A Czech designer has won acclaim by bringing her talent to the intimate world of women’s sex toys, But is not been an easy path from idea to final sales and although new products are on the way the world market is still beckoning.
In last week’s edition of Marketplace we looked at how a Czech brought his innovation to production with an eye on the massive world market for storage batteries. This week we talk to a young Czech designer in a very different field, sex toys for women, whose gone further by taking her idea for more sophisticated and better designed vibrators and pleasure giving balls to production and the market. And Anna Marešová has more ideas for follow up products in the same field.
But the path from lightbulb light up idea to design, production, and marketing has not an easy path for Marešová in spite of winning prestigious design awards and getting a lot of not surprising coverage for her products from Czech media. The main hitch has been on the production side with a decision based on keeping production near at hand in the Czech Republic, with the advantage that this probably reduced the risks of piracy. But the disadvantage has been that know-how in the top end erotic toys market was lacking.
We caught up with Anna Marešová at her showrooms for Whoop de doo in Prague where she and her small team were holding a promotional event aimed at boosting sales which are mostly over the Internet. And the obvious first question was what the promotion was about:
"Every vibrator is original and I think it is more than just design. It is something like art."
"I am a product designer and I have a company that is producing erotic toys for women and every year we are doing some special edition. This year we made a special edition with one artist. His name is Musa and he is a great artist and makes very nice drawings, very soft and intimate. And I had the idea to put these drawings on our vibrators. That’s the point. Now we have a limited edition, called the Musa edition and we have the vibrators with these drawing. Every vibrator is original and I think it is more than just design. It is something like art."
And how many of these are there?
"We have 25 pieces at the moment and we are not stopping with this number but would like to make it 100, maybe. But I think it’s not important because every piece is different."
Maybe we could come back to the original products, you basically have the two products the Venus Balls and the vibrators. How are sales going now and how is for you transferring from idea to production and then sales?
"I think that from production to sales is not such a big problem but from the idea to production [laughs]. I decided to produce the whole thing in the Czech Republic and there is no factory that is producing erotic toys and I had to find suppliers for the silicon, electronics, and everything and it has been pretty hard work to do this. The sales could be better but we do not have such big production capacity at the moment. We are waiting for a new mould and that should make things better with capacity and then the sales could be better."
So far, where is the main market? Is it the Czech Republic, Europe, America; where are sales developing the best?
"At the moment it is still the Czech Republic and we started to sell to the Slovak Republic as well, where we have our websites in the Slovak language as well. Of course we are selling to the whole world as well. But as I said before, the production is the crucial point and after that we can make a bigger distribution because we are not so big at the moment. But we are planning distribution to Europe and the whole world. "
On the Czech market you get quite a lot of media coverage, as we have seen tonight, and probably the same in Slovakia. But outside what is probably your home market, is it a problem getting recognition and doing the marketing?
"Someone told me it’s a dream to have more customers than you have products."
"I think it is more difficult but we still have some references in the foreign press, in Icon and Design, and other places so it is not so bad. But still, we don’t have so many products at the moment. I think someone told me it’s a dream to have more customers than you have products. We got the Red Dot [a top idea, design and workmanship award in Germany] last year as well and that works pretty well for the foreign market."
I think you’ve got new products coming on line in the next year or two as well as the two main products. Can you describe them?
"We are planning lubrication jelly and then we are planning vibrating eggs as well. I think that will be in one and a half years because it takes a lot of time to develop the whole product. I have big ideas but time goes so quickly."
And are all the ideas in the same area or would you like to design outside of it?
"The first thing is whoop de do which is the brand and then I have a studio which is called Anna Maresova designers and we are doing different products as well. For example for this design bloc which is happening now we are showing a new tram for Prague which should be ready next year.
It is just one tram car and it’s a reconstruction of an old tram, do you know the T3?"
"The legendary tram and we are doing the new tram in a blue colour with one door and we call it the T3 coupe…"
And is that just and idea?
"No, it’s not just a project but a real thing that we are doing with the Prague Transportation Company and it should be next year at InnoTrans [the international transport technology festival] in Berlin."
For you as a designer, how frustrating is it to be a designer and a businesswoman as well? Is it easy to combine those two things because essentially, I suppose, you like the design but being a businesswoman is something else in a way…
"We are planning lubrication jelly and then we are planning vibrating eggs as well."
"Yes, sometimes it is difficult because I have to switch my head from the designer and these things to business and production and organising. I would say 80 percent is just paperwork and organising which is really sad but I know it’s very important. But I have many people around me who are great and designers as well and the people doing the production and I have to coordinate all of them. It’s hard work but it’s necessary for results."
By the way, the tram project for the Prague city transport company is for a one off party tram that should be available to circulate round the streets of the capital from next year and has been a challenging job marrying old technology with new design and concepts. The city tram company hopes it can recoup the costs of the conversion, of just under 300,000 euros, within six years.