Patty Brisben was home on maternity leave from her job assisting four pediatricians when a group of women guests on The Phil Donahue Show got her undivided attention. “These ladies were no longer living paycheck to paycheck, and their jobs gave them the chance to have quality time with their families, as well as spark up their relationships with their significant others,” Patty said. “What’s more, they were going into other women’s homes and changing their lives.”
If this sounds too good to be true, it sounded “kind of crazy,” to Patty. But she thought, “I can do this. I can really do this,” she recalled. What Patty thought she could do was organize in-home parties to sell intimacy products, just like the ladies on Phil’s show. That was 35 years ago, when Patty was 28. Today, she’s at the helm of Pure Romance, a $220M company, with 170 employees, that sells adult toys and beauty products at women-only, in-home parties. The adult toy category is a whopping $1.58 billion in the United States, and Patty has garnered a significant piece of it. And, just like the women who inspired her in 1983, Patty changes the lives of women all over the globe, every single day!
Whether you’ve never used sex toys, ever thought about using them, or call on them often and eagerly, Patty’s story is pretty exciting (excuse the pun!) It might even convince you to give them a try. Take it from me. I never used a sex toy until I was in my fifties, but once I understood their significance, and found the right ones, they changed my life, too. And, you don’t need a partner. More on that later!
Now, meet Patty and learn about her cool company.
What did you do after watching the segment on Phil Donahue?
“I called a friend, who told me she’d recently been to a neighbor’s sex toy party, where the house was packed and women stood in line to place orders. And this was in conservative Cincinnati! My friend didn’t tell me what she’d bought at the party, but she joked that when she and her husband woke up the next morning, he turned to her and said: ‘That was better than any second honeymoon I could have planned.’
“OMG. I want be involved, I thought, so I called an 800 number and talked to a consultant from a company called Fun Parties, who told me her life had changed, too, just like the women I saw on TV. I worked for them for 10 years, but Fun Parties started floundering when the owner became gravely ill. I didn’t want the business to go away. I was 38, divorced and had four children, so I decided I’d start my own company.
“I set up a meeting with a sex toy supplier I knew in Cleveland, where I sat in a boardroom with 10 men who told me there’s an incredible niche of women who want sex toys. I agreed, but my experience taught me that women like to buy them in their own homes, or in a friend’s home. They want to be in a safe environment, not in a store. That meeting marked the conception of my own company, Pure Romance. Five really good friends stepped up to the plate and each did an at-home party for me, even though they thought I was certifiably crazy.”
Please tell us about the mission of Pure Romance and how you accomplish it through your parties.
“Women need permission to explore and bring new things into their bedrooms. They need to understand that using sex toys doesn’t make them dirty or bad girls. Those days are over. And, they want education about their bodies and how to take their relationships to the next level. Women traditionally put themselves on the back burner, and our parties help them focus on their own needs and sexual health.
“I started building Pure Romance by having doctors train our consultants about the info women need regarding their libido and desire. As time went out, I discovered how little information and research were available about women’s sexual health, and that most healthcare providers get very little training when it comes to the subject. Yet, about half of all women experience sexual difficulties at some point in their lives and need resources to help. Something had to change, I realized, which led me to create The Patty Brisben Foundation for Women’s Sexual Health in 2006. We’ve raised over $4 million to support research projects and educational initiatives on sexual dysfunction and disorders to ensure women have the information, and get the treatment plans they need, to live healthy, fulfilled lives.
“Today, Pure Romance works with awesome doctors across a spectrum of specialties, including urogynecologists, sex therapists, OBGYNs and pelvic floor therapists, to train and support our consultants. Our consultants learn about achieving intimacy after cancer treatment, and can recommend doctors to see if a woman at a party has questions about menopause.”