In an adult novelty market flooded with dildos, lotions and impact play toys, it’s often extremely difficult – if not impossible – to come up with a truly original and profitable product. Back in 1993, Tom Stewart, founder of Sportsheets, came up with the brilliant idea to use Velcro® as a new medium for couples seeking to spice up things in the bedroom. Joanne Queenin, Sportsheets’ Executive Administrator, recently chatted with me about the history of the company and their award-winning products.
C.J. Asher – First of all, thanks for this interview! To start, please tell us a little about yourself…
Joanne Queenin – I was born in North Tarrytown New York, now called Sleepy Hollow… since 1995, anyway. Stayed there ‘til I was twelve then moved to Houston, Texas, where I did my high school years, then to California in 1978 where I started college. I ended up finishing college in Arizona. After my crazy teen years and a couple of movies under my belt, I started out my career, many years ago, in the medical field. I was a Radiologic Technologist and Lab Tech, so I was the girl that tortured you when you thought you broke bones and the vampire that came after you for blood tests. After my father died in 1988, I moved back to California and started a career in medical administration in the largest Cardiology office in the Antelope Valley, where I moved up to Administrative Executive Assistant in eleven months. The rest, as they say, is history. I‘ve worked with college, state, and federal entities, while aiding more entrepreneurs than I can count become successful (measured by jobs produced and dollars invested), worked for the largest real estate information services company in the country and now for the best adult novelty company out in our industry. Oh, did I forget to tell you my age – hmmmm, an oversight, I’m sure – fifty six this year.
C.J. Asher – What is your title and role with Sportsheets?
Joanne Queenin – I am the Executive Administrator. An office manager of sorts and then some. I manage the phones, the internet, the websites – project manager, add new products, update pages, posts and blogs, refresh sliders and approve our partner requests – as well as the front office, the servers, and the backups; I am the onsite IT person – who then calls people who really know what they’re doing, my IT guys, when I can’t fix it. I do the PR, the marketing and take care of all advertising contracts. I support our President, Julie Stewart and our COO, Ed Hayes. And much, much, much more.
C.J. Asher – Tell me about Sportsheets, what types of products you sell, its history, etc.
Joanne Queenin – Sportsheets was birthed from the mind of our Owner, Founder and CEO, Tom Stewart. When the Letterman show aired for those overseas, in 1985, Tom was a helicopter pilot in the Marine Corps. Twenty one of the twenty two guys in his squadron were single and the other one married. The talk was all sex all the time with them… go figure! When they were at the officer’s club one night, somebody said, “… did you see the David Letterman show where he jumped onto a Velcro® wall, and he stuck?” Then, between beers, the guys started saying: “Hey that’d be kind of cool to stick your girlfriend to a Velcro wall and have sex.” They all laughed and thought what if “you could stick her upside down.” The idea became a rolling inside joke for the boys that never died. After talking about it – constantly – six months later there was so much interest in this thing that Tom thought that it was an idea worth pursuing. Some sort of a Velcro® thing that you could stick your partner to. After bringing their girlfriends in on the joke, most of them said they wouldn’t mind doing that as long as they could get away. That one comment really stuck with Tom. He bought a sewing machine and taught himself how to sew. Then he developed the Velcro® bed sheets, handcuffs, and anchor pads accessories. The Sportsheet™ is still one of our top sellers today – all these years later.
C.J. Asher – What first made you decide to work in the adult novelty industry?
Joanne Queenin – I worked for a Real Estate information technology company for nine years and they decided to shut down their California marketing department, so we all got laid off. A consulting friend of mine mentioned that she knew of an adult novelty company that could benefit from my talents and experience. After a few months, the rest as they say, is history. I have been here for almost five years now and still love it.
C.J. Asher – How has working in your industry impacted your personal and professional life? Do family and friends know what you do and are they supportive of it?
Joanne Queenin – If you ask my mom or my brother, I’m in the entertainment industry. If you ask their friends, they love what I do and let out huge roars of laughter and ask if I get a discount.
C.J. Asher – What’s the most stressful part of your job?
Joanne Queenin – Wow – interesting question. Dealing with those who settle for mediocrity. I hate it when people settle. We can be so much better with very little extra effort. I don’t appreciate anyone who comes in and just puts time in. It’s mindboggling – you’re just part of the problem at that point.
C.J. Asher – What’s your best-selling product, and what makes it so popular?
