(Note: This story appears in the December issue of STOREROTICA Magazine)

Twelve-year-old Andy Smith had a Christmas to remember. His parents bought him an electronics project kit. And while that may seem a notch below a Red Ryder BB gun, the kit set Smith on a path for the rest of his life.

“(The kit) consisted of lots of dials and amazing-looking electronic components that you could connect together with wires,” Smith recalls. “I spent many an hour creating flashing lights and all sorts of other circuits from the guide book. From then onwards, there was only one thing that I wanted to do for a career: electronics. There is so much that you can create from a bunch of electronic components and a few well-chosen workshop tools.”

Despite tripping house fuses more than once thanks to his tinkering, Smith didn’t get into too much trouble with his parents because his work meant he was off the streets and away from possibly nefarious elements. His first job when he left school at 16 was making funfair decorative lighting controllers and sequencers, “which I found extremely fulfilling as you get the instant gratification of seeing the results of your work.

“Even now when developing new products, I get a real buzz, excuse the pun, from the conceptual stages right through to product release,” Smith adds. “I guess my problem is that running a business is a distraction from what I really love doing, and that’s saying something when you are in an industry as great as ours.”

That’s because Smith has leveraged his youthful love of electronics into a vocation in adult retail as the founder of Cyrex. Cyrex was founded in 2001 with the intention of offering a unique sexual experience to both couples and individuals, regardless of their gender or sexual preferences. Capitalizing off Smith’s proficiency in electronics, Cyrex, and its subsidiary brand ElectraStim specialize in erotic electro-stimulation (commonly known as electrostim or e-stim).

For this Storerotica Interview, we spoke with Smith about converting his electronics passion into a conduit for mass pleasure.

SE: You furthered your knowledge in electronic hardware, firmware and software development at University of Hertfordshiren (in the UK). What did you have in mind that you wanted to build upon your experience?

SMITH: Furthering my education within my chosen career was certainly not essential, but at the time it was the right thing to do. I had been working for the same company for so long that my feet were getting itchy and needed a new challenge, so I decided to ask the boss if I could do a part-time degree in electronic engineering. The boss agreed and at the age of 36 I started a part-time honours degree course in Electrical and Electronic Engineering. Three years later, I got my degree and the boss gave me more money as he knew that I was now worth more in the jobs market.

In all honesty, I had no intentions of working for someone else but he didn’t need to know that of course. My depth of understanding of the world of electronics engineering certainly grew considerably and I made some lifelong friends, but I don’t think that the qualification changed the course of my career. I guess what it did do is give me the confidence to meet new challenges head-on and not be afraid to dip into the unknown once in a while. I am a firm believer in the saying “fortune favors the brave” and sometimes reflect on past decisions and think “wow, that was brave” or “wow, I must have been crazy”, either way, I’m happy with where I am and what we have all achieved here at ElectraStim HQ.

SE: Of the work you did at Eastwoods Medical and Ferraris Medical, what prepared you the most for the field of electrostim?

EM60-E Electro Stimulation Pack

SMITH: As an electronics design engineer at Ferraris, I was involved in the design and development of an array of medical devices. Initially I was involved in the design of TENS machines (transcutaneous electrical nerve stimulator) which are widely used for the non-drug treatment of pain. From there I was also heavily involved in developing EMS products (electronic muscle stimulators) specifically for the rehabilitation of the pelvic floor muscles of women suffering from stress or urge incontinence. My background therefore only prepared me from an engineering perspective; the rest, such as running a business and diving into a new market, was all new and pretty scary at first.

SE: What was your experience, if any, with adult retail? Did you consider continuing electrostim work in the medical field vs retail?

SMITH: Before ElectraStim, I had little to no experience in the world of adult retail and it was probably the hardest part for me to conquer. Coming purely from an engineering background with no form of sales or marketing experience it was difficult for me to talk openly about cock rings, butt plugs, dildos, etc. Fortunately, folks in our industry are generally very laid back and helpful so my confidence soon grew. Part of my old life that I wanted to get away from was all the paperwork that came with medical device certification, so developing stimulators for the medical market again is not something that I have given a great deal of consideration. The adult novelty market allows us to introduce new and fun ways to interact with sex toys which is far more appealing as a design and manufacturing company.

SE: How and why did you start Cyrex? When you were founding the company, what was the state of the electrostim market in your opinion?

EM3130- Viper

SMITH: I finished my degree at 39 years old and yet again was looking for a new challenge. Part of my work at Ferraris Medical was to help manage clinical trials as part of the medical compliance and to prove that new products and their treatment were effective. The trials were only intended to obtain data relating to the success of the treatment, but the feedback I got was more than I bargained for. To my utter surprise, it turned out that many of the users were actually being “turned on” by the sensations provided by the stimulator and therefore looked forward to doing their treatment in the privacy of their bedroom. This, in turn, meant that the results of the trial were very positive from a clinical perspective leading to improved pelvic floor tone with the added side effect of stronger orgasms. This was my inspiration to start a business of my own in the adult novelty market designing and manufacturing innovative e-stim products. After a little market research, I discovered that there were already two or three companies in this niche market but I felt that there was room for another manufacturer with a slightly wider appeal. The companies already in existence were very much catering for the hardcore and fetish side of the market, and whilst I acknowledge that e-stim is in a fetish category, there was plenty of scope to introduce a product to appeal to those on the more adventurous side of vanilla street.

