Businesswoman of the Month: Shawna Scott, Owner, Sex Siopa
When she set up Ireland’s first health and design focused sex shop in 2012, the Seattle native worked day and night to make it a success. Now four years later, her well designed website and matter-of-fact blog have created a unique shopping experience that has customers returning for more.
Did you have a mentor starting out? I didn’t really have a proper business mentor; at the start it was a lot of hours and long nights working with my partner.
How did your career path lead you to opening Sex Siopa?
I visited a shop in Seattle to purchase a vibrator. I was so impressed with the business and how the staff made me feel so welcome and comfortable. I wanted to recreate something like that here in Ireland, but obviously I had to do it in an online space to make it affordable for me. I don’t have a business background, but I worked in healthcare retail, so that aspect of the job I knew really well. I love making my customers’ day and creating an experience that they can’t get anywhere else.
What’s the most important lesson you have learnt over the course of your career?
It’s much better to learn skills yourself, whether it is social media or SEO or writing content rather than paying someone else to do all that for you. It gives you a distinct advantage over other businesses because you know everything about your business literally inside and out.
Sex Siopa is purely an online business, why did you decide to go down that route?
While I think there is an element of some folks wanting to be discreet with their purchases, the reason I chose to have an online store was purely for convenience for all involved. It suits me, because it means I can work from home and travel to give talks or attend events when I need to. It’s also convenient to my customers, because not only do they not have to travel to Dublin to shop at Sex Siopa, they also don’t have to pay extra for the overheads that it would cost me to run a bricks and mortar store. I love being online for those reasons. The reality is I couldn’t afford premises in Dublin. Sadly, there are so many small businesses that are priced out of having a shop. But now that I’m online I absolutely love the freedom of it and wouldn’t have it any other way.
What qualities do you need to have to start a business?
Serious self awareness about what you want from your business – can it legitimately support you, etc – and a willingness to get stuck in and kiss your social life goodbye for the next few years.
You grew up in Washington state, are Irish people’s attitude to sex different to Americans, and if so, in what way?
Like anywhere it depends on where you go, and who you talk to in both places. I’ve actually found that Irish people are more liberal than they give themselves credit for.
What’s your best seller at Sex Siopa?
It changes when new toys are released but, at the moment, the We-Vibe Nova (a futuristic looking rabbit vibrator) is doing really well. It’s a fantastic toy that I can’t recommend enough to people!
What motivates you?
When I hear from customers who tell me that buying a toy from me has really helped to improve their sex lives, that always feels so good to hear. Also, being able to work at and build a business that I adore and can support myself with. That’s fantastic motivation.
What have been the highlights of your time at Sex Siopa?
Being recognised for the hard work I’ve put into the business, and being asked to speak at big places such as Kilkenomics Festival and Trinity’s Historical Society. Those have been major milestones.
What has been the biggest obstacle you’ve overcome?
I suffer from anxiety and take medication for it. Teaching myself to say “no” to work and to people when I need to has been a huge undertaking but very necessary. There’s loads of pressure put on women especially in business to do everything and to slay at everything. I had to learn that it’s okay to take time for myself sometimes.
Find Sex Siopa at www.sexsiopa.ie
or on Twitter, Instagram and Snapchat: SexSiopa