2011, Fifty Shades of Grey led to this unheard of boom in erotic fiction. I remember going from MUC to BER by train and seeing all these women from 16 to 70 reading the book in public. Don’t get me wrong, I’ve read it too – but on the down low. However, addressing sex in public wasn’t socially unacceptable anymore. That was a phenomenon!
None of our friends wants to go into one of these backstreet joints past flashing XXX letters, sleazy curtains and video booths to browse through sex toys. That’s not up-to-date!
You don’t want to tell a shop assistant what sex toy you’re looking for and you certainly don’t want other customers spying while you’re going through a bunch of products. This brought a market niche to my attention: Our generation loves sexuality, sensuality and passion – but we’re tired of feeling ashamed for it.
WHAT WAS THE RESEARCH PHASE LIKE IN ADVANCE OF YOUR LAUNCH?
It was a lot of fun! Of course, the industry and porn producers are just like you imagine them to be. But that was our chance: To make a difference!
The traditional retailers didn’t follow new trends. They still had this outdated, porn-buying male target group in their mind’s eye. What they didn’t consider was a necessary adaptation – to women in e-commerce.
We analyzed our competitors’ stores, the book sales of Shades of Grey and the success of Sex and the City. When we told the manufacturers about our idea, they loved it because they’ve felt misrepresented for a long time.
WHO WAS AMORELIE CREATED FOR?
Initially, we started out with couples. The curiosity for sex toys starts around the age of 25, because you’ve been getting to know yourself, you’re ready to try something new – and it’s easier to do it together.
We witness women buying sex toys and paying with men’s credit cards. Then you realize: This order is for a couple. Because you wouldn’t ask your friends to use their details for a purchase like that, would you?
We strongly believe in – and see – women being the decision makers of the e-commerce era: They buy online because it’s much easier and they will generally spend more money. In our society, women are deciding whether a couple uses sex toys or not, so we knew: That’s our target group.
STARTING OUT IN THIS UNUSUAL INDUSTRY, WHEN DID YOU REALIZE THINGS WERE RUNNING DIFFERENTLY IN THE SEX BUSINESS?
The market didn’t quite understand what we were planning to do with Amorelie. We went to erotic trade shows, pitching our “high-quality online sex shop for couples from 25 years onwards“ – and advanced bondage gear was the first thing manufacturers would introduce us to.
You will encounter many fetishs out there. Without judging them, we started a company for people like us. There are certain things I simply do not want to associate with sexuality. For example, we are not promoting pain – and just because a toy is pink, doesn’t make it a perfect fit for our target group.
At first, we were at cross-purposes. But now even die-hard porn producers understand that we are developing a new market here. For us, sex toys are lifestyle products just like any new fitness gadget.
HOW DO PEOPLE REACT TO THIS PROFESSIONAL ROUTINE OF YOURS?
(Laughs) I think most of them find it funny. But I was brought up in a conservative environment, so it surprises people when they hear that I’m selling love toys.
When I told my grandmother that I started Amorelie, she had just turned 90 years old. She said ‘Darling, you used to have this idea about pet accessories. I’d like it more, if you could do that instead!’
Our team definitely got more comfortable together. When a new vibrator arrives, we give it away for free – and everyone wants it. But I certainly remember saying ‘vibrator’ and turning red within seconds. ’Anal toys’? Not a chance I could say it out loud two years ago! (laughs)But the beauty of it is: The more natural you approach the topic of sexuality, the easier it is for your surroundings to talk about it. Once the first restraint fades there’s a whole new world to experience.
However, every once in a while you’ll realize it’s still a touchy topic: I wear this Crave necklace which looks like jewelry but really is a vibrator on a chain. It’s a flashy accessory, so people tend to address it. Whenever I tell them what it is, they fall silent for a moment. Of course I don’t use it, but the idea of it just makes things real!
NEVERTHELESS, IT MUST BE EXCITING FOR PEOPLE TO JUMP RIGHT INTO A SEX TALK WITH YOU…
Generally, it’s easier for both men and women to talk to a woman about sex toys. Men will listen carefully and are finally able to ask all of their questions. Women either express a certain reservation or go for the best friends talk.
YOU’VE ALREADY INTRODUCED THE CRAVE VIBRATOR AS ONE OF YOUR PERSONAL FAVORITES. WHAT SELLS BEST ON YOUR WEBSITE?
Our curated boxes are very popular, because of the buying psychology behind it. When you buy a ready-made box, you can discover our product range and talk yourself out of tricky situations easily.
The problem is, when you bring home a sex toy and say: ‘Hey baby, look what I bought on Amorelie’, your partner might react completely irritated – why does he need a mastubator, is something wrong with him?
Another bestseller is We Vibe’s couples vibrator – and then there’s the Womanizer, a sex world novelty with an orgasm guarantee. We are familiar with vibrators and dildos but this one’s more like …a vacuum cleaner! In the sex toy industry, such a novelty doesn’t come around very often. A new functionality? That’s definitely exciting!
THERE’S LOTS TO DISCOVER! WHERE DO YOU SEE AMORELIE’S PROSPECTS IN THIS INDUSTRY?
We’re adding new products to our shop every week. The industry reacts to various trends like long distance relationships: New vibrators will encourage sex via wireless remote control. This is still in development, but it will gain a lot of popularity.
With Amorelie, we are promoting a new kind of love life. We are adding more lingerie, we want to educate our costumers about sexy activities like striptease – we’re headed towards the overall experience.
We’re developing an app that will let you see your progress in experience. It’s important for us to approach sex playfully – because the more fun you have, the better it will be!
TIME FOR LIFE ADVICE – WHY SHOULD PEOPLE BUY MORE SEX TOYS?
Because it’s the ultimate enrichment to your love life and will take your relationship to the next level. Experiencing something new together as well as sharing insecurities will connect two people in a very special way.
I believe, only those in ease with themselves know what they want and are able to feel good in their skin – sexuality is a big part of it.
It’s fun. You can bring up fantasies, and it helps a lot to with addressing your problems.
HOW DO YOU IMAGINE AMORELIE’S FUTURE?
We want to grow into a bigger lifestyle company, first in Europe than worldwide. We want to bring together sex and lifestyle – maybe you will soon be able to book a romantic getaway and order fashion photography on our website. Also, we’re working on a platform for our community to interact with each other.
With big players like Beate Uhse wangling their relaunch, there’s more competition on its way. But we understand our customers perfectly well, because we are an inherent part of our target group. I know how I feel about buying sex toys – and that’s one essential advantage we have in this industry.
Visit Amorelie here!