INTERVIEW: Tom, Founder of Ricky.com

Ricky Rabbit ProductA few weeks ago, I was having a browse online (okay – procrastinating, not writing) and I came across an article on the Metro website which caught my eye. The title was ‘Man sold home and lives with parents so he can sell rechargeable sex toys‘.

To me, it sounded like a clickbait Daily Mail style title. Well, it worked because I clicked it. Reading though, what I could see was an inspiring story of entrepreneurship and business acumen, not to mention lifting the lid and taboo on female masturbation (and having fun with it too).

Unfortunately, the Metro decided to paint this man and his business, I feel, as a slight joke. I’m not going to link it but feel free to search it.

The article read tongue-in-cheek and really struck a chord with me – I felt it was awfully unfair and that a lot more could have been done with the message behind it all. In addition, I wondered if the article would have been written in the same way, had the founder been a woman?

And don’t worry, I’m not being a pussy – I told them. I also got in touch with Tom, the founder of Ricky.com to see if he’d like the chance for him and his business to be presented in a fairer way. Luckily, he said yes.

What’s your backstory?

Since leaving school at 16 I’ve enjoyed working for myself, dabbling in a few different business ventures, trying to find what works and what doesn’t. I started off doing vlogs for my Bebo profile (back in the days when Facebook wasn’t really a thing) and once the videos picked up some decent traffic I was offered the chance to produce and present my own series for the site. I did enjoy some success with this business making videos for Bebo, Channel 4 and MTV. With Channel 4 I was lucky enough to make my own online spin-off show for Big Brother (Series 9).

Without a doubt my most successful idea was a hook-up site called Shag at Uni that I launched back in 2013. The idea came off the back of another dating site I had called Date at Uni and I thought why not try something a bit more risqué and frank? I was blown away by how popular the site became in such a short space of time and it quickly surpassed the membership numbers I had on all of my other sites.

I was fortunate enough to buy my own house, a few nice holidays and enjoy my independence with the financial success of Shag at Uni. It definitely built my confidence up in business but also as a person. It taught me a lot about life and to stay humble – I’ve never taken this good fortune for granted.

How was Ricky born?

The initial success I enjoyed with Shag at Uni did begin to tail off once Tinder properly penetrated the UK scene. Tinder was and still is a well-funded machine that I wasn’t prepared to go up against so I wanted to explore new opportunities and find a new idea for me to get stuck into. I was watching a documentary on TV about the early days of LoveHoney and what a success the two founders have made of their business and it really inspired me. I already knew the UK public loved sex, so it totally made sense that sex toys were also on the rise! This was around three years ago that I had this seed planted in my head. 

I did a lot of online research into the industry and decided to book myself an economy ticket to China to go and learn about the production process. That initial trip was a massive eye-opener and I quickly learnt it wasn’t going to be as simple as buying some stock and listing it on a site. I needed to spend more time researching what Ricky’s USP would be and how I was going to ensure my toys were better and how my business would be a success. 

As I ploughed more money and time into development I wanted to have a hands-on approach to the entire process. It took me a while (and many trips to China) to decide which were the right factories for me, the style of my product range and I had to learn about the quality control process & the conformities I needed to obey.

I love the website – it is quirky, fun and a bit more ‘real’ than the kind of ‘cloak of mystery’ larger websites may use – why did you choose to do it that way?

Thank you so much! It would’ve been a hell of a lot easier for me to spend less time and money and build a standard-look site that listed thousands of sex toys for sale. I don’t think this kind of approach would have had any longevity or real chance of making its mark alongside the likes of LoveHoney or Bondara. 

Rather than be the Amazon of sex toys, Ricky is a site that procures a selection of fun and exciting toys to an exceptionally high quality. I wanted Ricky’s offering to be colourful and feel great. I’ve bypassed the cheap tat and also the overpriced stuff.

Tom with Chinese Biz Partner in Shanghai China

Why are you such a strong advocate for women’s pleasure?

It’s many women’s norm that they’ve never done it alone (reserving masturbation for something they do with their partner during intimacy) and many others struggle to climax. Sex toys aren’t going to be a 100% fix for everyone but I’ve found it fascinating that so many women do enjoy better masturbation with one and if a vibrator can really enhance so many women’s experience isn’t it worth shouting about? 

