EAN Magazine Interview- ElectraStim Turns 20! - Andy Smith interview
ElectraStim founder and owner Andy sat down with EAN recently to talk about our 20 years of business and what the future holds for the electro category...
What made you decide to seek your fortune in the sex toy industry 20 years ago? And why did you choose the category electrostimulation?
I’ve always specialised in electronics professionally; my last role before starting Cyrex Ltd was as an electronics design engineer at Ferraris Medical. I was involved in the design and development of an array of medical devices and was also involved in the collection of feedback from end users. Finding out that some people were getting pleasure from using our therapeutic e-stim devices gave me the inspiration to target the adult industry and create ElectraStim.
What does the 20th anniversary mean to you personally?
Twenty years is a long time and I’m incredibly proud of the way that the ElectraStim brand has evolved and the team at Cyrex has developed over the years. Our ‘mission statement’ to create high quality, interesting and innovative e-stim products has always stayed the same but we’ve grown in confidence over the years so I feel like we’re really starting to hit our potential. We came into this industry not knowing what it would be like or how we would be received. 20 years on and a good few air-miles under the belt, I can honestly say that I am proud to be a part of the industry we are in and cherish the many relationships and friendships we have forged along the way.
20 years is indeed a long time - what did the electrostimulation category look like when you started your business? How has it evolved and where does it stand today?
At the time, the companies already in existence were very specialised and catered almost totally for the hardcore and fetish side of the market. Of course, whilst I acknowledge that e-stim is in a fetish category, I always felt there was room to introduce a brand and products that catered for this group but also considered the slightly more vanilla consumer in order to allow the more curious minded an accessible offering.
Our first stimulator back in 2001 had six intensity levels and three patterns and proved to be so popular that we soon upgraded the specification. Looking back now, it was an extremely basic stimulator that used an off-the shelf plastic enclosure that we drilled the holes in and was powered by a nine-volt block battery similar to the ones in household smoke alarms.
In the last 20 years several large manufacturers have entered the electro-sex category, but it’s testament to how much interest there is in this niche that none of the specialist e-stim manufacturers, like ourselves, have dropped off. There’s still plenty more to explore in the category!
How did the market react to your first products back then? Were you welcomed with open arms or did you have to do a lot of convincing?
Before ElectraStim, I had little to no experience in the world of adult retail and it was probably the hardest part for me to conquer. Coming purely from an engineering background with no form of sales or marketing experience it was difficult for me to talk openly about cock rings, butt plugs, dildos, etc. Fortunately, folks in our industry are generally very laid back and helpful so my confidence soon grew. People saw the value of what we were creating at ElectraStim and have continued to support us ever since.
Any company that can compete in a market for 20 years has to have certain strengths. What strengths does ElectraStim have?
I would say a lot of our strength lies in the holistic approach we take to the brand and our products. We like to handle as much as possible ourselves in-house and certainly the design phase for our products is kept at HQ. By designing, creating and marketing a product ourselves with a fairly small team we have the advantage of being involved every step of the way. We strive for consistency across the board, whether that’s the quality of the products or the way we speak to the customer; I think this approach has really helped us achieve that.
While many other companies outsource certain areas, ElectraStim has always stayed true to its in-house approach to product design, manufacturing, etc. What do you think are the benefits of this?
As I’ve said earlier, keeping the product design in-house gives us a unique perspective over the process of development. It allows us to be hyper-focused on detail and to address any changes immediately rather than having to wait for an outside design agency or partner. With electro-sex there are also some technical aspects to the design that need to be taken into account (placement of the electrodes for example) that can be hard to conceptualise unless you’re experienced in how these toys work. There have been times where we’ve sketched amazing, interesting looking accessories but then realised that they simply won’t work from an electro-perspective. There’s not much we can’t figure out in one way or another, but that process would become much, much harder if we were trying to relay it to a third party.
What landmarks or milestones in your company's 20-year history have been particularly important to your company?
