A Fredericton entrepreneur wants to get you smitten about safe sex toys.
Rachael Quackenbush is the owner of Smitten Kitten, a business that specializes in selling body-safe sex toys, meaning toys that are made of materials that won’t cause harm to the body.
It was a business that Quackenbush, an interior designer by trade, got into while she was living in Calgary in 2015. Unable to find a job in her field, she decided to take a job at a sex shop in the city.
“Just from working there, I learned a lot,” she says. “I got to work with a lot of phenomenal clients and just learned that there’s a lot of crazy stuff out there that they don’t teach you in school, or it’s such a faux pas thing that you don’t really talk about with your friends.”
Though a lot what she learned was the fun kind of “crazy” one would expect from working at a sex shop, she also learned something that was crazy in the scary sense.
Sex toys are not regulated in Canada, meaning, a lot of the materials used in products on the market are not necessarily safe for the human body.
For instance, lots of sex toys on the market use chemicals such as phthalates, that research has shown can cause hormonal imbalance and has been linked to cancers. Though these chemicals are banned for use in children’s soothers and dog toys, there’s nothing banning them from being used in your vibrator.
So when Quackenbush moved back to New Brunswick, she decided to start a business that sold sex toys proven safe for the body.
“Body-safe are solely products that are not going to be harmful,” says Quackenbush. “So everything I sell is 100 per cent medical-grade silicone, ABS plastic. For lubricants, I’m paraben and glycerin free.”
“They can guarantee their products are body-safe. A lot of companies will say that they are body-safe, but they’re produced in China and places like that and it’s not regulated, so you can’t actually say it’s completely body-safe,” says Quackenbush.
“Then you can do your own tests too. If a toy has phthalates, it will burn. So you can just take a lighter to it and as soon as it starts to burn, you know that it’s not safe. Whereas silicone, it won’t. I work with the companies mainly just to make sure their stuff is all safe and just stick predominantly to those three name brands.”
Right now, Quackenbush sells her products through parties, or directly to people who reach out to her through the Smitten Kitten Facebook Page. The “parties” are similar to those done by other adult toy companies like Fantasia. Quackenbush will come to your house, office or whatever space you choose. Parties can be co-ed, all male or all female.
I set up my demo toys so people are able to touch them, I can talk about them, I can show them the different things that they do,” she says.
Instead of just trying to push products, Quackenbush also wants Smitten Kitten parties to be educational.
“[I’ll tell] them about phthalates and how it’s not regulated and inform them about all these little things that you’d never know unless somebody came out and told you.”
Since she runs Smitten Kitten herself and is not attached to a larger company, Quackenbush says this also allows her to offer more affordable prices.
“The second reason why I wanted to create my own company is so prices are more realistic for people. I’ve been to a few other parties and they’re fun and all, they’re great. I would never bash the companies whatsoever, but when you work for companies like that, you’re expected to sell a certain amount per month, or prices are extreme for clients for things that shouldn’t be,” she says.
Sex is an important thing for everybody and everyone. So I want it to be reachable for everybody rather than making it this ‘hoity-toity’ thing.”
Quackenbush also aims to have Smitten Kitten parties to be more people-based, rather than product-based.
“Rather than just talking about the toys, I also suggest different things you can do with the toys for more foreplay and things like that, and encourage people to explore their bodies and what their capabilities are, what their interests are,” she says. “I encourage people to constantly ask questions.”
Right now, Smitten Kitten is a side business. During the day, Quackenbush works at as an intern interior designer at Office Interiors. In the future, she’d like to establish a website. Longer term, she would like to open a storefront and hire a few employees.
“Even just to have a website. I’m a one-man show so I work with the manufacturers, I do all the pricing, all the marketing for it. It’s a little daunting that way,” she says.
“If I had a store front I could count on a core group to move it forward.”
Quakenbush would also like to work with local researchers and organizations.
“That was one thing I really enjoyed about Calgary is we worked with the cancer centre, we also worked with the sexual crisis centre … we worked with those people and it was awesome,” she says.
“Most people think that sex is just sex, but there’s a therapy behind it, there are chemicals within your body that react differently like your happy chemicals and stuff that need to be exposed, but you can’t just be like, ‘Wham, bam, we’re done.'”