What has the personal journey been like for the woman who revolutionized adult products and made toys woman-friendly? How has Susan's bright personality and innovative vision affected product design over the last 15 years? And what plans are on the horizon for Susan and California Exotics?

What has the personal journey been like for the woman who revolutionized adult products and made toys woman-friendly? How has Susan's bright personality and innovative vision affected product design over the last 15 years?  And what plans are on the horizon for Susan and California Exotics?

Interview with Founder and CEO of California Exotics - Susan Colvin

August 19, 2009

Susan Colvin started Cal Exotics fifteen years ago, in 1994; she saw the need for a woman's perspective in an industry limited by its male-dominated market. With the market flooded primarily with realistic dildos and plastic vibes that did little other than buzz, Susan stepped in and made big changes towards moving the adult industry out the shadows and into the mainstream. She brought tasteful design, variety in shapes and functions, nice colors, and discreet packaging to the toy industry - while paying attention to the comments and feedback from customers. Susan has a keen sense for coming trends; her approach has made toys more appealing for women and couples. So, how does California Exotic Novelties utilize customer feedback and inspiration to design their new products? And why do some sell better than others?

We've seen great success on television and in the media lately regarding intimacy and relationship issues; in general, more people are communicating with each other. With sexuality becoming more of a public topic of discussion, how has Cal Exotics contributed to the conversation? Susan is a public figure who has always been approachable. She is also known for her charitable giving to many causes such as breast cancer awareness, women's health organizations, national and local political campaigns, and local services; what organizations is Susan most involved with and why?

  • SeXXXcapades SeXXXcapades 4 users seconded this question.

    I actually have a couple of questions...

    1. How important do you think sex toys are in a relationship? What benefits do you think they bring?

    2. When developing new toys, how hands on are you with the actual process and development?

    3. Does it get to a point where it's hard to come up with new ideas for toys? Seems like there is only so many ways you can do things?

    Thanks for taking the time to answer these.

    Alisha & Brett
    Upstate NY

    I have a couple of answers!

    1. How important do you think sex toys are in a relationship? What benefits do you think they bring?

    Actually, I have found that many couples are looking for a little “something” to spice up a relationship…especially one that is out of the honeymoon phase Smile. Sex toys are a great way to add a new dimension to their lovemaking, and putting a new level of excitement and anticipation into the mix. Just going out to a shop, or shopping online together for a new “friend”, and the interplay of making a purchase decision together is a great adjunct to intimacy. The benefits, besides the obvious, are a creation of trust and communication in the relationship, building a more solid bond, and keeping the home fires burning… if you know what I mean.

    Also, and a very important component is the trust built when one partner knows the other may be using a toy in their absence, or even in their presence! In a trusting, loving relationship, a toy seen as a tool for either, or both partners, in a non-threatening way, is a key to a healthy sexual awareness. As long as a toy is viewed as an adjunct to a relationship, without any jealousy involved, it is a good thing!

    2. When developing new toys, how hands on are you with the actual process and development?

    Totally! I have been totally hands-on with the process since starting in the business 15 years ago. I have always felt that if a toy is not something I am comfortable using myself, or in my relationship, then it is not something that I want to offer for sale. I am personally involved from the first rough drawings, to the decisions of materials, motors, shapes, sizes, colors, functions, and packaging. I visit our factories around the world at least twice a year, and personally visit our Distributors worldwide annually to get feedback, suggestions, and comments on our products and service. It’s the only way I know how to do it, and by doing so, I have put my stamp on the company and our reputation from the beginning. Now, I have some help doing all this. One person cannot create and follow-thru on all the great new products we develop every year. I am surrounded by a team of professionals who work with me every day to achieve our goals, and I am very grateful that I have their support.

    3. Does it get to a point where it's hard to come up with new ideas for toys?

    No, actually we are backlogged right now with over 400 products in design and development. Each of these items is something new and unique, and the overall process from idea to design to actual production averages about 6-8 months. Of course, there are break through products that we obviously put a “push” on to get in the hands of our customers, but as you see, we are quite prolific!

    Seems like there is only so many ways you can do things?

    One would think so, but every time I start to feel that way, someone here comes up with something new and unique…or, one of our engineers or designers comes up with something hi-tech that puts any thoughts of that fear out of my head. One of the “hidden” attributes that I obsess over is the types of motors, wiring, and electronics that go into California Exotic Novelties products. When I am working on a new product, of course I want to use the best available components, but as a business person, I still have to consider the marketplace. So, different product categories involve decisions about how far we can go on each product as far as what functions or features we specify, all the while knowing that even the products at the lower pricing contain safe and reliable parts. What you see is only a small part of the details we have to consider, so there ends up being many ways to do what appears to be the same thing.

    Thanks for taking the time to answer these.

    My pleasure! Anytime. SC
  • Miss Cinnamon Miss Cinnamon 1 user seconded this question.

    While I was in China this summer, I had the pleasant surprise of discovering a tiny sex toy store that proudly hung a Cal Exotics sign/tag from its doorway. Inside was a tidy collection of Cal Exotics products alongside some competitors' lines. It was quite different from the typical brick-and-mortar sex toy shops I'm used to seeing in the States. All this makes me wonder:

    What challenges do you face when marketing your products to different countries and cultures? What has been the response in these different places?

