A 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.
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!
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.