It probably sounds a bit simplistic but I just want to build a business on this concept and be absolutely brazen and shameless in promoting this message if it helps more women to enjoy their body more on the daily! Everyone deserves to enjoy masturbation and I am absolutely passionate in promoting this against any kind of stigma.

Do you think there’s a taboo around this type of thing?

100% there is. Many people are too embarrassed to talk about masturbation and need to fluff it up with words like ’self-care’ or ‘pleasure’. Btw that’s totally OK and I certainly appreciate that we don’t all need to shout about it loudly like I do (I’m promoting a sex toy business, so it’s my prerogative to do it!) 

Aside from product I also wanted the message of Ricky to make a real difference. The topic of masturbation (particularly female masturbation) is still taboo and sex toys are still being marketed by some of the other players in this market as ’naughty’ or ’secretive fun’ and I just want to bash this down. I want to use my character Ricky Rabbit to invite women & men to feel more confident and comfortable to buy a sex toy and hopefully even talk about it more.

What does your day-to-day look like right now?

It’s absolutely madness! I’ve worked so hard for years on the product development side of the business (which is still ongoing) and now I’m juggling the mix of marketing and fulfilling customer orders. There’s only myself and two part-time members of staff handling this crazy venture. So I’m doing many late nights and weekends to try and get everything done. 

On a typical day I’ll wake up at about 7am and get into the office an hour later after having had something quick to eat. I’ll start by responding to any unanswered emails whilst also checking through what new products are coming onto the market. Although Ricky has just launched I’m very mindful to keep my finger on the pulse to keep our offering fresh and updated.

I’ll spend most of the morning working on our marketing campaigns that are being trialled and tested to boost the brand awareness. I’ll also help with anything my two teammates might need help with (in these early days I’m also still learning things on the job).

The afternoon is spent mostly packing and shipping the orders that have come through on the website whilst also trying to keep on top of our social channels (instagram and twitter). I’m not actually a massive fan of social media, I’d prefer a quiet and off-the-grid kind of life, so this new venture has propelled me back into the selfie life ha!

Do you have a bestseller at the moment?

Yes! By far our runaway hit is the Ricky Deluxe Bullet Vibrator.  We’ve nearly sold a quarter of our entire inventory which is phenomenal considering how new we are to the scene. I’m blown away by the popularity of it and of course so relieved that public have the same love for it as I first did when I developed the toy. I think it’s popular due to its classic look and its compact and cute appearance. Its low price point is another plus!

Ricky Deluxe Bullet Vibrators

Where do you hope to see Ricky in a few year’s time?

I’m powering full steam ahead to hopefully be up there with LoveHoney and Bondara etc. I’d like to be recognised as one of the big sex toy retailers in the UK with a proper care for its customer base.

With so much of my money and time tied-up in the business of course I am hoping for financial success, but no matter how big or small Ricky.com becomes, I have learnt one thing early on: I really value the customers that choose to shop with me. It’s a really rewarding feeling when they pick Ricky over the hundreds of sites online and I want to go above and beyond to give them a personal service and tell them how much I appreciate their support.

If you like, you can follow Tom / Ricky.com on Instagram and Twitter. See more of my interviews here.

INTERVIEW: LRD Lifestyle Online Health & Fitness Coaching

Woman in pink fitness gear on a pink background

Anyone who knows me will know I’ve gone 180 on my previous lifestyle and have actually begun listening to, and working with – not against – my body. I joined the gym proper nearly a year ago and make a concerted effort to not only get there, but do well there a few times a week. Where once I’d run a 5K, do a few sit-ups and call it a day, I’ve entered the world of equipment, reps and focus.

Although it’s taking a while to get out of the ingrained mindset of ‘no scale weight-loss = no change’ (more really good bits on that below), my clothes fit better, I feel more confident and I’ve so much more energy. I’m beginning to see changes I’d never have imagined.

One such change was glancing down at my leg during a game of pool in Cyprus and noticing that my pin-leg, little twiglet, so-small-you-can-get-a-hand-round calf had an ACTUAL MUSCLE STICKING OUT. Cue me hopping round the table screaming at Will, poor chap, to “FEEL THIS!”

A lot of my routine and lifestyle is developed by my own research – and there’s a lot of bullshit out there. One such source of solid information is LRD Lifestyle Online Health & Fitness Coaching.

She has been so helpful with my random questions about form, which exercises work best and diet. Everyone say it with me: a calorie is a calorie.

