A decade ago, the founders of Soft Paris, Anne-Charlotte Desruelle and Luca Armenia, set out to offer sex toys at home parties. Today, there are roughly 8,000 consultants working for the company in France, and apart from that, Soft Paris is also active in Italy and Great Britain. EAN had the opportunity to speak with the two entrepreneurs about the history of their company, the secret of their success, and the current developments in the adult market.
Congratulations on your ten-year anniversary! Back in 2006, when it all began, did you believe that Soft Paris would be such a success? Anne-Charlotte Desruelle: Thank you, yes – we’ve had big ambitions from day one!
Please, give us a few details about the company. Which markets are you active in, how many consultants are working for you, etc.? Luca Armenia: So far, we’re active in home sales in France, Italy, and the UK. France is our principal market, where we currently have 7,667 consultants.
Soft Paris is a well-established brand. What do the consumers associate with this name? Anne-Charlotte Desruelle: Our consumers recognise us for our brand values: sophistication, femininity, romance, sensuality, pleasure, and of course, discretion.
Looking back, what were the highlights of the past decade? And what are the moments you’d rather forget? Luca Armenia: There are many to choose from. The highlights include the launch of new catalogues – the result of months, if not years, of hard work put in by the product development, quality control, and marketing teams, and it is always fun to see the result when so many people work towards a common goal. Moments we’d rather forget? They are actually the most fun ones to look back on!
For example, our very first production of cosmetics arrived late, just before Christmas, and the outer packaging was not even finished… So the two of us, together with Anne-Charlotte’s mum, spent an entire weekend in a cold, enormous warehouse putting cosmetics into their boxes until the small hours of Monday morning, so that the range would finally be ready to send out to our awaiting customers.
What was your motivation to start home parties for adult products ten years ago? Why is this channel of distribution so well-suited for this type of product? Anne-Charlotte Desruelle: Direct sale is a fabulous distribution channel for products that need to be explained. In addition, meeting clients in the comfort of their own home and creating a unique environment for women to exchange ideas and communicate on an intimate level makes a Soft Paris home party a unique experience. Soft Paris has been helping individuals and couples for 10 years and we look forward to enriching people’s intimate lives in the future.
What are the biggest challenges in the home party segment? Maybe the large number of competitors? Luca Armenia: One of the biggest challenges later becomes one of the greatest delights of working with home parties: building trust with consultants, the sales people, and the company. It requires rigor and consistency. But once the relationship is established, it becomes one of the most rewarding aspects of direct sales.
In 2006, the world was a different place. Social acceptance of sex toys, an open approach to sex and sexual lifestyle – back then, all that was only just beginning. Did your company benefit from the developments of the past ten years? Anne-Charlotte Desruelle: Yes, the attitudes towards sex have certainly evolved over the last ten years and Soft Paris has played an important role in making this possible. Over the past decade, we’ve written one of the most influential blogs in France, appeared countless times on television and authored a book on the subject. Our ‘Sexy Vibes’ video had 600k global views on Youtube. Every client who leaves a Soft Paris party with more knowledge about the subject contributes to the public attitude towards sex. And each contribution, however small, has helped make the industry what it is today.
How has your product range changed over the course of the years? Luca Armenia: At the beginning, we distributed toys and cosmetics, but once the volumes were sufficient for production, we designed and produced our own, working directly with factories. The first product we designed in-house, ‘Lilith’, was the first toy on the market to be 100% covered in silicone. We only started presenting lingerie to our clients a few years after Soft Paris was launched. And in the past three years, we’ve really stepped up that range, Soft Paris lingerie has become more sophisticated and is now of higher quality than ever before.
Soft Paris has always focussed on providing information, advice, suggestions. With customers becoming more knowledgeable, is that still a priority today? Anne-Charlotte Desruelle: Yes, it is still a priority. Couples and faithful clients still need to reinvent themselves every so often. Plus, not everyone’s a Soft Paris client… yet!
How would you describe the current development of the adult market? Is it moving in the right directions, or are there things you don’t like? Luca Armenia: The current development is really positive, factories are manufacturing better products with better design and quality, which is a great benefit to all of us in the industry. Ten years ago, it was rare to see a silicone toy and now any toy that isn’t made of silicone is seen as inferior. The next step is going to be connected technology. Even though we are still at the beginning of this development, toys used with apps are quickly becoming more widespread. But the industry needs to make sure it provides quality and experience to its consumers rather than childish gimmickry. We’d also like the industry (and all industries in fact) to be more concerned with the environment, designing and producing products that last, using clean energy to do it. It’s an aspect Soft Paris is very much concerned and involved with and we’d like others in the industry to think more about it too.
What’s the plan for the next ten years? Do you want to expand further across Europe? Anne-Charlotte Desruelle: Ever since we started designing and manufacturing our own products, we’ve been approached by numerous other businesses interested in working with us at a B2B level. We always refused, wanting to concentrate more on our direct distribution network. Recently, we opened up to the possibility of strategic B2B partnerships in markets where we are not present at the moment. We have fabulous products and ten years of know-how, so why not allow a wider market to enjoy Soft Paris’ products!?