“I want to provide education that will allow students to better serve consumers and advance their careers.”

Consumers know more about sexuality, sexual wellness, and sex-related products than ever before. Still, retailers and sex counsellors get a myriad of questions about those themes every day. This heightened interest is a good thing, of course, and it is important that consumer questions are answered in a way that is informative and inclusive. That’s also what Sunny Rodgers thought when she founded the Institute of Intimate Health. This programme offers online courses for trade members, teaching them everything they need to know to help their customers. Naturally, the economic aspect of customer conversations is not neglected, either. Sunny tells us more about her project in our EAN interview.

Sunny, you recently founded the Institute of Intimate Health. What is the goal of this institute?
Sunny Rodgers: The goal of this institute is to provide quality intimate health and wellness information and a certification programme that includes training for a retail sales environment. I’ve spoken with hundreds of people in the retail pleasure product market and the consensus among them was that a certification programme offering well-rounded education that would help them better service consumers and help increase sales.

A lot of the certification programmes currently available focus on mostly sexual contexts and not on health and wellness aspects. I want to provide education that will allow students to better serve consumers and advance their careers.

Why did you decide that the time was right for such a programme?
I’ve actually been working on this concept of online certification, information, and mentorship since 2013. As self-care and wellness becomes more important to consumers, I realised now was the perfect time to bring this project to the next level and begin accepting students.

Let’s talk a bit about your curriculum. What courses do you offer and what can students learn in them?
I’ve been lecturing on sexual health and wellness at the UCLA David Geffen School of Medicine for the past three years and have found that the majority of medical school students only receive approximately eight hours of training in sex education. Most receive a brief overview of sexual dysfunction and sexually transmitted infections. This leaves a large gap in their education when it comes to intimate health.

For this reason, the institute’s courses will focus on topics that consumers are searching for; topics that lead them from their physician’s office and into an adult novelty boutique for help and guidance.

Initial course subjects will address sexual dysfunction, uterine health, vaginal and vulvar health, erectile functions, libidos, and pelvic floor issues. The curriculum covers topics that consumers are asking about in adult retail stores and to therapists, sexologists, and sex coaches. Because there is retail sales training blended in with the intimate health training, people who work in the adult retail industry can be better prepared to help their customers. While the mentoring programme can help intimate health advisors, sexologists, sex coaches, and others looking to start their own business or side-gig advising clients.

“The institute’s courses will focus on topics that consumers are searching for; topics that lead them from their physician’s office and into an adult novelty boutique for help and guidance.”

Who is your offer aimed at? Can anybody who is interested register?
Everyone is welcome to be a student. Intimate health advisor certification is aimed at those working in the adult retail industry and wish to provide better customer experiences and increase sales.

Will the curriculum be expanded in the future? What are the main topics of interest?
I have been asked to be a keynote speaker for the 4th Annual PCS Global Obstetrics and Gynaecology Congress-2019 (GOGC-2019) due to the rise of patients concerned about their intimate health. I believe that the intimate health and wellness trend will continue to grow and as it does the curriculum will expand to keep relevant.

According to a June 2019 article by Forbes, the wellness industry is now a $4.2 trillion market that is growing nearly twice as fast as the global economy (3.6 percent annually). I believe that the Institute of Intimate Health is perfectly poised to continue to grow as the wellness industry expands.

Participants also receive certificates upon successful participation. Will the certificates be monitored by independent bodies?
I am currently in the process of getting the Institute of Intimate Health accredited.

Knowledge is one thing, teaching this knowledge to others is another. How would you describe your teaching philosophy? How much prior knowledge and initiative do you expect from your students?
I’ve spent the past year researching several educational models and approaches, including the ADDIE Model, the ASSURE Model, the Kemp Design Model, and the Kirkpatrick Model. Through my extensive research I concluded that the Dick and Carey Model would be the best in allowing for an all-encompassing education that can continue to evolve along with our growth and future expansion goals.

The Dick and Carey teaching model consists of ten phases that allow students at all levels to get the most from the education experience.

The curriculum at the institute is focused on intimate health and wellness, so as long as the student has a desire to learn more about this topic, they are welcome to join. The curriculum is self-paced and geared toward busy adult-learners.

And how can or should they apply their acquired knowledge?
The education and mentoring are specifically tailored to further career knowledge and advancement with an expanded education in intimate health, advanced retail sales, and up-to-date consumer marketing.
Certification can lend credibility and can help retail employees in their current positions by helping them to better assist customers.

Instructors, educators, and subject matter experts all admit they’re continually studying, reading, obtaining certifications, interacting with peers, and looking for more information in their area of expertise. It’s a never-ending process to be a well-informed expert.

“The education and mentoring are specifically tailored to further career knowledge and advancement with an expanded education in intimate health, advanced retail sales, and up-to-date consumer marketing.”

Apart from the courses, the institute will also serve as a place for further information and for exchange among the participants. Can you elaborate on this point?
Phase two has plans for a membership portion of the institute where students can learn ongoing intimate health and wellness information, as well as be a part of an online community.

In addition to the courses, there will also be a mentoring programme. Who is this programme for?
The mentorship element is very important to me. Every day I get inquiries from people asking for advice on how they can use their knowledge to create a business opportunity. Most don’t want to leave their current position but want to build a health-oriented part-time position that can allow them to earn extra income doing something they’re passionate about. I’ve owned several of my own businesses in the past, including a restaurant, so I believe I have experience that could be helpful to these future business owners.

Over the past two years I’ve developed a step-by-step blueprint guideline that intimate health advisors, sexologists, and sex coaches can follow to help them create their own niche intimate health business. This training will be more focused on the possible issues that can arise when working in an intimate industry, such as not being able to utilise Facebook and Instagram ads because of sexual content.

This mentoring aspect is also important to me because the World Health Organization (WHO) predicts that by 2030 there will be a shortfall of 18 million health workers globally. WHO also shared that most non-communicable diseases are preventable through preventative knowledge, the type of knowledge that the Institute of Intimate Health will provide. To me, this is an important reason to be able to empower more intimate health advisors, sexologists, sex coaches, and others to expand or create their own businesses that can help our emerging population when they need it.

Is the programme also something for participants outside the USA? Is it possible to address the specifics of different markets?
Courses are available for students worldwide. We already have many international students from Germany and Russia who have signed up for our waitlist. Curriculum will cover international issues and will evolve as global intimate health does.

Creating an online certification programme that focuses on intimate health, and not just sex and sexual topics, was particularly important to me because of the need worldwide for this type of education. Currently, there is only one trained sexologist in New Delhi according to the Indian newspaper, The Sentinel. I hope that the Institute of Intimate Health can change that not only in New Delhi but around the globe.

How much does it cost to become a student at the Institute of Intimate Health?
I’m still finalising programme costs. I want to get BETA student feedback before settling on a price.

Right now, the Institute of Intimate Health is in its beta phase. When will it officially start?
I want BETA students to be able to complete the certification programme before accepting new students. During this time there will be free courses available to give potential students a feel for what they can learn with the curriculum. My estimations is that it will take BETA students 6-8 weeks to complete the programme so I’m hoping to be able to have new students begin before November 2019.