Good Vibrations’ Vendor Spotlight: Julie Stewart, Sportsheets President
An interview with Julie!
Good Vibrations was founded in 1977 by Joani Blank and to this day continues to be woman-focused. The executive and top level management team is all woman-run, many of whom have been with the company for 20 years! From Executive Vice President Jackie Strano and Staff Sexologist & Historian Dr. Carol Queen, to our Purchasing Manager Coyote Days, who corresponds with many new companies entering the adult novelty industry, Good Vibrations supports women in leadership positions.
Many of our vendors are queer and women-owned businesses and we’ll be spotlighting these extraordinary companies in a series of interviews with the women who make it happen. This interview by Coyote Days profiles Julie Stewart, President of Sportsheets International, Inc — a woman-run business that creates quality sex toys designed for women and couples.
How’d you get started?
I had recently graduated from college and my brother (and now business partner) invited me to come to California to help him with a little start up business. That was 18 years ago. I never really thought I was interested in business, although I was always interested in women’s rights and social issues. Working at Sportsheets in the early days and learning about accounting, manufacturing, and running a business really intrigued me. Since then, I have received my Executive MBA from Pepperdine and have been involved in many professional and trade associations, including the Free Speech Coalition and the Women President’s Organization. I have seen the industry grow in response to both social and cultural changes and I’ve found it very interesting and exciting to be a part of that growth.
What obstacles have you found along the way?
Obstacles are great because they challenge us to grow. When I started in the business, I was very young and had to work very hard to earn respect. That was good for me though. Obstacles for our business have made us work harder and make the company stronger and better. We’ve certainly dealt with discrimination when dealing with outside businesses, like banks and service providers, and we’ve had to go above and beyond to prove our legitimacy as a business. Again, these challenges helped us bring out the best in ourselves and in the company.
What does it mean to you that you own an woman-run company?
I think I bring a different perspective of intelligence and intuition to the company. I look at team members as people first. I appreciate the challenges of working parents in a whole new way now that I am a mother. I think it’s a huge asset to our company to have a woman owner as it brings a softer side to the product line, packaging, and marketing. However, we are very fortunate that our Founder and CEO, and my brother Tom, has had a sensitivity and understanding that women hold the power in the decision-making in the bedroom and in our product purchases. I think he has an intuition that is lacking in other companies and that has been a huge strength of ours as well.
It’s a little sexist to say that I bring a softer side to the business. I think as a women, the old clichés are still true, you have to be twice as tough and twice as smart and still give birth and all that!
Which of your products is your personal favorite?
I really love so many of our products and I enjoy looking at our imagery. Our Sex & Mischief brand really inspires me and I love the beginner aspect of it; it’s so accessible to everyone. I’ve had a lot of favorite products over the years, and it’s always fun to try them out and see how they actually work.
What’s next for the future?
More of what Sportsheets is known for and so great at providing: quality products, amazing packaging, and great marketing. We’re looking to expand our brands into new product categories to be able to deliver more of our high quality products to more people. Tom and I love this company and we have the most amazing team of people working with us who also believe in Sportsheets as a company and the products we produce. This is what will allow us to get to the next level in our business of making customer’s happy and keeping couples connected.
Stay tuned for upcoming interviews and woman-run business spotlights in future posts on Good Vibrations’ Online Magazine!