There are so many things I could list, but attending our first trade shows was a proud moment. To be recognised by the industry and welcomed with open arms was a huge achievement. Our Flick stimulators arriving in our second decade marked the launch of one of the first rechargeable stimulators on the market and also allowed us to gain our first patent for the Flick Motion Control Feature. The Silicone Noir range also launched around the same time and the 7 accessories have gone on to become incredibly popular with all levels of user. By the Summer of 2015 we’d outgrown our original HQ in Stansted Abbotts and moved to where we are now in Hoddesdon, Hertfordshire. At first we didn’t know what to do with all the space but we’ve certainly filled it up now as we’ve continued to grow! From there, the launches of AXIS and then Flux in 2019 have marked a massive evolution for us in the way we approach product design. We went right back to the drawing board to create the first updatable multi-mode stimulators on the market and have included top of the line input sensors for a variety of play scenarios. The full potential of AXIS in particular hasn’t even been unleashed yet- we’re very excited for the major (and top secret!) updates that are due in the future. Of course I have to mention the awards and accolades we’ve received over the years from the industry; every single one of those marks a huge success for us as a team and we couldn’t be more proud that our hard work is being celebrated.
Your anniversary falls in the middle of the Corona crisis. How did you experience this period? What did it do to our market? How did it change the electrostimulation category?
We certainly didn’t expect to be celebrating our twentieth year during a global pandemic, but our main priority from day one of the restrictions in the UK was to ensure our staff were safe and healthy so that we could continue to service our customers. There was probably a period of about a month where we got to grips with all the health and hygiene guidelines before we were back up to full speed again. Although there have been unavoidable delays with couriers, generally speaking the last 12 months has been positive for us from a business perspective. People having more time at home has definitely allowed them to experiment a little more and if we can provide some sort of pleasure in these weird times then I’m happy! I think the adult industry online has had a very positive year but of course my heart goes out to bricks and mortar retailers who have had to suffer with the lockdowns in a much more direct way. There are a lot of high street retailers who have taken the opportunity to really beef up their online presence which is fantastic. As ever we’ll support our stockists in any way we can.
How do you celebrate your anniversary? Are there any special promotions for your customers?
Alongside two brand new products that will be released later this year, we also have a range of promotions available for our existing customers to help us celebrate 20 years of ElectraStim. We’ll be in touch in the coming weeks and months with much more information. As with anything we do, we like to tailor this to suit everyone involved, so for more information please contact firstname.lastname@example.org and make sure you’re on our customer database.
Looking to the future, what growth opportunities do you see for electrostimulation?
The general direction that sex toy technology is heading is very exciting. We have just recently had a patent granted for some of the contactless technology that is incorporated in our premium stimulator, Axis, and we are constantly working on making our products stand out from the crowd through innovative, in-house, product design. Having premium e-stim controllers that are now firmware updatable allows us to roll out new features and improve existing ones for months and years to come. We even have our own branded update app to simplify the process. We are currently working on a very exciting and major update for Axis that will take e-stim couples play to a new level.
What do you wish for the next 20 years?
The next 20 years will see me into my seventies so will need to start handing over the reigns during this period as despite the fact that I love my job I also have too many hobbies that have always taken second place. My other half would probably argue that I am always out biking, fishing or playing golf but it’s just never often enough for me. I have got a great team and trust them implicitly so hopefully it won’t be too difficult for me to let go, although I have a feeling it will be!
It’s a bit cliché and I wouldn’t consider myself as a tree-hugger but with respect to the bigger picture I hope that we can find ways to avoid the masses of plastic waste generated by food packaging and take better care of the planet and its inhabitants. I am worried about what the planet will look like in 50 or 100 years-time and how those new generations will feel about the world that we have passed on.
Can you think of a movie that best represents ElectraStim and explain why?
I guess the movie would have to be Crank: High Voltage. By no means a new film but at least the name is vaguely relevant. The lead part is played by Jason Statham who my other half thinks I look like which is good enough for me any day of the week!
* reproduced with permission from EAN Magazine