    As I travel the world every year (I’m a million mile flyer…and have the battle scars to prove it Smile ) I am very interested to hear from not only our distributors, the key retailers in the area, but also the consumers I am luck enough to meet when I am out in the shops. It’s very interesting to hear the different perceptions of our products as applied to the culture where I am. Sex is a pretty universal language, and sex toys have taken on a wonderful new persona in many of the areas we service. One lucky factor is that any product coming from an American company is perceived as a “luxury” good in many parts of the world… especially now in the emerging Asian marketplace. What you saw is a shop I am very familiar with as it is owned by a dear friend who also manufactures for us. It seems odd to us that some of the goods manufactured to American specs in the Far East, then packaged in America, are perceived as somehow different from items manufactured there already. I have been told it has to do with our reputation for demanding the highest quality components, the highly stylized designs, the US packaging, and, believe it or not, the higher price points! Our American made goods, clearly labeled as Made in U.S.A., are really big sellers overseas as well.

    Europeans, who were always eons ahead of us with an open attitude about sex, are huge consumers of our goods. Even though they have in recent years branched out into their own manufacturing, the hunger for “American made” luxury good is still very strong. We are aware of all the language barriers, and we are careful to at least put a code key on every product, in 5 to 6 different languages, that at least tells consumers what the item is (ie. Masturbator, Vibrator, Massager, Lubricant, etc). But, as they say, one picture is worth a thousand words…so, our graphics are clear and concise on our packaging, and we try to show the item either through a glassine window, or an actual photograph of the item on the front and back of the package. Consumers around the world understand, we just strive always to convey the best message about a toy as possible for a mass appeal.

    Victoria (host): "It is interesting to hear about how American adult products are viewed in other countries. Glad to hear that they're doing so well!"

  • Miss Cinnamon Miss Cinnamon 1 user seconded this question.

    What is your favorite toy to hate from the BCE (Before Cal Exotics) Era and why?

    Well, there was a lot to “dislike” that was going on before Calexotics went into business. I hate to use the word “hate” It’s not so much the product(s) themselves, but the language and packaging being put into the marketplace that I was concerned about, and also as a huge opportunity for our company. When the toy business started in the late 70’s, the only avenues available to sell them were Adult Bookstores, mostly frequented by men, and in some not so glamorous parts of every major city and town in America. People who frequented those stores were as much looking for titillation as they were for actually purchasing anything. That’s why many adult stores back in the day charged a “browsing fee” just to get in. I was actually shocked to see some of the names on products, and the graphic depictions of women and couples on the packaging. In my mind, if the toy industry was ever going to break into a more mainstream market, and appeal to women and couples, something had to change. That’s what we concentrated on, and in retrospect, it was a good decision.

    As far as specific products I disliked? Well, without getting into naming names, I would just say in general that I pretty much disliked a lot of the dildos that were either gigantic in size or with gross, exaggerated detail, and junky vibrating products that may have lasted for one use, and then tossed in the trash! Again, I saw toning things down, and creating reliable products as a huge window of opportunity.
  • Miss Cinnamon Miss Cinnamon 1 user seconded this question.

    My first brush with Cal Exotics was on the giving end of a jelly strap-on that didn't really do it for me. Not too long ago I had the pleasure of trying the Couture Collection Celestial, which I loved! CE has come such a long way in the quality and function of their products.

    Would you say that the more recent CE products are better than their predecessors?

    If you could only have access to a single CE product for one whole month, which would you choose?

    Thank you for your question — and compliment.

    I would agree with that statement generally regarding past and present products, but as is the case in all industries, time and technology has allowed us the luxury of upgrading many aspects of what we do. However; I must tell you that some of the “core” items we have been selling since entering the business are still our best sellers! I don’t know if its familiarity, or just the fact that they have become the eggs, milk, and white bread of our industry, but I know we are going to continue selling tonnage on those items every month. Things like our Original Jack Rabbit, our Diving Dolphin, and the Rockin’ Rabbit are, and continue to be best sellers. And, we have improved on every one of these original items with new and better models over the years, that’s for sure!

    One product only for a month? That’s like asking a mother which is her favorite child! Let’s just say that I love every item in the new Couture Collection, and I wouldn’t mind being marooned on an island with anything in that line…and a case of batteries and my Husband!

    Victoria (host): "The Couture pieces are excellent! Good choice :)"

  • spicywife spicywife 1 user seconded this question.

    When you first started the company, was there a particular product (or products) that you felt were especially important to market in order to benefit women and/or couples?

    Actually, when I started I had about 100 items in a line of products from the company I purchased. Many people probably didn’t know that I was the General Manager of a company that closed up, and I purchased the Novelty line. It was a hodge-podge of basic items that had been sold to the Adult Bookstore market for many years. This was a core, and a place to start from, but these items certainly did not address the women or couples that I knew in my heart were not being reached or marketed to. The first area I started concentrating on was reliable vibrators, in many sizes and colors that would appeal to a woman’s taste. Ivory and black vibrators were the standard, but I saw pastel colors as a fashion accessory that would appeal to a woman’s sensibilities. I also was looking for ways to add more than just an “on/off” button, and the addition of waterproof as a feature. I knew that the only “alone” time many women got in their busy day was in the tub or shower… and what better way to get a little extra stimulation? But, it turned out that the retail community was not in tune with promoting the feature, and waterproof bit the dust, only to be revived years later when the stores became more sophisticated, and started hiring staff that were empowered with the knowledge to educate and help the customers!. Once retail stores and web operators began promoting features, the door began to open for items we had only dreamed of previously!

    The second group of items we concentrated on was Couple’s Enhancers…stretchy sleeves that a man would wear to “enhance and maintain” an erection, while providing stimulation points a woman could rub against during intercourse. The very first models were non-vibrating, and we continue selling these today. Our catalog now boasts an entire section devoted to these types of products, from simple 2- speed vibrations, to multi-functions, in all types of configurations, colors, materials, and sizes.

    Victoria (host): "I actually did know this - and even had Swedish Erotica toys waaaay back (which kinda dates me a bit). You certainly had your work cut out for you!"

  • Alan & Michele Alan & Michele 1 user seconded this question.

    What were some of the biggest challenges you faced when you started California Exotics?

