Dawn Phillips has put in three decades to founding and running her business, solo. But her Ball & Chain enterprise is anything but weighing her down.
More than 15 years in, Dawn Phillips is still running a one-woman operation.
Phillips founded Ball & Chain in October 2003, after 15 years working in adult retail.
“I have been very blessed, and I just love what I do,” says Phillips. “I continue to have a home-based business that is so very rewarding. I’m able to relax in the comfort of my home … where I can be the most creative. What’s better than that?”
Storerotica spoke with Phillips—whose Ball & Chain continues to thrive specializing in sex/romance and bachelorette party games and novelties—to discuss her business, Victoria’s Secret and the tectonic shift over the years of the adult retail industry.
SE: You’re still a one-woman operation, how have you seen your responsibilities grow over the 15 years?
DAWN: Yes, I’m still a one-woman show! My warehouse space has grown through the years and my inventory has grown larger. Responsibilities change from season to season and year to year. Some years I may create more new products and then I may be a bit busier than the year before or I pick up a new large account one year and lose another one the next. It’s definitely an unpredictable roller coaster of a business, but it’s fun and challenging. The fact is, you just don’t know what product is going to sell when you make it and that reflects everything with my business.
SE: How different does your time management look like now versus when you were starting out?
DAWN: The first two years were definitely slower as far as sales but back then I was very busy marketing and creating new products. The fact is, I don’t feel like things are too different now. I’m a little older and a lot wiser and my artwork has definitely gotten a lot better. I now have a full lineup of products and a large list of great distributors that do most of the marketing. I have slowed down with production of new items the past few years and I feel like I’m just coasting now, which is fine with me.
SE: With your specialty of sex/romance and bachelorette party games, where do you look to for innovation?
DAWN: From the beginning, it was about creating what was not offered in the industry at all. There were no packaged bachelorette games and the few couples sex games that existed just were not very women friendly. Sometimes I would be out shopping at Toys R Us and see a great game that was not created in an adult version and go home and create one; for example: Foreplay In a Row game or Mystery Sex Heart.
SE: Who is your sounding board for ideas before you propel them to sold products?
DAWN: I create all my ideas and the artwork layouts on my own. Sometimes something just may pop up in my head during the day or in a dream. I could see a font or packaging I like at the store and next thing you know, I’m creating something new. I also have my daughter Misty and a few close friends that give me their opinion on design choices when I ask. I did have a few years of what some may call, writer’s block, which was pretty darn frustrating for me. Sometimes life challenges can get in the way, family stress, illness, divorce, stuff like that can surely affect your creativity.
SE: What about your days working in adult retail prior to Ball and Chain inspired your passion for romance games? (e.g. Market demand, boring products or lack of variety, heartfelt passion?)
DAWN: The 15 years in retail was for sure my platform and inspiration. The market, plain and simply did not offer much of anything for games and bachelorette products back in the ’80s and even in 2003 when I started creating products. There were a few sex games and zero bachelorette games or novelties with bachelorette packaging. The sales girls at the time had to be creative and create something to sell to the customer so they could make a sale—such as, making a condom necklace or throwing some penis erasers in a jar and calling it pecker toss.
SE: Describe what it was like when Victoria’s Secret came knocking? What does a move like that do for the mainstream appeal of, and ease of access to adult products?
DAWN: In 2005, Victoria’s Secret approached a distributor of mine and wanted 10,000-plus of my I.O.U cards but in their own packaging. It was very exciting for both myself and my distributor. I’d like to say it helped get me into the mainstream market back then but it took a few more years. Even now, other than Spencer Gifts, you really don’t see my products on many shelves of the mainstream stores. I’m very grateful for the internet, my products can be found everywhere on there. Amazon and eBay are perfect examples, you can find anything on their sites.
SE: Between the 15 years before Ball and Chain and the 15 years since, how have you seen the adult retail landscape change? Both from the business and consumer perspective?
DAWN: Back then, you had to go to a retail store or home party to buy adult products and now you can buy at home online. I’m sure the retail stores feel the loss of consumers. Even when it comes to manufacturing now, it’s harder because those distributors and big home party companies that I use to manufacture products for are going direct overseas and making their own. As a manufacturer, you have to create something that no one else can recreate and that everyone wants which is very hard sometimes.
SE: What are your hopes for Ball and Chain in the next 15 years?
DAWN: I’d like to spend my next 15 years doing the same thing as I am doing now, working from home with my dogs at my feet. Creating more new products but still having quality time with my family and friends… life is way too short not to live it. I love my work and I love the people in the industry I work with. Ball & Chain has had its ups and downs over the years, but I hang in there through it all and I feel very blessed to have had this company and all the perks that come with it.