This is new. This has never been done before by a company like mine. This is a proud moment for Passion Parties, and for me personally.
My Passion Journey began in November 2009 when I attended a Passion Party for the first time. I had already done some research on the company and decided I would like to be a consultant, but I had some questions and reservations. My first words to my now-sponsor were, “Your Strapon sucks and your Double is completely unusable. When I become a consultant, how do I change that?” The look on her face was priceless. She wasn’t sure how to respond, though she recovered quickly and gave me confidence that I could, in fact, create that change.
As time went on, I made a few suggestions (that weren’t taken super seriously), my business grew, and I advanced in leadership to Executive Director – the highest leadership title in the company. In September 2012, I attended my first Passion Parties leadership conference. This conference would mark the beginning of a major shift.
Our CEO at the time was a phenomenal woman named Joanne Harvie. She’s currently President of Passion Parties Canada, and still heavily involved in the company. She stood up on stage and made a statement that got loud cheers. (This was actually the second time I heard the statement. The first was at an event called Passion Power held a couple of months prior in Kansas City.) Her statement indicated that we are a company focused on strengthening relationships, “no matter your sexual persuasion.” (In her defense, she’s Canadian. There’s a very different view on sexuality in Canada than there is in the United States. So, I don’t fault her.)
At many of our events, we use a Parking Lot system – Write your questions on a stickie note and put it on a board up at the front to be addressed after the session. So, of course, while the crowd was cheering, I wrote a Parking Lot stickie requesting that the CEO of the company refrain from using “persuasion” with regard to sexuality and that our company refrain from publicly using “persuasion.” It was addressed at the end of the session and the entire room was filled with confusion. Very few people understood why that one word was such a big deal.
So, I stood up. And got embarrassingly emotional. I made a point about how “persuasion” sounds as though someone could be persuaded in one direction or another, and encouraged anyone who didn’t understand how that’s impossible to discuss it with me individually. I made a point about representing a company that doesn’t represent me. I’m a consultant for a company focused on healthy sexuality and relationships, and yet my sexuality and relationship is nowhere in the catalog or other materials. I swelled with tears. I blubbered. And I’m sure I turned every shade of red imaginable. Here I was, a brand new leader, telling the CEO of our company that something is majorly wrong – in front of all the other leaders with vastly more experience than me. Then people started applauding and cheering. Not as many. Some didn’t get it. For many, though, a switch had been flipped.
Once the session ended, several people came up and thanked me for what I said and for having the courage to say it. I went up to my room to get ready for that evening’s dinner, and my phone rang. It was another consultant. She was sitting with Joanne at the bar. Joanne wanted to meet with me. Could I be down at the bar in 15 minutes?
Let me tell you, when the CEO of your company requests a meeting with you, you don’t say no.
I hurried to finish getting ready for dinner and rushed down to meet them. Joanne had an idea. Something she had been working on for awhile, and she wanted my help. It was a brochure called “Just For Her” and would cater to women outside of heteronormative relationships. We chatted. She asked me to submit an email to her with product suggestions. So I began some hardcore research.
I scoured the Internet for product reviews, found out what materials certain manufacturers use, asked questions of my friends and clientele, and I sent a very long list. I then began talking with a fabulous woman named Barb, who was newly hired to head up our product development. After several rounds of emails and phone calls, we had a brochure. The theme for that year was “It’s About” – “It’s About Passion,” “It’s About Love,” It’s About Summer,” etc. – so rather than being called “Just For Her,” it was called “It’s About Her” and it looked like this:
What a huge step in the right direction!
It got some backlash. Some people didn’t understand it and why it was important. And corporate didn’t provide any training on how to use it. So, I did a lot of guest spots on team calls to help. A few months passed. A new year began. We got a new theme: “Sexy Is” and a new brochure: “Sexy Is Her.” It looked like this:
In between, I sent brochures to every lesbian and bisexual woman I could find and asked for feedback. I asked for suggestions at my parties. And based on that information, I continued to chat with Barb and I began visiting stores. I purchased a couple of items to take with me to our 2013 leadership conference in Minneapolis, in order to more accurately describe shapes, curves, angles, textures, and consistencies. My suggestions were taken and the products in “Sexy Is Her” were a little better. Improvements were happening. I was elated.
Then more confusion hit as corporate started discussing the brochure as “something for ALL women.”
Wait. What? Then what’s the point? And why do we have a full line catalog? What’s the difference?
Nobody knew how to use it. Corporate wasn’t helping. I couldn’t keep the field focused on this alone. Sales of the brochure declined. They stopped printing it. It was gone.
Then something happened. In August 2014, Joanne began to bring in a new management team, because, let’s face it, one woman can’t run an entire company on her own forever. She needed help. She hired Dan Murphy as President and he sent out a letter to the field of some of his ideas for focal points in the company’s growth. Among the list was the LGBTQ community.
Dan and his team got acclimated to their new positions. A couple of initiatives rolled out. And several of us top leaders were given the opportunity to be coached by Suzie, our new Vice President of Sales. We chatted. She helped me grow as a leader. And I brought up Dan’s letter and the fact that no mention of the LGBTQ community had been made since. I asked why. Initially, she met me with hesitation, but quickly understood the importance and took it to Dan. A short time later, he and I engaged in conversation on Facebook and I was asked to chat again with Barb. More products. More ideas. More improvement.
We have a contest called Passion In Paradise. Each year, corporate gives us the opportunity to earn an all-expense-paid trip for one or two. A luxury vacation. Free. This year, I earned the trip for two and had the joy of taking my partner to a swank resort in Cancun. One evening on the trip, she and I were headed to get a pre-dinner cocktail and I heard my name. We turned to see Dan sprinting over to us. He asked if I had some time available the following day to meet with him and go over the new LGBTQ initiative. My response, “I’m on vacation! Of course I have time! When do you want to meet and where?” We scheduled to meet at the coffee shop the following morning at 10am.
Again, when the CEO of your company requests a meeting with you, you don’t say no.
(Dan was promoted to CEO when Joanne stepped down in March. I left that part out.)
We met. He showed me the plans for the new brochure. It has a rainbow! It has a lesbian couple in it and a gay male couple! He showed me some of the products that were in consideration for inclusion in the catalog, and they were amazing! It was slated to launch at the beginning of June, in coordination with Pride month, and a big push would happen all summer.
And then yesterday happened.
It launched a couple of days early.
A webinar announced the campaign. An email outlined all of the new products. We have all new marketing materials geared toward MY people. Finally, my sexuality, my relationship, and my community is represented by my company. The response from the field has been unbelievable.
Dan and Suzie have asked me to do a corporate training webinar on the importance of the brochure, the products inside, and how to use this information at parties. With a rainbow on the cover, there’s no question of what the brochure is and who it’s for. With corporate support, there will be no question of how to use it effectively.
I call it my Passion Journey because there is no end point. Everything in this business builds upon itself. Business growth and personal growth go hand in hand. Though my goal of helping to open Passion Parties up to the LGBTQ community is coming to fruition, this portion of my Journey has just begun. If you would like a copy of the brochure, I’m happy to send you one. Please check out the products on my website. Though I’ve done a lot of research, and corporate has done a lot of research, regarding products to include, there is always room for improvement. I welcome all feedback you may have on how to make this initiative better for the community and more successful for the company.