    In a nutshell, it was being the first woman trying to break into a male dominated business. Establishing me as a “player” was difficult on many fronts, from the distribution network, to the manufacturing sector. Until everyone accepted me as a business person with a strong set of values, regardless of my sex, it was a rough ride. But, in short order, everyone began to accept the fact that I was tough but fair, and a person to be trusted. Once that was established, I was accepted and the business began to grow.

    Secondly, and just as important, was assuring my original staff that we could weather the storm of forming a new company and establishing the company as a force. Those original people are still with me 15 years later, so for all of us, it worked!

    Victoria (host): "I think it really says something really positive for your company culture that you have your original staff 15 years later! With turn-over being common at most companies and an indicator of management issues, you certainly are showing how well a company can work when everyone is committed. I am impressed!"

  • Saraid Saraid 1 user seconded this question.

    The new Couture line is awesome! I'm totally in love. Do you see California Exotics doing more 100% silicone products in the future? If not, do you see Cal Exotics phasing out jelly and other cheaper materials?

    Yes, that is a plan for the future. Establishing ourselves as a leader in this market segment is a goal, and our continued faith in, and strengthening of this line is a key factor in its growth.

    As far as older materials, there is a place for everything in a growing market, and like everything, sales will dictate the life of a product. Now that manufacturing costs have come down for materials like TPR and TPE, along with Silicone, our goal is to use these newer materials as much as possible for new products. The durability and long life of a toy is also a goal, so these newer material lend themselves to achieving it.

  • Saraid Saraid 1 user seconded this question.

    Do you remember your first sex toy? Was it a catalyst to make better things and start California Exotics?

    Actually, it was a single speed 7” plastic vibrator, and yes, it was definitely a catalyst to create new and more exciting products!
  • Do you think that young adults (18+) should feel comfortable with purchasing sex toys? Do you think that trying sex toys will help an inexperienced person become more sexually confident? How important do you think that is - for young adults to feel comfortable with purchasing and trying out sex toys rather than avoiding them and creating a negative view on sexual gratification?

    Wow, great question! I think my good friend Dr. Laura Berman recently was asked a similar question on Oprah, and I am sure she has addressed it also on her Sirius "Oprah and Friends" Show. The answer, and we concur, is yes, a sex toy for a young woman is not a bad thing and it should be encouraged as part of a woman’s sexual awareness quest. Rather than trying to discover ones sexual self in anything other than a personal setting at home may be the best thing possible! Sex toys are openly sold now to anyone over the age of 18. Young adults should definitely feel comfortable purchasing sex toys!
  • Miss Cinnamon Miss Cinnamon 1 user seconded this question.

    Al Bloom stated in a recent thread that CE believes the pthalates in their products are not toxic. However, there's a lot of negative news out there concerning pthalates and their effects on health. Why, then, are pthalate-containing products by Cal Exotics still considered safe?

    Al was basically stating the facts based on several scientific studies. Without getting way too technical, there was a lot of negative news regarding “ingestion” of phthalates by a couple of studies done in Europe…ingestion by rats at very high levels. These studies were later overturned as to their application to people; however, there was enough of a concern for there to be laws passed banning the use of phthalates in children’s toys, especially those that a child would put in their mouth. We agree 100% with that decision. Again, this was based on ingestion (eating)…and, the studies were shown to be seriously flawed. Now, we understand that being safe is better than being sorry later, and when this story was picked up in the US by an adult trade publication, a big debate was opened up as to the use of phthalates (softeners) in adult toys. The debate was fueled by writers, and a couple of companies with personal agendas where their lines of products (100% Silicone) would benefit if suddenly all toys containing phthalates were suddenly off the market.

    The truth of the matter is that California Exotic Novelties has more phthalate free items, or items that meet with European Directives regarding the safe levels of phthalates (Safe and Pure) in the market than any other company. Phthalates have been used safely in all kinds of products for over 75 years in the US, and since our products were never designed to be eaten in huge quantities (like the rat tests) we consider the low levels of softeners used in our products to be non-toxic and safe for use.

    Now, having said all that, it is important to say that California Exotic Novelties is a very quality and safety conscious company. Our use of Silicone, TPR and TPE materials is attributable to (a) our concern that consumers may be sensitive to phthalates in certain products based on allergic reaction, or just concern over safety, and (b) we love these materials based on performance and durability. The fact that manufacturing costs have actually gone down on these hi-tech materials is also a factor as affordability of our products is always a concern. We are just thrilled to be using more and more of these materials, along with new versions of phthalate free PVC. If anyone has concerns over the use of phthalates in adult toy products, California Exotic Novelties has certainly addressed that concern, and provided many options.
  • ...... ...... 1 user seconded this question.

    You sure have a lot of guts stepping into an industry that was run by men.

    What is it about you that made you think you could do this?

    How did your upbringing, personality and any other factors help you to attempt, accomplish and succeed at this?

    It took more than sheer guts! Luckily, I had already been employed in the industry on the distribution end, so I knew many of the industry veterans.

    Having worked already with many of the toy manufacturers (there was only a handful when I started) I saw that there was room for some healthy competition. I knew in my heart that with my education and drive, I could succeed with the help of loyal employees and friends who felt the same way I did. Thankfully, with everyone’s support, we did it!

    I had a strong family that encouraged education and success. I was lucky to have parents who knew the value of a good education, and encouraged me to take advantage of the opportunity. I am also lucky to have a wonderful marriage to a man who encouraged me first to get a higher education, and then to apply it in the business world to create this wonderful company.
  • ...... ...... 3 users seconded this question.

    What were your biggest barriers and set backs to success? And how did you overcome them?