She frequently posts short and sweet videos about timely and interesting issues in the industry, particularly about Mabel down the road trying to convince you onto ‘fat-busting tea’ and isn’t afraid to call big influencers out on their bullshit. Well worth a follow and if you sign up, you can expect a wealth of knowledge and support.

What’s your background in fitness and health?

I was always a sporty kid – I sprinted for an athletics club and played football. I found my way into the gym and became a gym instructor, a group exercise instructor (Bodypump, Boxing and Spinning if I couldn’t avoid it..) and then qualified as a personal trainer. At that point, I didn’t really like what the fitness industry was about, so I stepped away into the finance industry. I still kept myself in fairly decent shape and went to the gym 3-4 times per week and found myself getting more into the weights side of it than the cardio equipment.

I didn’t get into bodybuilding until I was north of 40 – I competed in my first competition just before my 42nd birthday and have been absolutely obsessed with it ever since. I think being an extreme person is why it appealed to me. It is 24/7 and every decision I make will affect how I look on stage. Crazy! I got back into the coaching side of it through people asking for advice, really. I don’t work with bodybuilding clients as (ironically as I do it myself) bodybuilding is pretty extreme (at competition level) and isn’t always the best thing healthwise. I work with general population clients and really encourage the habit forming side of health and fitness.

The worst health / fitness myth you’ve ever heard and why it’s wrong?

Ugh, so many out there. I have rants on my FB page on the regular about all the crap that is floating about. It’s so hard for people to know what is right and what isn’t. I am evidence-based on the whole – so this means understanding the science behind why something works and applying critical thinking. Why does something work?

A big one (helped by a certain curly haired multi-millionaire with an annoying voice) is the ‘afterburn’ of exercise, particularly HIIT or interval training. People rolling around all day thinking they’ve ‘revved up their metabolism’ because they jumped around for 20 minutes. Sorry sunshine. The EPOC (excess post exercise oxygen consumption) is a bit of a myth. Yes your metabolism will be raised but so minimally that there is the teeniest tiniest affect.

Genuinely, you’re better off saving your knees and ligaments and going for a nice walk with the dog.

Is there a simple change someone can make that would make a huge difference to their fitness game?

It depends on their current fitness level. I always like to meet people where they are (metaphorically not physically as obviously I work online!) so it varies greatly. It also depends on their current lifestyle habits. But, in general, everyone could always do with more daylight, more fresh air, to concentrate on their rest and recovery and not to sweat the small stuff.

Biggest piece of advice – adherence and consistency is key so find something you enjoy (or hate the least).

Some people can’t afford to join the gym – what else can they do?

Home-based exercise is more tricky from an equipment point of view but absolutely can be done. There are loads of Youtube videos giving simple guides and ways of exercising using only bodyweight. I have a couple of clients who work out at home and they are seeing great results.

What’s the best way to lose weight?

Again, it completely depends. Weight loss and fat loss are not the same thing. It is easy to lose weight by not eating enough. However, losing fat in a healthy and sustainable way is more difficult. I would say the following are the cornerstones and although the concepts are straightforward, they are far from easy to execute: Lift weights, be in a very slight calorie deficit, get plenty of steps in and prioritise sleep.

It is such a complex subject with so many moving parts and elements that it would be unethical of me to give a definitive answer. To me, weight loss is not the same as improving health, having better body composition (body fat/muscle ratio), enjoying a healthy relationship with food, forming good habits and finding ways to improve yourself physically, mentally and emotionally.

I love that there seems to be more of a movement towards women wanting to be strong and the whole ‘strong is sexy’ ethos.

What would you say to the women worried about getting ‘bigger’ at the gym?

Once I stopped laughing I’d ask them for their tips…women’s hormone profile means that we typically have to work extremely hard to build muscle. Believe me, I tick every single box in order to build muscle and it is still a very slow process. It is a bit like someone avoiding driving in case they accidentally turn into Lewis Hamilton or not going for a jog in case they become Mo Farah. It’s just a ridiculous concept! If a woman goes to the gym and lifts weight they will change shape, be smaller at the same weight (who cares about weight if your waist is 2 inches smaller?) and get a banging body.

