The package looked so innocent. It might be a pair of shoes, a dress from ASOS, a last minute eBay deal snapped up at two a.m. Inside, carefully wrapped in pink tissue paper lay some odd looking literature. Erotic stories printed on waterproof paper so they could be enjoyed in the bath. Lying next to it was the Ignite Me wax candle, ‘heat me and drizzle the oil,’ and a luxury vibrator. This was the Unbound Box, a quarterly mail delivered X-rated box of delights.
This is part of the growing market for subscription boxes, but the industry now offers far more than BarkBox (doggy treats monthly) and Birchbox (beauty treats by mail). The explosion of sexual permissiveness that came with the 50 Shades of Grey movement has opened up a whole new avenue for entrepreneurs. Research firm Gartner Has predicted that by 2015 more than 40% of companies will be utilizing some form of subscription model, and spiced up mail looks to be a part of this.
Sarah-Jayne Kinney founded Unbound Box a year ago, with four close friends. “The challenge was crafting something that everyone could enjoy using,” she said. “We have a different theme each box, sometimes focusing on health, sometimes on romance.”
Rodrigo Fuentes is the owner of the Déjàmor subscription box, which offers monthly titillation. His box provides an “experience for him and her.” Prior to running this titillation by mail service, Fuentes worked fulltime as an attorney.
He noticed that he wasn’t spending much time with his wife and started creating sexy games to keep them passionate. She loved it, and their friends wanted in as well. He created kinky games for them (good friend, huh?), and they were so well received that he decided to market it. “Busy people don’t have time for creativity” he said, his puppy dog brown eyes widening. “This lets you be the best romantic self you can be.”
The Déjàmor boxes are designed to facilitate a couple’s experience; less about the toys and all about the romance. The package includes two boxes, and requires you to fulfill ‘sexy tasks’. Accessories such as rose petals “sprinkle them in the bath” and satin ties “bind her eyes and then stroke her” are included, but they are too add to the experience rather than create it.
For this, he charges $35 a month.
“People who think they’re not getting value, as we don’t provide sample aren’t really getting the concept,” he said. “We’re offering a full size experience here.”
Since delivery subscriptions started exploding, X-Rated box options have carved out a niche. BoinkBox, Spicy Subscriptions and LuvMyBox all offer sex toys by mail. However, startups Déjàmor and Unbound Box don’t feel that they compete in the same space.
“We’re not a didlo of the month club,“ said Kinney dismissively. “We’re like a book of the month, you learn something new each time.”
Sexologist Gracie Landes is a fan of thinking about sex this way. “Often using toys in a relationship can be problematic,” she said. “People don’t know how to bring up issues with their partner, and you need to be educated on your own desires.”
Both startups are currently profitable, surprising for companies that have been operating under a year.
“It’s really popular,” said Fuentes “I get feedback from customers all the time about it’s helping their marriage.”
Kinney is thrilled by how well the boxes have sold. “We thought it was a great idea, but it’s gratifying to see that backed up by sales. We also get a lot of web traffic from Iraq and China,” she said. “We’re thinking about maybe setting up there, but for now shipping costs are prohibitive. We’re really happy that people are more open to changing the conversation and making sex something acceptable.”
Kinney smiled, and flicked her red hair over her shoulder.
“I was at the airport and this professional businesswoman in her forties was reading 50 Shades of Grey on a paperback. Not a Kindle, a real book. That’s badass that she’s reading that in public, that’s social change taking place right there.”