    In the early days of the business, the stigma attached to this industry lost a lot of friends for me and my husband. Overcoming the feelings that somehow I was doing something contrary to my solid upbringing was a huge obstacle, which with the support of my family and friends I was able to overcome. Hard work and perseverance got me through those early years.

    Victoria (host): "I can only imagine how difficult it was for you. Any time I get a negative reaction from someone, I remember that working in this industry brings individual people pleasure, builds intimacy in relationships, and is positive overall. It's important work and nothing to be ashamed of."

  • ...... ...... 23 users seconded this question.

    How much attention do you pay to online reviews like ours?

    If an item of yours was to consistently get less than favorable reviews, do you try to improve it?

    We pay a lot of attention to reviews and comments....in fact, we have several people monitoring as many discussions as possible! Unfortunately, I am on the road most of the time, and my schedule is usually from dawn to dark, so my personal surfing time is very limited...as you can see from the last time I logged on. The fact is, we find all comments, criticism, and compliments very helpful in creating new products. It is always a challenge transforming an idea into reality, and we are for sure not perfect. Sometimes our best plans do not always turn out perfect...all we can do is listen and learn, and we thank everyone for their honesty and input.
  • Alan & Michele Alan & Michele 12 users seconded this question.

    The new Couture line has so much going for it and appears to be the "perfect" line of toys combining beauty with body-safe materials and versatility. What was your inspiration behind that particular line?

    Thank you so much for your kind words! Our inspiration was our customers, always was, and always will be! As this business and industry has grown, we have seen an increased demand for high quality, hi-tech products beyond our wildest expectations. Your comments, criticisms, and kudos are what inspire us to do even greater things. When this industry first started out, if you told me that one day we would be able to not only create, but sell huge quantities of such top shelf and luxurious products, I would not have believed it! Woman (and men) have surprised us with their appetite for new and wonderful products, and price does not seem to get in the way...a factor that weighed heavily on us during our formative years. Today, the sky is the limit, so we feel free to add all the wonderful technology available without worrying so much on the retail price side.
  • Carrie Ann Carrie Ann 11 users seconded this question.

    I'll start out by saying I'm the self titled biggest fan of your Couture Collection; I have four of them at this point and have my eye on one more. Greedy, I know, but they're truly wonderful products.

    I'm wondering, however, if Cal Ex has any plans to start making more vibrators that will work -- and work well -- with rechargeable batteries? Or perhaps some toys that are themselves rechargeable?

    A rechargeable Melody would make my life complete. Smile

    Thank you for being such a fan! It is always heart warming to hear from end users who truly appreciate it when we hit a home run. The simple answer is "yes." I am looking to bring more rechargeable items into our line as the demand has now proven itself. As far as rechargeable batteries, we have our Engineers looking into a universal battery holder that will easily accept both rechargeable as well as regular alkaline batteries. Please keep in mind that we must accommodate a worldwide audience, so everything we do must work for everyone.
  • Leah Leah 8 users seconded this question.

    It seems to me like almost every adult toy that could be made has been made already - but every once in awhile companies like yours come out with something that no one has ever seen before. How do your designers get inspiration for their toys? Do they come from personal experiences or from sitting around in a meeting discussing things? (and if it did, those meetings must be hilarious to sit in on!)

    Hilarious is an understatement! We sometimes have to take a break as it is almost unbearable to keep going! These ideas come from not only the people in the development meetings, but also from our Blog, mail we receive, and from the "suggestion box" right here at calexotics. From those meetings some of the craziest ideas grow into a practical application. Yes, many items may seem repetitive, but to us, the addition of a new material, multiple functions, or a slight improvement in the shape answers a previous request, complaint, or idea that came from people like you who care enough to comment.

    Victoria (host): "I would *love* to be in on those meetings - they sound like great brain-stormin' fun!"

  • Epiphora Epiphora 8 users seconded this question.

    California Exotic's Xtreme Pack G-spot bullet is a very popular toy here on EdenFantasys, mostly as a clitoral stimulator. Might I please beg you to make a version of this bullet that has even *more* power and perhaps 10 steady vibration levels? I'd love you forever.

    Consider it in our "to do" pile! Thanks for the suggestion! I just forwarded your suggestion to our New Product Development Director, Meechelle.

    There is also the Xtreme Pack Slimline Bullet (1142-30-2) that deserves some attention, and...we can make a 10 speed Xtreme but the battery case would be a bit different, is that ok?
  • Wise Young Mommy Wise Young Mommy 7 users seconded this question.

    Do you find, as a woman who works in the industry of adult toys, that people are put off when they find out what you do? How do you answer people when they ask you what you do and do you ever get negative reactions from people?

    More so when I started 15 years ago then now...but, yes, people do sometimes look at me cross-eyed when I tell them what I do! But, I have to tell you, I have never "not" told people what I do. I am, and always have been, proud of my work. To those who don't approve, who cares! My family, friends, and associates approve, and that's all that matters. I have never been shy about it, and that is probably one of the reasons for my success in a male-dominated industry.

    Victoria (host): "I could not concur and agree more! Thank you for being so forthright!"

  • Velvet1116 Velvet1116 4 users seconded this question.

    Have you ever thought of selling or marketing a home party box? So many people are interested in your products and will not order.Having a home party and a few of the toys in the party box that the hostess buys at a discounted price,having a home party. This way it reaches more people and they can see the toys,nightgowns first hand. I love the products because I have ordered before.
    I am asking because my daughter is getting married next year and to hold a party would be fun.Big smile
    Will this be something that you are thinking of marketing?

    We sell millions of private labeled products to the Home Party industry. The larger Home Party operators wish to supply their consultants with the best products in our line, without or branding, but rather with theirs. We have found that people who attend a home party like to mix and match products to create their own fantasies, so putting a "party-in-a-box" is not something that would work. However, we do sell many "kits" that do contain a multitude of items pre-selected and packaged together with something for her and him. Tell your daughter to look online for home party companies that operate nationally, and can setup a party for you.
  • Sticky Fingers Sticky Fingers 4 users seconded this question.

