Maybe we needed to suffer the bad writing in 50 Shades of Grey to shake up the neighborhoods and to unshackle South African women from the virtual chastity belts they had rusting on their loins. Or was it the risqué advertising campaigns of Sexpo on our public roads? Maybe Sex in the City, Girls of the Playboy Mansion and other series in this same genre. Who knows? The good news is that the horses have bolted and that women are out to play and to play hard, unashamedly and as they should have been entitled to do a long time ago. No more “book club” excuses are needed to sneak out with the girls once a week for a little fun.
Cougar nights, sex-toy Tupperware-style home parties, lingerie fashion shows and an explosion of online and boutique shopping opportunities for stylish, sleek and multi-functional sex toys have become quite mainstream in a very short period of time. Behind this craze, driving the new sexual revolution in our country, are several sextrepreneurs who are keenly staying abreast of changing tastes, and also forging new tastes and fantasies for a female clientele that just does not seem to be getting enough now that they have finally shaken off the shackles of the past (well, some still enjoy the shackles, if you know what we mean!).
We sat down for a short interview with Jenni Holdsworth, owner of one of the more daring and innovative names in the
booming fantasy industry, to get an insider’s view. Bella Rouge is an upmarket boutique that primarily sells lingerie as well as other Lovestuff™ like toys, potions, fantasy outfits and other sensual that Jenni personally selects. Jenni launched in February 2010 and since then, the business has blossomed in every beautiful way.
PLAYBOY: Jenni, how did you get into this business? Surely you did not write “Sex Toy Giant” as an answer on your high school career guidance questionnaire?
JENNI: You know, I think it’s just always been in my blood, but I became absolutely certain when I went to an Ann Summers Party in my early 20s in the UK. It was in this little pub in Kent and I was with my sister, and I remember them playing this game where they held up a letter and the first person to shout out the dirtiest word starting with that letter won. Well when it came to Q and I was the only one to shout out “Quim” it was a sure sign of things to come.
PLAYBOY: Are you single and does owning a boutique with all these fun and fantasy accessories make you a hot date, or do men revert back to the old days of thinking of you as a “slut” because you are celebrating your female sexual side?
JENNI: Good question. There seems to be an idea out there that if you are a liberated, female entrepreneur in the sex industry, it would be impossible to also have a man. Well, I can gladly tell you that I am a newly-wed and am thoroughly enjoying the honeymoon phase that my husband and I are going through – and yes, I do mean it like that…
PLAYBOY: What was the gap that you saw… Stop it! Ok, what was the opportunity you saw in the market that got you started?
JENNI: Bella Rouge was created with women in mind. We needed a place where we could shop for all our naughty things without coming away feeling dirty and as if the sales men’s eyes had just undressed us. Women are tactile creatures. We like to touch, smell, taste and that is why all of the items on display in our stores have to be open and charged and working. We made a clear decision to only employ female staff. I’m not saying men can’t do the job. In fact I had an excellent male salesman at a similar shop I went to in London – we just find women more comfortable. That’s the feedback that I’ve had from my clientele, which by the way is made up of both men and women.
PLAYBOY: Has the business taken shape as you anticipated when you started out?
JENNI: We could not have imagined how much unmet demand has been sitting frustrated (yes, there I go again,) out there. Two years down the line, we have our sexy thumbs in lots of delicious pies. We do ladies nights, workshops, couple’s parties, bachelorette parties, divorce parties – just about any kind of party you want as long as we can show you our toys. We put a strong emphasis on education, because at the end of the day, knowledge is king and we like kings in our beds! We also believe in everybody walking away feeling like they’ve had a valuable experience…
PLAYBOY: May we say “fully satisfied”? And, how does a party work? Can anybody do one?
JENNI: Yes, you got me – fully satisfied means there is no charge to the Hostess for any of our parties, and there are fantastic opportunities to earn extra cash for people who want to become a Bella Rouge Party Organizer. We also organize any extras that our hostesses may be looking for – pole dancers, naughty cakes and cupcakes… And, we are affiliated with the sexiest male dancer company in South Africa called Pulse. Ladies should do themselves a favor and look these boys up. They are simply delectable – and they know how to move!
PLAYBOY: And what is next? Surely there are only so many variations on the theme before one has exhausted them all? Maybe that is why bored Englishmen invented romance?
JENNI: You are so wrong. Can you count past infinity? We are expanding in lots of exciting ways. Our new brand, Bella Rouge Classic, has its first store in Umhlanga, Durban. In fact, it’s already over a year old and is doing very well. Bella Rouge Classic is a more mall- friendly brand. It focuses mainly on lingerie and lotions and potions, though it does still have its enticing love stuff section in the back. For people who want to get into the industry with us, we do a Naughty Nookie™ deal for anyone that fancies themselves an entrepreneur. We supply them at wholesale prices and they get a fun little cupboard to display their goods. And, of course, our Party Network is growing on a monthly basis.
PLAYBOY: Ok, give us your sales pitch.
JENNI: So I guess that’s all I can fit in for now…
PLAYBOY: …which I hope is what your fully satisfied customers often say to their partners!
JENNI: Ha ha. Touche. Ok, if you’d like to know more or want to experience the Bella Rouge Shopping experience, please give us a shout. We would be delighted to meet you.
0860 23 55 27
Published in Playboy South Africa February 2013