In the back of the Nooky Box headquarters near downtown Missoula, storeroom shelves are stocked with dozens of sleek pink vibrators, bottles of Sliquid personal lubricant and other elegantly designed sex toys. Company founder Meg Ross hopes it's enough to keep up with a recent surge in demand.
Ross first introduced the Nooky Box during a launch party at Imagine Nation Brewing in January. The subscription service offers boxes filled with high-quality adult-themed products and novelties, as well as short erotic stories that subtly instruct how to use the toys. For instance, one story describes a couple flirting with a feather tickler: "She had the most tantalizing look in her eyes and I turned to see the feathers trailing up my forearm."
Ross says running the business has been "a whirlwind" from the start, but interest really heated up after Slate profiled the company last week. Her customers—mostly women—doubled overnight, although Ross declines to cite exact numbers so as to not entice competitors.
"All of a sudden my phone goes, 'ding ding ding,' and I go, 'Whoa, what's happening?'" Ross says.
For the most part, Ross says people are receptive to Nooky Box, although selling sex toys sometimes raises eyebrows—like when she first approached banks about financing her venture.
"I guess within the sex industry in general, they said that there's purchases that are made and the wife finds out and something's sent back," Ross says. "I'm like, in this particular case I don't think we're talking about the same things. This isn't porn that you're denying that you're watching. This is a box of stuff that you're getting for yourself or as a gift to somebody."
Ross is also looking at ways to keep customers involved and interacting with Nooky Box, such as erotic story submission contests. More sex education resources, forums and discussions are also coming to the Nooky website. Ross says it's all part of the modern-day business plan, which requires selling more than just a product.
"It's a way to involve the customer in the experience, rather than it just be a thing you bought," Ross says.
Ross sometimes swaps advice with other e-commerce entrepreneurs, such as Patrick Claytor, owner of Quilty Box. The 2-year-old Missoula-based subscription service offers monthly shipments of quilting supplies and sewing notions to a "99 percent female" international customer base, Claytor says. Boxes might include a spray bottle of artisanal scented fabric treatments or special quilt patterns by popular fabric design companies.
Claytor says the products offered by Quilty Box and Nooky Box might be quite different, but they have similar end goals.
"The business model is what we have in common," Claytor says. "We're both trying to get inspiration to people, teach people new techniques, and get them to step outside their comfort zone."