Does Sigmund Freud Need a Toy? A Sex Toy? Story of a Small Business.

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cute and that was enough. We found a silkscreen printer/toy manufacturer in upstate New York who could print it and stuff it. I wrote a tiny little booklet about how to conduct free self-analysis using the FreudToy, That justified the price. The booklet made people smile (and sometimes laugh).

2. I now had boxes and boxes of FreudToys lining my office (in my real life I was writing and producing corporate educational materials full time) so now, I thought, it was time to come up with a sales and marketing plan. I paid a friend to take some photographs. I created a tiny, tiny print ad. I broke my piggybank and found enough money to place ads in successive issues of The New Yorker. That was it. That was the plan.

But oddly enough it worked. After the first ad, orders started coming in – $24.95 plus shipping, checks only (remember, this was pre-Internet). My wife would come to my office at the end of the day and see a stack of envelopes on my desk. She would slit them open and collect the checks while I packed the dolls and got them ready for FedEx. My wife was delighted.  As a child, she had secretly yearned to own a candy store and take in nickel after nickel for small candies – this was as close as she was going to get.

She was so delighted that she started asking me what the next product in the FreudToy line was going to be. I didn’t know and hadn’t really given it much thought. So we thought about it. And over the years, together, we came up with a host of FreudToy products: Freudian Slips note pads, Freudian Slippers (bedroom slippers), The 50-Minute Watch, etc etc etc. Each product had a Freud theme, usually a Freud pun, and a cute little booklet that told you how to use it (my favorite booklet, for the Freudian Slippers, included the line, “Now you can really put your foot in it.”)

3. We made money, sometimes a lot more than I expected (I got one order for 5,000 Fifty Minute Watches from a pharmaceutical company – a gift to psychiatrists for a product launch). No, we did not get rich and move to Vienna.

Lessons learned

Lesson 1. Although the toys and products were cute, the smartest step we made was advertising in The New Yorker. We reached exactly the quirky, intellectual, funny people who would appreciate a FreudToy. And they bought it.

Lesson 2. Things went viral even before the internet. The New Yorker ads were seen by journalists at other publications (New York Times, Wall Street Journal) and they wrote little stories about FreudToy Inc. Sometimes REALLY little stories (the Journal put four or five lines at the bottom of page one as filler, and the next thing we knew, we had the order for 5000 watches). The newspaper stories got us more orders than the original ads.

Lesson 3. The people who buy from you once will buy from you again – we sent out very simple catalogues and that kept us going for well over 10 years. And eventually we even started a web site.

Lesson 4. When you start to tire of a business (at $24.95, you have to sell and ship a lot of stuff to make money), sell it to someone who is not tired. I had an offer from a medium-large but successful game distributor. I would have gotten a royalty. I said no. Big mistake.

The company just sort of petered out after that – we were busy doing other things and I didn’t have the know-how to make FreudToy Inc a larger company with an independent staff (i.e., someone else to open the envelopes).

Lesson 5. When you describe your product to a journalist as “Toys for adults,” and the journalist writes that in an article, expect to get a lot of calls from people who think you are selling sex toys – and with the name Freud, it sort of made sense they would think that.

Would I do it again? You bet. It was lots of fun. And people who never thought I was funny would say things like, “You’re making money on that? Hmmm.”

By the way, my BEST product idea never got made. Who knows? FreudToy Inc, may rise again.

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