SE: For people that may think of electrostim as nothing more than a kinky fetish, can you talk about its medical benefits as well?

SMITH: As they say in TV ads, “This is the science bit.” As mentioned, my background is in the field of medical electronic product design and in particular the development of electro-stimulators for the rehabilitation of the levator ani muscles. This group of three muscles hold the pelvic visceral organs in position which form a type of sphincter around the vagina in women and the anal canal in both men and women. The pelvic visceral plays an integral part in urethral and rectal control as well as sexual function. In order to provide adequate support to these control organs it is important that the levator ani muscles stay strong and healthy. Just like any other muscle in the body, it is possible for this muscle group to become weak, and as a result, provide insufficient support to the pelvic visceral.

Jack Socket E-Stim Stroker XL

Voluntary contraction of these muscles should be carried out regularly in order to keep them strong. It is possible, however, for them to become so weak that voluntary control of the muscles is not possible, leading to stress incontinence (urine leakage during coughing for instance) or urge incontinence (the feeling of needing to urinate) in women. This is where e-stim sex toys have a very beneficial side effect as clinching or pulsing stimulation patterns applied to jiggle balls or g-spot accessories will make the levator ani muscles contract involuntarily, and in doing so, strengthen them over time to a point where self control is again achieved and can be gradually built up using conventional methods. Similarly, anal e-stim accessories will help rectal muscles in men and women stay strong. We do not make medical claims about the use of our products as that would mean that we would have to classify them as medical devices, so these nice little benefits come for free!

SE: What’s the biggest misconception people have when it comes to electrostim?

SMITH: We are all raised by our parents or care-givers with an inherent awareness of what is dangerous or bad for us. Whether it be hot water, broken glass, sharp knives or electricity, we all acknowledge and avoid these hazards from a young age. It is therefore no surprise that when words such as “electricity” and “shocks” are used in association with a sex toy that folks can turn and run for the hills.

However, the fact is that although electrostim involves the use of electrical currents, they should be very controllable to the point where they create very light and gentle tingles at the lower end of the intensity range. If words like “shocks” are used within this niche category, people will understandably think that the products are intended to appeal to those that want be hurt and not necessarily to those that want to dabble with a little more erotic fetish play. This can lead to a general misconception that the e-stim category is just about pain, which negates the vast effort that we put into making ElectraStim a controllable and interactive erotic experience with unique and refined sensations developed over almost two decades.

SE: What are Cyrex’s most popular products?

SMITH: All of our products are popular within their own fanbase but if we are talking about volume then the ElectraStim Flick and Flick Duo stimulators are the most popular. The Axis and Flux however, are very popular amongst those with a deeper pocket and have a taste for more techie products as these offer interactive features such as motion sensing, proximity and audio play.

As far as accessories go there is still demand for the traditional metal items, but our conductive Silicone Noir and more recent Silicone Fusion lines are the most popular as they have more interesting asymmetrical designs made from familiar, soft-feel premium silicone materials. Our adjustable Prestige Loops and Jack Socket are also top-selling cock-play items.

“[There is] a general misconception that the e-stim category is just about pain, which negates the vast effort that we put into making ElectraStim a controllable and interactive erotic experience with unique and refined sensations developed over almost two decades.” — Andy Smith

SE: In your almost two decades of adult electrostim, how have you seen the category evolve? What has been the biggest area of improvement when it comes to these products?

Prestige Loops Trio

SMITH: Since the conception of ElectraStim we have certainly seen a lot of large manufacturers enter this category as well as some other companies specialising in this niche. The good thing is that no one has dropped out over the years, so clearly there is enough growth in this category to support everyone involved. Of course, there is a wide spectrum of quality and price points, which helps provide some difference between competing brands.

Our first stimulator back in 2001 had six intensity levels and three patterns and proved to be so popular that we soon upgraded the specification. Looking back now, it was an extremely basic stimulator that used an off-the-shelf plastic enclosure that we drilled the holes in and was powered by a nine-volt block battery similar to the ones in household smoke alarms. All of our products since 2012 have bespoke ergonomic enclosures and rechargeable lithium batteries making them good for the environment as well as cheaper to own. From a technology perspective, our Axis and Flux stimulators incorporate high-speed, 32-bit peripheral-rich processors which are user-updatable, enabling us to do so much more in the future with features that are yet to be unlocked.

E-stim accessories have also evolved, including the introduction of conductive silicone and rubber. Whereas there will always be a place for traditional metal items, softer materials make this fetish category more accessible to the curious sex-toy consumer looking to dabble with electro-play for the first time. The sensations provided by silicone or rubber accessories are also softer than metal which suits the newbie market.

SE: What gets you the most excited about the future of electrostim? About Cyrex?

SMITH: The general direction that sex toy technology is heading is very exciting. We have just recently had a patent granted for some of the contactless technology that is incorporated in our premium stimulator, Axis, and we are constantly working on making our products stand out from the crowd through innovative, in-house, product design.

Having premium e-stim controllers that are now firmware updatable allows us to roll out new features and improve existing ones for months and years to come. We even have our own branded update app to simplify the process. We are currently working on a very exciting and major update for Axis that will take e-stim couples play to a new level.

For more information on Cyrex/ElectraStim, visit us.electrastim.com.