Losing weight just makes you a smaller saggier version of before. Lifting weights will give you that lovely shape and bring other benefits like improved bone density, being stronger etc. Girls who lift look a thousand times better than those who don’t in my opinion. Who doesn’t want a peachy bum and nice defined shoulders in a little black dress? Getting big veiny biceps doesn’t happen accidentally so for anyone who is worried, don’t be

Give me your opinion (no holds barred) on the celebrity ‘fat-busting tea’ trend / Instagram in general?

Irresponsible, unethical and sickening. Basically preying on people’s insecurities to make a bit of dollar. It is indicative of our ‘have it now’ culture and people believe there is a quick fix. There isn’t. I’ve had a right rant about this on my FB page.

You can contact Lyndsey for online health and fitness coaching here. See more of my interviews here.

Attempting to win the war with myself – #OneTwoFreeYourSkin

Girl in orange skirt lying on Brighton pebble beach with a drink

As I get older, the more clarity I seem to have on myself as a person. When each year passes, I know myself a little more and understand what makes me tick, what makes me joyous and what makes me sad. What is it they say? In youth we learn, in old age we understand.

Now, I’m only just 28 so I’m not quite over the hill yet! But what once may have made me sit in my bedroom struck with anxiety, unable to cope, may now become a small blip in my day, before I am able to simply move on. Issues such as friendship woes, career dips, a fight with my partner, or even what I see on the scales at the gym, I now look at through experienced eyes and fix the problem with consideration and tact.

Learning to love my body

Something I’m struggling slightly more with however, is the ability to love my own body and face. I’ve always felt I’m fighting a losing battle against myself. As I’m getting older too, the mirror has seen a lot of action whilst I poke and prod my face, worrying over new fine lines and wondering if I’ve always had that freckle.

I read a brilliant article in the Metro recently, about a girl learning to love herself. She said: “For so long, I pictured my body as temporary and so never made it a home…I didn’t touch it, feed it or love it properly, but focused on how little time I could spend in it.”

This really struck a chord with me and actually made me quite tearful. For so long, I have had this ‘ideal’ me in my head, waiting for the time when I finally become that person. In reality, I’ve been ignoring the person I truly am and missing the beauty of myself completely. I look back at pictures of myself at uni and see how wonderful I looked, although I can recall the struggle it would have taken me to leave the house that day. I wish I could tell her.

Skin communication

Something else I’ve learnt over the last couple of years is how much my body can tell me about how I feel. The bloating I once wrote off as ‘fat’ is now dealt with using a personalised diet plan, because my body wasn’t enjoying what I put into it. My skin, where once a flare-up of eczema on my eyelids, my thighs, my stomach would cause a flash of annoyance, now tells me that I’m super stressed about something. I now take a step back, analyse what might be upsetting me (as I may not have even realised it myself, yet) and then take action.

Of course, dealing with the problem helps, but the skin issue remains for a while. Again, experience comes with age. I used to think that stripping the skin with chems and exposing it to sunlight helped (please don’t – I know). I now have a wide range of products that help me when I’m having a flare-up, and I can usually combat any problem patches before it gets out of control. Something I think that really helps is the focus on good skincare in the media and the absolute transparency many brands have on which ingredients they use and what exactly they do.

Winning the war – eventually

I’m not a full-on lover of myself quite yet, although I’m all for supporting other women in their journeys to self-love. I always try to remember: no one is criticising you more than you are criticising yourself.

These things take time however, and when you’ve thought in a certain way for so long, it can be a hard habit to break. I think becoming more self-aware about the potential to love ourselves is a fantastic step forward – and something I’ll take as a win.

I’m looking forward to seeing what stage I’m at – where we’re ALL at – in another ten years. Fingers crossed we love ourselves completely, eczema and all.

This blog post was written as part of an Epaderm competition. Epaderm® is available online, in-store and on prescription.

INTERVIEW: whatever happened to ’Half Ton Son’ Billy Robbins?

pencil and blank notebook on pink background

Back in 2009, Billy Robbins of Houston, Texas, was featured in a BodyShock documentary called ‘Half Ton Son’. Aged just 19 at the time, Billy was named as the world’s heaviest teenager, weighing in at 60 stone – just over half a tonne.

The programme honed in on Billy’s home life, his time in the hospital and his struggle to lose weight. He was housebound for three years, before doctors explained that he was at risk of losing his life if he didn’t make some changes.

He went on to lose half of his body weight through diet, gentle exercise and a gastric band, but still weighed an incredible 30 stone. 

