The industry has evolved since we opened our online doors 7 years ago. "Green" is no longer niche, which we see as something to celebrate.
Today is a big day for us. We’re announcing the official shutdown of our e-commerce site and sister business ecosex.ca, which will be accepting its last sales on May 23rd. We’d like to share with you a bit about the seven-year evolution of ecosex in the hopes you will join us in celebrating what we’ve accomplished and the new direction we’re headed!
In 2007 when we opened our brick-and-mortar Red Tent Sisters store on the Danforth in Toronto’s east end we had no idea where our business would eventually lead us. Inspired by Venus Envy, a feminist bookstore in Halifax that also sells sex toys and menstrual cups, we placed our first order and began to pull toys from their packages to display on our shelves. In doing so we couldn’t help but notice a funky smell emanating from many of the toys we had purchased. This led us to do some investigating.
Our research uncovered that sex toys are considered “novelty” items (i.e., not meant for actual use) and as such companies are not obligated to disclose ingredients.
Upon further digging we discovered that most toys are full of phthalates and other toxic ingredients. Considering where these toys were going and how they were being used, this didn’t strike us as a very ideal scenario.
Given that our mother had recently been diagnosed with estrogen-dependent breast cancer and Amy was spending time lobbying against plastic toys and bottles out of concern for her new daughter’s health, promoting toxic sex toys really didn’t seem very congruent with our values or our health goals!
We began changing our orders and requesting better-made products from our wholesalers. Amy’s work teaching Eco-Contraception helped put us on the radar for environmentally-friendly and body-safe birth control. Before long we were being asked to give talks on eco-friendly approaches to sexuality. Shortly thereafter we had the idea for ecosex. We loved the name and the concept, and felt passionately about the education we were providing about this topic.
In fact, we even began some political advocacy asking for stricter regulations on these products and proper disclosure of contents.
This garnered us some press which was incredibly helpful in spreading our message and building a community of people who shared our concerns. Within a few short years we began to see major changes in the industry. Finding phthalate-free toys made out of sustainable materials became easier. Most wholesalers began carrying at least a few lines of “green” products. We were happy to see consumer consciousness increasing and consumer demand with it.
However, increased demand also leads to increased competition and we saw that too. Larger, mainstream companies began offering what we were offering, but they were able to do so faster and cheaper. It didn’t help matters that our passion is for helping people, not for selling stuff, and so we frequently spent long periods of time with our customers talking them out of buying products whenever we perceived that a sale might only provide a Band-Aid solution to deeper issues.
In the last couple of years, sales have been declining steadily. This reflects what is happening on a macro level with smaller e-commerce companies, but also the fact that our work at ecosex is no longer niche – something we see as a good thing!
From a personal perspective this decline probably also reflects the energy we are putting into ecosex. Our real passion is education and one-on-one contact. After our storefront closed it became increasingly difficult for Kim (the manager of ecosex) to experience that sense of connection with customers and her work began to gravitate towards private coaching services. This year Kim launched her Wholehearted Lover program on the heels of her popular Confidence-Building Secrets sale in February.
In working with new clients through this program it became clear to Kim that this is where she experiences her “zone of genius” as we like to call it (a term from one of our favourite books, The Big Leap). Kim has been studying with some of the top sexuality experts in North America and has plans to complete her Sex Coach Certification later this year.
We’ve been introduced to some amazing people through ecosex – the couple behind Happy Valley toys, the mother-daughter team who make Hathor, and the Toronto folks who blend Lover’s Oil. And of course, there are our lovely customers, many of whom have been with us from day one and have taken the time to write and share their stories.
We’re so grateful that ecosex helped forge those connections.
There are other sex-positive online stores (like the co-op run by our good friends at Come As You Are) who carry the products we used to sell. If you'd like to continue to "vote" with your dollar, we encourage you to support them, or other independent values-based businesses (such as Good for Her). These companies, far from being simply purveyors of goods, offer quality education and community advocacy in addition to their excellent custom service, fair pricing and efficient delivery.
You can read the full details of our closure (including where to find your favourite products going forward) on our Press Release.
For now, we want to thank our community for all of your support. We look forward to deepening our relationship with you over the coming years as we evolve to best serve the vision of Red Tent Sisters.
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Kim & Amy Sedgwick love to discuss sex, periods, and all the other things we’re not supposed to talk about. The co-founders of Red Tent Sisters and ecosex.ca, they’ve been featured in every major Canadian news outlet and have become a trusted resource for women seeking natural (effective!) birth control, a more joyful sex life, and an empowered journey to motherhood.