    I can definitely see why your company is so successful. As a woman you have the insight on what really and truly brings pleasure to women and design the toy accordingly. What about the toys that are used for couple play and men? Do you have someone that you corroborate with in designing the toys that are used by men or designed to bring them satisfaction?

    I don't want to give anyone the impression that we are ALL women here....just mostly Smile. We have men here as well, and they are definitely a part of our new product development team! What I am looking for is a well rounded mix of opinions from both genders when creating new products, and I think we have recruited a great mix of personalities here at calexotics! The interplay between male and female members of our staff is critical to how we perceive the evaluation of our products once out in the market, so it is very important that everyone is as open as possible when we discuss items in a group. I am very pleased with this aspect of our new product design input.
  • marriednluvinit marriednluvinit 4 users seconded this question.

    We've been married 26+ years now and toys have been at least a small part of our relationship. We have used small personal vibrators, several kinds of lubes and medium sized dildos. I'm looking for something new for us to use. My wife is only partial to insertion, sometimes enjoying the dildo sometimes no big deal. She really enjoys clitoral stimulation, either orally by myself or, with a small personal vibrator. However too much of the vibrator seems to oversensitize her to the point where she is just done and doesn't care for it any more. Any suggestions as to what new toy we might be able to ass to our bag to help her enjoy sex to its fullest without over doing it?

    Sounds like your wife is adventurous, and that's a good thing. Finding the "perfect" toy to meet her expectations may be a challenge, but as long as she looks to you for support and guidance, finding the right adjunct to your relationship and intimacy together should be achievable. It sounds to me like some of the more powerful vibrators may be a bit too aggressive for her for repeat use, yet she likes the fulfillment of feeling insertion along with clitoral stimulation. May I suggest any of our new Couture Collection stimulators? These soft and pliable, 100% medical grade Japanese Silicone stimulators provide comfortable insertion, along with multi-functional clitoral stimulation. These are not overpowering, and can be used externally as well as inserted. I think some of the earlier qustioners sang it's praises as well. Good luck, and here's to your continued sexual health!
  • Sir Sir 4 users seconded this question.

    I recently received a pair of wrist cuffs from Edenfantays that are by your company. They're absolutely beautiful, and are very sexy. Do you plan to someday also cater towards more masculine styles of such products?

    Aside from that, I wanted to know what your favorite product is by your company. Personally, I love the periscope. It's such an interesting product to have.

    Thank you! Our cuffs, collars, and the rest of our Intimate Accessories, like our Lover's Super Strap line are designed for very light restraint and sexual play by couples. We feel the market is pretty well saturated with more masculine, heavy-duty restraints, so we will continue with our fantasy lines.
    My favorite? Impossible to answer as I have so many! You can usually watch our new items on our website to see my latest creations...all of which have my personal seal of approval Winking
  • Gary Gary 4 users seconded this question.

    As a whole, the adult industry has really evolved a great deal during the last 10-15 years, and this is most certainly true of sex toys. Do you accredit this change to the consumers becoming more educated in their expectations of product performance and safety, and demanding better choices; or do you think that product makers, including yourself, felt that changes really needed to be made and began taking the necessary risks in order to create a better standard? Or a combination of both?

    I would say a combination of both! I think that consumers wants and needs definitely speak at the cash register, prompting a demand for newer and better products literally from the ground up. I have always felt that as consumers began to understand their own sexual wants and needs, the industry would respond in a positive way, and it has. Business is a risk, no matter what the industry, but an industry based on peoples sexual desires has certainly been a fun ride!
  • Darling Dove Darling Dove 4 users seconded this question.

    Hey, I've got a couple questions that I haven't seen asked by others- so bear with me a moment please, haha

    1. When beginning your company, did you ever imagine that Cal Exotics would become one of the 'big three' sex toy companies? I say this because, most non specialized stores only carry stuff from those 'big three', doc johnson, topco, and of course Cal exotics.

    2. What, personally, is your favorite color or material for sex toys?

    3. Does your company plan to expand it's glass line? Glass toys are great but they're often so expensive that they are out of most womens' reach, so a more affordable glass line would be awesome.

    4. With so many toys in development as you stated earlier, what kind of testing do they go through? (And how do I sign up? haha)

    Well, I always worked hard, and hoped by putting together a great team of professionals, we would create a company that would rise to consumers expectations. If we are a top 3 company, it is because everyone here gave it their best, from product development, to artwork, to marketing, to sales...everyone here had a hand in pushing our line to the top.

    I am a big fan of the newer materials like TPR and TPE...they posess many of the same great attributes as the more expensive Silicones, at a lower price point.

    We have no plans right now to expand in the glass area. There are some great companies who have carved out a niche for themselves, and our plans are not in that arena.

    Our engineering department has a ridged set of testing protocols that every product must pass before we put an item out. We also use a focus group that gets to "play" with every product prior to mass production, and their comments are vital in finalization.

    If you are sincere about becoming a :"tester" go to www.calexotics.com and sign up as one of our Sexperts.Big smile
  • Sammi Sammi 4 users seconded this question.

    Of the 300-400 new products you introduce each year, what is the average time they're on the market before being replaced by another product? Which toy that you manufacture has been around the longest?

    So...you want to know the sex life of a toy? Most products run their course in a two year period. By that time, new technologies, materials, or functions have made it obsolete. There are obviously exceptions, and we have a solid core of repeat best sellers that have been in our catalog for many years. Our Original Jack Rabbit is just such an item. It's probably one of our oldest items, yet it is still a perennial best seller.
  • Carrie Ann Carrie Ann 4 users seconded this question.