Billy’s mother received criticism for her role in Billy’s weight-gain, seen during the documentary giving her son large sandwiches and even washing him by hand. Barbara Robbins shared a simple comment on the situation: “I do everything for him, because he is my baby”. 

Perhaps it is easy to point the finger, but a key breakthrough into Billy’s weight-gain is that Barbara lost another son – her first – at 19 months due to a brain tumour. During the programme, she said: “I overcompensated when I lost Matthew. It was hard to say no to Billy when he wanted something to eat. Maybe it is an addiction, maybe I’m addicted to my child? When will he stop – when I die?”

Billy Robbins in 2019

I’ve known Billy for a long time now, since around 2015. He’s super sweet-natured and funny. We keep up to date on how the other person is, occasionally talking about the differences between the US and the UK (“I am one of the few obese people that didn’t vote Trump”) Brexit, and the adventures of Billy’s eccentric cousin Frank, who lives on a pig farm.

I asked Billy about the attention he has received since he appeared on the programme and he describes it as a “tsunami” which “changed us forever”.

“TV made us known to people outside our street. Everyone started to judge us, without really knowing my family. Time has passed now, and it feels that everyone has forgotten us again.”

Billy’s future

Billy reports that his mum is doing “okay” and that he still lives with her at their home in Texas. He enjoys making new friends on the internet and celebrating family occasions, often visiting his cousin Frank’s farm for months at a time during summer. 

For those wondering about Billy’s weight, he told me that it is currently raised from his initial weight loss, but he is still dieting and his health is “good”. 

In the future, Billy hopes one day to travel, visit the UK and Buckingham Palace on my recommendation – and I definitely think he could do it if he set his mind to it.

Read some more of my interviews here.

TEN YEARS IN LONDON

Pink London phoneboxes

When I was about 8 or 9, we visited my Grandmother in London. I remember looking out across her balcony at the city and saying that one day, I’d live in London. That sounds very romantic, we are talking about Archway here…but I never forgot that, and it’s something I worked towards when studying for exams. I’ve now been in London for ten years. TEN! I’d known this anniversary was coming for a while and wanted to mark it somehow.

On 19th September 2009, I packed pretty much everything I owned and my mum drove me to Clayhill Student Halls in Kingston upon Thames. It was the first time I’d been away from home and I was low-key dreading it. However, I absolutely knew that I wanted to leave my hometown and be independent.

When my mum had left and I’d made my tiny room my own, I sat on the bed and realised that I was truly alone there. I began to panic and worry I’d made the wrong decision, when the door buzzed. It was the girls downstairs inviting me for a drink. And so began my life.

The last ten years have been a bit of a ride for me. Not so much ups and downs but glorious fun interspersed with absolute rock bottom.

I could write my life story, but ain’t nobody got time for that, so here’s a list of some of the notable things that have happened to me over ten years in London.

IN NO PARTICULAR ORDER

  • Got a degree, 2:1 thank you
  • Worked in a bar and two restaurants and met the best and worst of humanity
  • Had two close friends die, far too young
  • A relationship with a man much too old for me
  • Broke my pelvis
  • Lost a best friend through my own stupidity and selfishness
  • Been on countless dates
  • Learned a new language
  • Had two (2) nervous breakdowns
  • Been fired from a job
  • Lived in Dubai for a short while
  • Started this blog!
  • Went to four festivals
  • Broke up (mutually) with my first love
  • Got glandular fever and didn’t get out of bed for a month
  • Rebuilt my relationship with my dad
  • Got two tattoos
  • Lived off £10 per week for two months
  • Met some truly abysmal people – and subsequently realised I can cut people out if they’re toxic
  • Had two long-term relationships
  • Visited ten (10) countries – nowhere near enough!
  • Am still unable to fix my unhealthy relationship with my own body and looks
  • Moved house nine (9) times
  • Began a career in PR
  • Lost contact with too many people to count
  • Made new friends as my life changed
  • Became a Freelance Writer
  • Met my future husband

So, so much has changed and I’m a completely different person to the girl who arrived in London singing Taylor Swift’s 2008 album down the motorway and not knowing what to expect. I still don’t to be honest, but I’ve learned it’s half the fun. At the risk of sounding super wanky, I’m still on my journey, figuring out who I am.

If you’d like me to properly write up anything you found interesting in the above, let me know.

Life is about to change again, with our impending nuptials. Where will we be in another ten years? Let’s wait and see.