These ladies use sex toys to make you care about sexual wellness

These ladies use sex toys to make you care about sexual wellness
Trina Yeung and Maria Martinez, co-founders of Maison Mika.
PHOTO: BLLNR

"I sell sex toys."

This is how co-founder and CEO of Maison Mika, Trina Yeung, responds when asked what she does.

The reactions are typically varied - from looks of surprise, to nervous laughter and, with one friend, outright dismissal of its success.

There is nothing sleazy about this setup though.

The e-commerce brand is well-designed, feminine and fun, positioning it as easily relatable and not something to feel furtive about.

From a financial standpoint, the statistics speak for themselves.

According to a report by Technavio, the adult toys market in Asia Pacific is expected to reach US$13.4 billion (S$18.3 billion) by 2020, growing at aCAGR of over seven per cent. This is driven by increasing acceptance, disposable income and availability of the products.

But thrust deeper and you'll realise that Maison Mika is on a more serious mission.

It aspires to "lead the way in building a global community that educates and promotes a culture of embracing sexuality as a pillar to any healthy relationship and a fulfilling life."

Indeed, there is no shortage of research that lists how much couples can benefit from a healthy sexual relationship, both from an emotional and physical standpoint.

In fact, Yeung says, there is even scientific evidence: "Prostate massagers help prevent prostate cancer in men, and kegel balls help strengthen the bladder and prevent incontinence in women."

Maison Mika's conception dates back to New York City in 2005, when Yeung was living there, and noticed a movement of sex shops opening in the neighbourhood of Soho.

"There were people going in, the stores were bright, obvious and very normal," she recalls.

When she moved to Singapore in 2009, she realised there was nothing like that available in the city.

While talking about it to a friend, he offered to fund it.

"I knew I would have an edge because I would be able to do this from an Asian perspective. Also, people here did not understand the products, so this was an opportunity to educate and guide them," says Yeung.

Joining her on this journey is fellow co-founder Maria Martinez, who is also its chief commercial officer.

"We hope to be the preferred platform for people who believe that sex is the foundation of any relationship," says the Mexican expatriate.

They knew though, that theirs is an uphill task.

"People are shy but curious. It is not easy for Maison Mika to get heard from a business development standpoint," shares Yeung.

"There is also a lack of awareness, understanding and exposure of the category," chips in Martinez.

"It doesn't help that the industry has a negative image, even if our brand is not like the rest of the businesses out there."

Undeterred, the pair spent up to six months conceptualising and positioning the brand.

They also invested in research.

Close to 300 people in Singapore who were past, current and non-users of sex toys were interviewed.

The results worked in their favour.

They found that 76 per cent of Singaporeans were open to talking about their sex lives with their partner.

A strong commonality was that they thought sex formed the foundation of a relationship, and there was a curiosity and openness to spice up the activities in the bedroom.

"People want to use sex toys to connect with their partners. They are intrigued by it and want to hear more," reveals Martinez.

Maison Mika's job, therefore, is to help and guide their customers to penetrate the category.

Now that the online store already has a wide range of products made from medical-grade materials for men, women (yes, singles are welcomed too) and couples, the ladies' next step is to build a community.

"We are not just a beautiful sex shop. We want to go beyond that," points out Martinez.

By this, she means beefing up the content on the blog to provide informative articles of the benefits their products offer, organising workshops and masterclasses on sexual wellness, and working with relevant brands and experts to get the word out.

An indication that things are progressing in the right direction is the fact that Yeung receives unsolicited interest from investors to fund the business, "But I turn them down because I want to first prove that the business works."

This article was first published in BLLNR.

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