    What percentage, would you say, of California Exotics products are made here in the US as opposed to outside the US?

    Hmmm...I would ballpark it at 50/50.
  • Avery Dragon Avery Dragon 4 users seconded this question.

    In the company I work at, we carried the "Bullet Station" which in all honesty is a rather nice idea. To be able to change out the part when it breaks instead of having to buy a whole new unit. One of the major barriers that we had with the products was the 2-speed controller, for every 10 we had, only 1 would work. This was a little disheartening to say the least.

    Have you considered strengthening this line? At least the controllers?

    Well, I haven't heard those kind of failure rates before...we certainly have not experienced that overall, but thank you for the heads-up, I will personally take a look at these. When a company mass produces like we do, there is always a chance that a bad production run of components can ruin a batch of product. I hope that the defective units were replaced, and that isn't an issue any longer. If a customer finds any problems with any of our products, they can go to www.vibetronics.com for warranty help. I assume your store received service from your distributor as we stand 100% behind every product, and I apologize for any inconvenience.
  • Avery Dragon Avery Dragon 4 users seconded this question.

    I've been selling a good many Cal Exotic items in the company I work for, and I must say that most of the items I've seen come from you is rather amazing. As a company we've been noticing an increase in theft. Typically with products in cardboard that can be ripped into:

    Have you considered changing from cardboard to something like recyclable plastic?

    There are a lot of factors that go into our decisions on packaging, and we appreciate your input regarding the theft issue. We have been using more and more recyclable plastic clamshells and packages, and will continue to do so down the road. We sometimes need to factor cost of packaging as a component of the overall costing, and we are limited if we want to end up with a reasonable retail price. Thank you for your input, we will take it to heart.
  • spicywife spicywife 4 users seconded this question.

    The description above states that you "saw the need for a woman's perspective in an industry limited by its male-dominated market." But at what point did you really decide that you were definitely going to start this company? Was there a particular moment of "just do it" for you or was it a gradual process? Also, was there a defining moment that really urged you to start this company and bring your perspective into this industry?

    "Just do it" pretty well sums it up! The company I was running as a GM was being shut down, and I seized the opportunity to buy the novelty division. I had to hit the ground running as I had limited funds to sustain a facility and personnel until sales generated enough income to help us grow. It was an immediate thing...no time to waste!
  • ...... ...... 4 users seconded this question.

    What is your personal motto?

    What is your company motto?

    Personal Motto : Live life to the fullest!

    Company motto: Work as a team
  • deceased deceased 3 users seconded this question.

    I would like to see a more upscale design of the Decadent Indulgence Series. Like made of silicone and with more secure battery chambers like the Couture Collection has ....I have five of the Decadent Series and have given them as gifts, but always wished they were made of silicone or a little more mature looking yet still kept their features like non jamming beads and extra large clit stimulators. Even though I have a Couture Bunny, the ones I reach for are always Decadent Indulgence the Ultimate... anything like this in the future?

    Your suggestion is on the way to Product Development! Thanks
  • dangerzone dangerzone 3 users seconded this question.

    Being on a typical day most of us that work have a different line of work than you do..lol and we take of our shoes and sit down and at night we shut the light off and all think of wanting sex,my question to you is..being that your job is all about sex all daylong and I am sure you have long hours,and having to think of new products do you get tired of SEX period?? Is this the real need for the toy industry? Also the need to keep the excitement in the bedroom going?

    Never! Sex toys, whether used in a relationship, or solo, has always been, in my mind at least, a great tool for furthering ones own sexual health, sef-esteem, and general satisfaction with life! I never get tired of sex, thinking about sex, or creating fanatsies for others to share. It's what I do, and have been doing for over 15 years.
  • Victoria Victoria 3 users seconded this question.

    How has technology impacted Cal Exotics – in the sense of communication with retailers? Exposure online? Marketing ? Consumer feedback? I’m interested in hearing about the difference that instant feedback and online communication tools make in deciding on new designs and marketing approaches.

    The great new technologies in communication has dramatically increased the speed in which ideas can become reality...especially in this business. Simple ideas can be communicated to any of our factories on a Monday, and by the following Monday we can be looking at detailed drawings, or in some cases, actual molds or prototypes. 3-D imaging, as well as the latest in mold making capabilities are all computer driven and precise beyond anything we could have even imagined 5 years ago. As far as exposure and marketing, we transmit a lot of information weekly via our newsletter, new product notifications, and Press Releases to thousands of Retailers in seconds, where not that many years ago we had to rely on snail mail to deliver information...and the good news is that everything we send out gets instant responses back to our design and marketing teams! Like every othe business, in any other industry, the latest technologies have had a profound impact, and we take advantage of all of them!
  • Victoria Victoria 3 users seconded this question.

    What were you doing prior to Cal Exotics? 20 years ago, what did you expect your future to be?

    Twenty years ago I was a CEO for a company that franchised instant photo stores...definitely a thing of the past! It was through that opportunity that I met some wonderful people in the Adult Industry who owned a distribution company...and they needed a GM. I entered the industry almost 20 years ago, and that led to my opportunity with novelties. The rest is history!
  • Blue Babe Blue Babe 3 users seconded this question.

    Looking at your extensive line of products, what were some ideas that were just too "scary" (I guess would be the best word) for production? Did anything you see in the brainstorming stage make you laugh out loud?

    Also, if you could give a bit of advice when spicing things up with toys in a relationship, what would it be?

    Since I am a very strong advocate of the First Amendment, I will demure on singling out any one product or group of products as too "scarey" for production. I think there is a lid for every pot, a favorite thing for any individual. I would never think of taking anyone's right away to enjoy whatever they like in their own personal life so long as nobody gets hurt...so, there are certain items out there that I am sure other companies do quite well with, but they just didn't fit in our business plan...we'll leave it at that.

