When did you open Sugar and what inspired you to do so?
Sugar opened in April of 2007. Previous to opening Sugar I worked in reproductive health care and sexuality education in both clinical and administrative settings. I had the opportunity to work in a sex positive sex toy store and was thrilled to be able to do the same work, but to come from a wholely pleasure based perspective rather than a disease based model. After I moved away from the city with that store, I frequently considered opening a sex positive store in Baltimore. Several years later, we were able to raise the capitol and open the store. Running a for profit, mission driven business is challenging and deeply rewarding.
When did you start to identify as an educator? Was it before, the same time as opening the shop, or was it later?
I’ve been doing sex education since college. I was trained as a peer educator and distributed condoms from my dorm room. As a woman, I have been interested in reproductive rights, education and justice since high school. I firmly believe that our ability to make decisions about our reproductive lives is a critical piece of equality. Because being sexual or asexual in a manner of one’s choosing is a basic part of being human, expressing one’s sense of self and connecting with others.
What is one thing that people would never guess about owning and running a sex shop?
Running a sex toy store is running a retail business. That means you need to love retail. You need to use Quick Books. You need to deal with payroll. You need to mop the floors. Running a sex toy store is a job in which you hold the space and provide the means for your community to celebrate their individual sexualities. It is not, however, a terribly sexy job. It’s hard, detail oriented work. Just like any other small business. Except since it’ an adult business, you don’t qualify for assistance from the SBA. Most banks won’t loan to you and most credit card companies won’t process your credit cards. There’s absolutely ways around these things, but it requires an extra level of creativity.
Are there any topics that you consider your specialty?
I love, love, love to teach about sex and menopause, hot safer sex, g-spots, cunnilingus, blow jobs and harness play. I think my true specialty is being able to work with folks and provide information in a manner that is accessible to where they are.
Do you have any pet peeves about sex educators?
We’re all in this together. There’s plenty of education opportunities to go around. Many of us are great at supporting each other – we need to keep it up!
I can imagine it’s tough to pick your favorites, but if you had to pick ONE sex toy to recommend to a couple, what would it be and why?
The Spare Parts Joque Harness, Jimmy Jane’s Form 2 and Sliquid’s Sassy lube
You book other educators to teach live classes at your brick & mortar store, how do you decide who to invite to teach?
I’m very picky. I usually only book an educator that I’ve seen teach or that someone I trust implicitly has seen teach and recommends. I need to feel confident that the educator has values that intersect with how we understand sex positive sex education and that they are able to present information in a manner that is fun and accessible. Next I look for someone who has the ability to teach on topics that the educators in our store might not have in their arsenal.
What advice would you give aspiring sex toy shop owners?
If you are interested in opening a sex toy store, first I’d suggest that you spend at least a year, preferably two working in retail. Make sure that you have professional experience in budgeting, staff management and purchasing. If possible, have six months of expenses in the bank before you open. Learn some counseling skills and take every workshop you can find (in person or online) on sex and sexuality. AASECT, Passionate U, Fet Fest and Dark Odyssey can be great resources. Lastly, open your store somewhere that doesn’t already have a sex positive store. There are plenty of cities that need a sex positive store – look around – and move if you need to!