The founder of a member-only sex club, Killing Kittens, put females first in a male-dominated industry by enabling safe spaces for explorative women all over the world.
Sayle has created a safe space for explorative women all over the world, and takes the lead in the female adult sex-tech sector. In the hope of expanding her sex-tech business, Emma Sayle is currently crowdfunding on Seedrs and has invited her 100,000 members to become investors.
For the latest in our Women in Micro Business series, Business Advice caught up with Sayle, who highlighted the hurdles she faced for being a woman in the adult industry and revealed how sexist attitudes spurred her to start her business.
Who are you and what is your business?
I’m Emma Sayle, CEO of Killing Kittens. I founded Killing Kittens in 2005 in response to demand from young, independent and solvent single girls and couples who needed something more. Killing Kittens is the world’s most exclusive, decadent and hedonistic parties brand, fully focused on the pursuit of female pleasure for girls in control who know what they want as well as empowering adventurous couples the world over.
Since 2005, Killing Kittens has moved beyond organising parties and has grown an online community of over 100,000 women, gentlemen and couples – chatting, flirting and meeting up all over the world.
We have become a movement – a byword for independent girls, couples and gentlemen who know what they want and aren’t afraid to relentlessly pursue it.
Our adult parties currently operate worldwide in 12 countries, alongside its “safe-for-work” sister brand, Kurious Kittens, which delivers workshops and events that appeal to members curious about sexual exploration but not ready to step into the parties.
What challenges can women expect to face in business?
Within the sector I work, the adult/sex industry, I have found it difficult, as a woman, to gain respect and be taken seriously. It has been an ongoing battle.
Despite this being an ongoing issue, I have learned not to fight it. Ultimately, I have nothing to prove. I feel strongly that if you have confidence in your ability to fulfil the role you’re in, it shouldn’t matter which gender you are, in any sector and therefore I go about my business day without hesitation.
Do you think there are enough women running their own businesses?
Currently, no, but this is a changing landscape with more and more working mothers starting businesses post having children, unable to go back to a 9-5 routine but keen on the flexibility to work from home and experience a work/home balance.
I’ve noticed a lot of “Instamum” businesses pop up in the last few years with women using Facebook and Instagram to launch businesses. There are more opportunities for women to run their own businesses than ever before and with women finally edging towards an equal playing field this is likely to continue to increase.
What do you think are the advantages of having more women in business?
It can only lead to an increased and needed balance. What we’ve seen coming out of the #MeToo movement is the real need for an attitude shift, particularly by male colleagues/counterparts. This movement is so positive for women, as behaviours are changing to accommodate female thinking like never before in business.
Have you ever had any discriminative experiences because of being female?
Sadly, yes. Prior to launching Killing Kittens I was employed and exposed to varying levels of discriminative behaviour, from unwanted attention to in one case even being told how to dress.
In one instance I took the matter to the HR department and was advised not to take the matter further as it could be damaging for my progression within the company. It was then that I sought a change and launched my own business.
Even today I’m surprised at the constant comments made, purely for being a female, which include everything from “when are you going to get a proper job” to “can you put me in contact with your male CEO.” It is incredibly frustrating.
In fact, I’m eight months pregnant currently, in the middle of a Series A fundraise, and just to brush off these daft comments I need to regularly hit the pool for a 3km swim.
How do you handle knockbacks?
I try to turn a negative into a positive, every time. Someone asked me last week how I have coped with failures throughout my career and my automatic reply was “we haven’t had any business failures”. But I then I gave it some thought and realised that we have in fact had plenty of concepts or ideas that have not worked out. This I suppose could be construed as failure, but I don’t see it that way. I see these setbacks as being part of the learning process.
I live by the philosophy that in order to adapt and do better you have to fail and get knocked back. It is how these knockbacks are handled that really matters.
What advice do you have for other women wanting to start their own business?
GO FOR IT! Dismiss the haters and those telling you that you can’t (usually that’s jealousy rearing its head, in my experience). If your gut is telling you to go for it and you really believe in your idea, then go for it.
Seek out a mentor, a mentor is invaluable and someone you can trust to bounce ideas off. Find a woman who has been in your shoes and launched their own business, ideally.
Compare what life would have been like in the 9-5 rat-race and never lose sight of that. Imagine the worst-case scenario, having to go back to that 9-5 or losing your investment for example, and if you can cope with the thought then you believe that this is something worth going for.
What can the business community do to help more women entrepreneurs?
More talks, networking events, workshops, mentoring programmes, there can never be enough.
How do you hope your business will develop in the future?
I’ve seen a huge shift in the last two years with 50% of our revenue now coming from the online digital side of the business. Based in this intel we’re throwing a lot of development at digital as this offers the global exponential growth potential that the offline events side of the business just can’t match.
In the next two years we are expecting to see our online revenue account for 80% of our business. We are also expanding the Kurious Kitten educational side of the business with more talks, workshops and couples retreats in numerous cities and have started exploring the merchandise and property potential of the brand – think Playboy meets Soho House.
Who are your business heroes?
You’d probably expect me to reel off a list of high powered businesswomen right now. Surprise – it’s the entrepreneurs who have been the trailblazers and mavericks that have stood for something and wanted to make the world a better place in whatever they launched that I admire most.
Those that have a passion and all-consuming drive which those around them find exhausting. Men like Steve Jobs, Richard Branson, Mark Zuckerburg, Garett Camp, Brian Chesky and Joe Gebbia.
Then there are the females, the trailblazers who have had the added gender fight to sit at the entrepreneurs table. Reese Witherspoon for example, Jacqueline Gold, Brittany Wolfe, Anita Roddick, Gwyneth Paltrow and my all-time “she’ro” Dolly Parton.
Killing Kittens has currently raised £407,178 of its £500,000 target on Seedrs, securing 137 investors so far and offering 9.09% equity. Check out the company’s crowdfunding pitch below.
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