    My best advice about choosing a toy to "spice up" a relationship is to be sure that both partners are up for it, and try to make it a shared experience including picking it out together.
  • Avery Dragon Avery Dragon 3 users seconded this question.

    When you decided to push into this industry, did your family and friends support you?

    Absolutely! I discussed it with everyone from my parents to my siblings to be sure that everyone was informed. By being up front was the best way to do it, as I quickly had everyone's support.
  • Victoria Victoria 2 users seconded this question.

    As it is a tradition with our interviews, would you please finish the sentence: "Sex is..." ?

  • FunInBed FunInBed 2 users seconded this question.

    If you could spare no expense, what would your dream toy be?

    Hmmm...it would definitely include diamonds!
  • limabeanbreath limabeanbreath 2 users seconded this question.

    There is a shocking dearth of vibrating anal toys - any plans to fill the hole, so to speak? Especially since you're branching out into that most friendly of materials, silicone?

    We have a large selection already, but we are always developing new twists on an old theme! Look for our latest creations every January and July at www.calexotics.com
  • Avery Dragon Avery Dragon 2 users seconded this question.

    Though I like many of your products, there is one that I truly LOVE. The Turbo Accelerator 8-speed bullet. This has sent some rather interesting sensations all on its own, but has made use of my vibrating Tantus products even better.

    Has there been any consideration to making it better? (i.e. waterproof, easier to grip handle, varying vibrating features alongside the various speeds)

    Thank you! Your suggestion is on it's way...stay tuned!
  • Victoria Victoria 1 user seconded this question.

    The old adage goes “Charity begins in the home”, you contribute to causes and campaigns often - have you always been philanthropic? Did you grow up in a ‘charitable home’, and do you have particular causes you feel especially strongly about?

    I grew up in a very charitable home, and I make it a very big part of my life to share my good fortunes in life with not only the less fortunate, but also those inflicted with terrible diseases and afflictions. It's the right thing to do. I have an especially soft spot for all organizations that deal with breast cancer, and that was why we made an alliance with Living Beyond Breast Cancer, a group devoted to helping women overcome and regain their sexual self after surviving this terrible disease. Our Papillon Massager raises money for this wonderful cause.

    Victoria (host): "We think this is wonderful and are so glad to see you publicly helping organizations and giving back. It sets a great example in the industry!"

  • Valyn Valyn 1 user seconded this question.

    If it were completely up to you, and you alone, where would you take the company (assuming you had all the money in the world.. of course)?

    Would you revolutionize sex as we know it? Would you spread the word of safe sex (and sex toys) around the world?

    Would you make super lavish, unique toys? Would it even stop at toys, or would you delve into making super sex-friendly smart homes?

    I would take this company exactly where it is now! We love Southern California and all it's wonderful surroundings (along with being broke and on fire all the time!)>

    I am not looking to revolutionize sex, just enhance everyone's lives lives and improve sexual health.

    I think we are on the right path, and we will continue to evolve with the wants and needs of our customers evolve and change. I am happy in this business, so, no, no house building for me!
  • Valyn Valyn 1 user seconded this question.

    Do you ever feel like your life revolves solely around sex? Does working at Cal Exotics seep into other aspects of your life, or make other aspects sometimes awkward?

    Not at all. Calexotics has been a great learning experience for me, and the only thing that seeps into my personal life is sometimes being a little too zealous about the business! It's sometimes all-consuming, with a 200,000 square foot operation, over 100 employess in california, and factories around the world depending on us, it sometimes is easy to let it take over your life. It's important that I spend time with my family and friends, and take time to "smell the roses!"
  • Adriana Ravenlust Adriana Ravenlust 1 user seconded this question.

    Is there anything your job entails that would completely surprise the general public? Like any mundane details that you just can't avoid or crazyness above and beyond the fact that it's the sex toy industry?

    Our business is like any other. The fact that we produce and sell sex toys has no bearing on it being a business, and I use the same principles as if I was selling hammers. No difference, the basic tenets are the same.
  • mopptopp mopptopp 1 user seconded this question.

    I need a vibrator, usually a rabbit, that has a strong vibration, yet have trouble finding one. What vibrator available would be one with strong vibrations.

    Any of our Decadent Indulgence products would fit the bill nicely! If you want to try a whole new sensation, try any of our Passion Wave Jack Rabbits...they have a patented wave motion in the shaft!
  • dangerzone dangerzone 1 user seconded this question.

    In this type of a job are you very open with your family members and how do you discuss your average day at work at home with your family if at all?(dangerzone.aka sandy..edenfantasy.com)

    This is a bit more than a job for me, it's really my career. As such, my family is an integral part of my daily hopes, dreams, and future.
  • LadyAdderuss LadyAdderuss 1 user seconded this question.

    I have a question and complement
    1. I have had a couple friends buy some of Eden's creams and non of them said hypoallergenic how come?

    . I do how ever love every product that Me or My spouse have ordered and I will keep on buying from the company even tho it is pricey as heck to ship them here but we love them all keep up the good work

    Thank you for the compliment! I think you would need to ask someone at Eden about their creams.
  • I see a lot of technical questions about products, products lines, specs, materials and the like. I'm always excited about things to come, but what I'd love to know is how the men you run across (in business and in your personal dealings) react to your career choice! It's similar in feel to Samantha over at Digital P - a "women in porn" type thing... You own a successful toy company that competes with alot of male manufacturers and distributers.... I'd just love to hear a few war stories if you have any great ones to share! Smile) I say kudos to making such a bold decision, women are innovators and unique sexual beings! Who better to know a females body than a woman! Surely tons of guys give the high five or an occasional Tim Allen grunt lol, but some have to be completely in shock!