Joanne Queenin – Our best-selling product is our Under The Bed Restraint System. It’s also the most knocked-off product we have. What makes are products so popular? I can answer in three words – quality, function, design. Our products are well designed and built to last. We are so confident of the quality that we have a limited lifetime warranty on all our Sportsheets products. We all believe in our products.
C.J. Asher – Who is your typical client base?
Joanne Queenin – Everyone who has sex is our base. From those new to fantasy play who like to ‘sexperiment’ to those who are experienced at fantasy play and are brand conscious, to those who are very experienced at bondage and are moving up from our Sportsheets products. They are leather lovers and our Edge line is perfect for them.
C.J. Asher – How do you feel that novelty items help couples to enhance their sexual activity and their relationships?
Joanne Queenin – Keeping Couples Connected®… By this we mean that if a couple is using our products it can help keep couples together emotionally and sexually as well as literally keeping them “tied up.” We also are committed to making innovative, high quality products that work. The products do what we say they’ll do.
C.J. Asher – Where can customers go to purchase your products?
Joanne Queenin – They can go to our website at http://www.Sportsheets.com and locate a store near them or they can order direct from us.
C.J. Asher – What sets your company apart from other companies in the adult novelty market?
Joanne Queenin – We are the only company to bring a Good, Better, Best model to our customers so that they can bring these choices to their retailers. Good being Sex&Mischief, high quality but basic features, well-constructed, beginner friendly with 90% of the line under $20. Better is our Sportsheets line with upgraded materials, extra features and expandability (interchangeable with other Sportsheets products). Best is our Edge line, superior materials with premium features and increased durability. In car speak – it’s the Honda Fit, Accord and Acura.
C.J. Asher – What are your favorite industry-related events?
Joanne Queenin – I love ANME. It’s the show I get to go to and help out at. It’s where I see all my industry friends and do all my catching up. I love Val and Dee and so appreciate all their hard work to make each show a success.
C.J. Asher – What new and exciting products do you have coming out in the near future?
Joanne Queenin – You’ll have to stay tuned and come see us at ANME, CJ. We’ll have some surprises there for everyone but I’m not letting any cats out of the bag yet.
C.J. Asher – Tell me some of the compliments you’ve received from your customers.
Joanne Queenin – Our customers always praise us for our customer service. We answer the phones. There are no phone trees at Sportsheets. We go out of our way to make the experience a good one.
C.J. Asher – What nominations and awards have you received?
Joanne Queenin – In the past 4 years alone we’ve won…
· Xbiz 2016 Soft Bondage Line of the Year – Sexperiments by Sportsheets
· Xbiz 2016 Executive Award Winner – Julie Stewart, Businesswoman of the Year
· Tom Stewart inducted into StorErotica Hall of Fame, July 2015
· O Awards Outstanding Accessory Product Line for Women – Sportsheets Plus
· Xbiz 2015 BDSM Pleasure Products Company of the Year – Sportsheets
· StorErotica 2014 Award for Retail Education Campaign of the Year
· Adultex 2014 Best Bondage, Restraints, and Positioning Range – Sex & Mischief
· Xbiz 2014 Fetish Pleasure Product of the Year – Expandable Spreader Bar – Sportsheets
· Xbiz 2014 Best Pleasure Product Manufacturer- Sportsheets
· AVN 2014 Best Fetish Manufacturer- Sportsheets
· AVN 2014 Best Pleasure Product Manufacturer – Sportsheets
· eroFame 2013 EAN Erotix Award Fetish Company of the Year
· StorErotica 2013 Fetish Company of the Year- Sportsheets 2nd year in a row
· Xbiz 2013 Soft Bondage Line of the Year – Sex & Mischief, Sportsheets
· AVN 2013 Best Fetish Manufacturer – Sportsheets
· StorErotica 2012 Fetish Company of the Year- Sportsheets
· Xbiz 2012 Marketing Campaign of the Year- Sex & Mischief
· Xbiz 2012 Fetish Company of the Year- Sportsheets
· FSC 2012 Novelty Company of the Year- Sportsheets
· EAN- Erofame 2012 Best Marketing B2B Campaign- Sex & Mischief
· AdultEx 2012 Best Imagery Campaign- Sex & Mischief
· Xbiz 2012 BDSM Pleasure Company of the Year- Sportsheets
· Xbiz 2012 Fetish Company of the Year- Sportsheets
C.J. Asher – What social media sites can your customers follow you at?
Joanne Queenin – Customers can find us at:
Twitter – https://twitter.com/SportsheetsIntl
Facebook – https://www.facebook.com/sportsheets
Instagram – https://www.instagram.com/sportsheets