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23Feb

Good vibrations: Life after advertising takes Carrie Martz into $15B adult-toy industry

BizJournal

Carrie Martz is grabbing the bull by the horns in a new venture after retiring from a Scottsdale advertising agency she ran for more than three decades.

Martz has formed a new company: Clean Light Laboratories LLC.

She is developing and manufacturing a new product line called UVEE which charges and cleans sex toys via ultraviolet rays. Yes, those kinds of toys.

Martz says she has approximately $100,000 worth of pre-orders after attending the AVN Adult Entertainment last month in Las Vegas. She said manufacturing of the UVEE cleaning stations will start in China in the coming weeks, and she hopes to make the first deliveries of the products in July.

“I had two working prototypes at the Vegas show,” said Martz, who for years ran the Martz Agency. “We got great feedback.”

Martz said adult toys are a $15 billion industry with a 30 percent growth rate. She said that for 35 years she helped others market and advertise their products, but now she’s the one behind the product development and manufacturing wheel.

So, how did an advertising executive and grandmother not only get involved in an adult industry but also look to create something she said brings innovation to a very lucrative sector?

Martz said she actually came across ultraviolet cleaners for toothbrushes and baby pacifiers when her daughter, Brooke O’Connor, brought up the idea of creating the same kind of cleaning unit for toys.

That was last summer. Martz has been working with a microbiologist with Harvard credentials in Boston to test bacteria levels and a manufacturing expert in China to set up production there.

Martz also conducted focus groups with women on how to design and make the charging and cleaning stations discrete and demur. “They do look a little like Chanel boxes,” Martz said. The black boxes also lock for added privacy.

Clean Light is looking to secure U.S. patents for its station. Martz said she also expects to seek patents in other countries.

One of her cleaning stations holds three toys and another holds one. The stations are priced at $179.99 and $99.99, respectively.

She’s also looking at developing more mainstream UV cleaning stations for massagers and medical devices. Her goal is to get some of those in retail stores such as Target, CVS and Rite-Aid and the latter in hospitals and doctor’s offices.

It wouldn’t be the first time a technology or application developed for an adult-oriented business ended up with mainstream applications. A number of technology and video applications used in workplaces and by media companies got their start in the adult sector.

Martz retired from the Martz Agency last March. Billionaire businessman and GoDaddy founder Bob Parsons bought the Scottsdale agency in 2013. It’s now called Big Yam, the Parsons Agency. Martz said Parsons is not an investor in Clean Light/UVEE.

Martz said she’s invested six figures into the new company, but she wasn’t specific about the amount. She said she didn’t want to ask others about investing until her business model looked viable.

“I funded it myself,” she said.

Martz said her prototypes look to clean and charge toys in five to 10 minutes — and get rid of 99 percent of bacteria.

“It needs to stand up,” Martz said of making sure her product claims are accurate. She said she hopes her team can get their findings and technology published in medical journals.

Right now, Martz said most adult toys are cleaned via soaps and gels or putting them in the dishwasher or boiling water. That creates issues for electronic devices and can degrade the fabric or composites of others, she said.

Martz said most women keep their toys hidden away in a drawer where they also are exposed to dust mites and other debris.

“I haven’t seen anything like this before,” said Kara Spitzkeit, a Florida-based blogger who analyzes adult products.

Spitzkeit said she would need to learn more about the ultraviolet technology before recommending it over “traditional sex toy cleaners.”

Martz acknowledged that it’s not always easy to talk to people about her latest venture and attending an adult-industry expo in Vegas was eye-opening.

She said it was an interesting endeavor to travel with test products in her carry-on bags and luggage when flying to Hong Kong.

But she also learned about innovations in an industry that has more revenue than the National Football League, more movie revenue than Hollywood and accounts for wide swaths of Internet traffic.

A report by research firm IBISWorld found adult retail stores in the U.S. are a $1 billion industry. Martz said she is looking at taking her products to Germany, one of the largest markets for the adult industry after the U.S., Australia, China and other Asian markets.

She also is working on an e-commerce site.

Martz cites a survey showing one in five women between ages 24 and 50 say they have used a toy. The advertising executive turned adult entrepreneur also sees health benefits in maintaining a healthy sex life.

“It keeps you younger,” she said.

Mike Sunnucks writes about residential and commercial real estate, government, law, sports business and workplace issues.

 

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