    Thank you! It has been a challenge being only one of a handful of women in the business. When I started, I was the only one, so sometimes I feel a bit like a pioneer or trail blazer for everyone lucky enough to have found a career in the business. In my early years, it was not so easy, especially when being under attack by the Government for what we all take for granted today. In persevering, and staying on course, I showed all of my male counterparts that I was (a) serious, and (b) definately here to stay!
  • jimmilat jimmilat

    We have been waiting for the "Tub massager waterproof" to become available for several months. Is it out of production?

    Not sure what that is? We have tons of waterproof massagers...which one exactly are you looking for?
  • Fred Petrenko Fred Petrenko 6 users seconded this question.

    Cal Exotics recently launched its Sexpert review program. When you send a reviewer a toy, do you think she/he is responsible to the company? And, if so, what are these responsibilities?

    Not "responsible" in regards to the specific review, if that is what you are asking? We only expect a reviewer to honestly review the product, for good or sometimes bad. We knew when we launched this program that the reviews would be all over the board as not everyone likes the same thing, especially when it comes to sex toys. Their only responsibility is to review every product we send them, period. Our goal is not to "stuff the ballot box" with favorable reviews...it's to get honest feedback about our products and build a consensus about it. That way, we can learn and improve based on honest criticism.
  • imp imp 6 users seconded this question.

    I am loving the inked vibes brand, very unique and not something I have come across as far as using such a neat concept as tattoo art. Are you going to bring out anymore fun products along this line, perhaps a wider range of toys to choose from with a unique spin such as these?

    Yes, we are! These have been so well received, and we thank everyone for the support! I just reviewed several new "inked" items that we will launch in January...so, stay tuned Ink lovers!
  • Rayne Millaray Rayne Millaray 6 users seconded this question.

    My husband and I have recently started down the road of trying different types of vibes and dongs. For a long time, we only owned two traditional vibes. One was ribbed. That's as crazy as I was willing to get.

    The only California Exotics product I have tried is a bouncie-ball type ball gag. If you were to suggest a toy to someone new to your brand, what would it be and why?

    We are most famous for our full range of "Rabbit" type vibes, so I would suggest any of our Decadent Indulgence products, or any of the stimulators in the Couture Collection. I'm sure you will be pleasantly surprised! Have fun!
  • Fred Petrenko Fred Petrenko 5 users seconded this question.

    As a big manufacturer, you work with a lot of retailers and distributors. What would be an ideal retailer for Cal Exotics products? What main business, marketing and ethical qualities should it have, in order to be your favorite?

    That's a pretty broad question, but I will answer to the best of my ability. I feel that the best stores are those that cater to woman and couples, in a well lit, well merchandised big footprint environment. These new "superstores" make the shopping experience an enjoyable one, where nobody feel uncomfortable or pressured to buy and run...they want to browse, and really have a chance to read packaging and understand the products. Also, most of these newer stores have well trained, low key Sales Associates who have been well trained in answering questions.
  • Adriana Ravenlust Adriana Ravenlust 5 users seconded this question.

    Your company has a few lines of products which tote the names of sex educators like Laura Berman and Sue Johanson. How does making those toys differ from making any other toy? Do you spend a lot of time communicating with those personalities and are they involved closely in the process?

    Both Dr. Laura Berman and Sue Johanson were fully involved with our design team every step of the way! The lines of products we created for their endorsement definitely has their imprint on it! Right down to colors, materials, motor strength, and shapes...every aspect was discussed on a back-and-forth basis until they signed off on it. Both of these highly skilled educators had definite ideas about what types of items they wanted in their line, and we worked with them to make it happen.


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LGBT 13 06/16/2012 Bi Bi Baby

About Founder and CEO of California Exotics - Susan Colvin

Company: Cal Exotics
Occupation: CEO of California Exotic Novelties
Achievements: Starting a company in 1994 from a woman’s perspective! When I started in the adult toy business, all of the toys were from a male perspective, I am so proud to see more products for women - by women.
Current Project: We produce about 300-400 new products a year, so each day has me working on something different. We’re focusing on intimacy products recently and we’re getting such great feedback from our customers.
Statement: Innovation, Luxury & Passion. As we continue to push the envelope with revolutionary new products, we remain focused on turning fantasy into reality.
Publications: Recent product appearances in the movie The Ugly Truth, on Oprah, on the Dr. Laura Berman radio show, Sue Johanson Talk Sex tv show, and the list goes on and on — word gets around!
Education: Masters Degree from the University of New Mexico — go Lobos!
Age: 39+
Editor’s note: Susan has great energy and is such an important part of the adult industry's trajectory. I am so pleased that she is here with us for the interview.



Victoria knows sex toys & adult products, their ardent lovers & makers. She's Eden's Marketing Director, helps wrangle the Review Program, outreach, the company Twitter and is your faithful Editrix. She also raises kids, reads a lot, loves music and kitties, writes a bit and snuggles with the Yeti.

Recent interviews

  • July 11, 2012 Fred Petrenko: "EdenFantasys Celebrates 10 Years of Sexy Innovation! " Read full interview
  • January 24, 2012 Sex Educator and Author, Ducky Doolittle: "Ducky Doolittle, an Author, Speaker, Educator, and Activist, has spent the last 23 years being on the forefront of sexual education. Why did she decide to become a sex educator? How did she come up with the title and content for her book? What does she plan on doing next?" Read full interview
  • November 15, 2011 Editor and Author, Delilah Devlin: "Delilah Devlin, an editor and author, has tried multiples careers in her life before finding her calling in writing erotica. What brought her into writing and editing erotica? Where does she get her inspiration for her writing? What's the hardest part about being a full-time writer? " Read full interview
All interviews