Connect
To Top

Community Highlights: Meet Casey Murphy of The Pleasure Parlor

Today we’d like to introduce you to Casey Murphy.

Hi Casey, so excited to have you with us today. What can you tell us about your story?
It’s interesting because when I was in high school, I was one of the few people who didn’t take the SATs. Before graduating 12th grade, I knew I was going to attend community college and major in Journalism and English Lit, but I hadn’t envisioned anything for my career at that point beyond hopefully writing for a local newspaper.

I have always been a writer but didn’t know how I would eventually apply that to my life, long-term. I am where I am today because I have pursued the work that lights me up creatively and I haven’t shied away from knocking on doors to create opportunities for myself. After my second year of community college in 2002, I was at Tower Records with friends to watch a live in-store performance.

I’m not sure what inspired me to look for a record label representative, but I asked around and was led to him – a man named Dave. I asked if he needed an intern, and he said yes. He had just moved to LA from Chicago and was an Artist Development Rep for Interscope, Geffen, and A&M Records (all of which were owned by Universal Music). He asked me to email a resume, so I drove home to my parent’s house before the band started, typed up my first resume, emailed it to him, and drove back to Tower.

A week later my internship at Universal Music was approved, and I jumped into the music industry sight unseen, fortunately being taken under Dave’s wing. Though it was an unpaid internship, I left college and was elated to be compensated in advance for CD copies, promotional merchandise, and concert tickets for the next year and a half.

I worked with Dave to market some of my favorite bands as well as the debut albums of unknown artists at the time like 50 Cent and Kanye West. This was all before marketing departments had the power of social media to get in front of their target consumers. We stood outside of shows and handed out label compilation CDs and flyers to people as they exited venues. We pounded the pavement to find our target demographics and get the music in their hands.

This level of grassroots, pre-digital guerilla marketing was the most valuable experience I have acquired in my career to date. I can’t express enough gratitude for Dave, and the fact that he took a chance on a random 19-year old that day. He was patient and one of the most impactful people I’ve had the pleasure of learning from. After graduating from my internship, I transitioned into the college marketing department and was earning a salary by 2004.

However, the music industry had been taking a huge hit – this was in the dawn of Napster and the early evolution of music piracy. I left the label as layoffs tore through just about every department at the label. The departure was not ideal, but I was leaving with massive love – and a knack – for marketing. I wasn’t hopeful about finding a new job in the music industry at that time because the outlook wasn’t looking great for coordinator-level positions.

In 2005 I thankfully found a new full-time job, once again, in an industry that was completely unknown to me. I was hired to work in the advertising department for a news media company in the adult industry. (Not necessarily the easiest news to break to my Catholic family.) This job gave me a view of the adult industry at large, from the adult video/DVD side (yep, it was that long ago) to the pleasure products side of the business.

After a couple of years with that company, I started a marketing position with a Los Angeles-based bondage manufacturer. Again, a world that was new to me but I was open to learning it all. Since then, I have either worked for niche pleasure products manufacturers or distributors, and have watched the evolutions of social media, adult e-commerce, sex toy trends, and “sexual wellness” in the mainstream take shape over the years.

In 2017, I decided to create my business, The Pleasure Parlor, because I had sales, marketing, and e-commerce experience under my belt, combined with the knowledge of sex toy brands, and trends, and a desire to create a business on my terms, hoping that it would resonate with the people who found it. The Pleasure Parlor started as a home party business and a pop-up shop in Portland, Oregon. I also simultaneously built an online store and a recurring subscription box.

I haven’t done a home party or a pop-up shop since moving to Denver in 2019, but I hope to get back into pop-ups in 2023. I feel the need to explain my background in so much detail because I am enamored with how all of these steps led me to where I am now. Every bit of it has been so random and unexpected, yet somehow everything I’ve done has always tapped into different aspects of my creative potential in new and unique ways. I am so grateful for all of it.

We all face challenges, but looking back would you describe it as a relatively smooth road?
When I reflect on the last 20 years, the highlights are what stand out to me, and they fill me with a lot of gratitude. Those are the high points throughout my career when I was fortunate to pivot into a new niche, or create an opportunity for myself, whether that be a job with a specific company or building my own business.

But the nitty gritty path along the way has not been smooth. I am a completely different person now from when I was a naive 19-year-old starting my career in a corporate environment. On a personal level, much of my career in the adult industry has felt like living a double life because I am selective about who I share career details. Sex and pleasure are topics that many people are not comfortable talking about – so I am cautious to not create an uncomfortable situation with people who don’t know me very well.

I have come to terms with this, but it is nonetheless exhausting. The people who work in the adult industry are not morally bereft, sex-crazed individuals… though that is a common perception among many people who do not work in this field. Building my own business from the ground up required – and still requires – a lot of late nights, and courage.

When I say “courage” – I mean overcoming fears stemming from perfectionism, and the fear of failure – as well as staying on top of everything from new product updates to social media management. I learned how to build an eCommerce store on Shopify – and I curate every product on thepleasureparlor.com based on having a positive experience with the product manufacturer – either from working with them directly in the industry, or using the product. The same goes for my subscription boxes.

Many people don’t understand how intense running a subscription box business is. Especially when you are fulfilling orders in-house. Customers see the finished product – a box of items strategically placed to fit in a specific box size surrounded by colored paper shreds topped with an educational card. The intention is to deliver a memorable unboxing experience for subscribers.

What customers don’t always recognize is the time spent bringing just one box to life. Product curation – new items for every subscriber, every three months, in addition to the time it takes to physically pack each box by hand, label them and drive them to the post office. Design time, expertise, and printing costs for extras like stickers and informational postcards. The cost of packing materials. The actual personal shopping service is provided in addition to an assortment of handpicked items.

Thankfully, most of my subscribers value attention to detail – it is a component that I make sure to communicate before a new subscriber invests in my recurring subscription service upfront. Learning delegation to scale the business has been incredibly tough for me as well. Often I believe it will be faster for me to do something myself than to excavate years of experience or a specific process in my head and teach someone else how to do it.

For aspiring entrepreneurs, this is necessary if you want to scale eventually. The ability to delegate is not a skill that comes naturally to me; it is a massive challenge. As a marketing consultant in the sexual health industry, battling with social media policy restrictions has felt utterly defeating for as long as I can remember. I consult with a lot of small startups that are trying to get brand visibility from scratch.

Fighting with the algorithm is one thing; throw in the fact that most platforms do not allow sex toy companies to advertise, and you’re up against a brick wall. If only we had the luxury of being able to pay for exposure! But we don’t and having no other option but organic growth can feel like losing an arm wrestling competition. Every day.

Thanks for sharing that. So, maybe next you can tell us a bit more about your business?
My direct-to-consumer business is The Pleasure Parlor, which is an online boutique and a recurring subscription for body-safe, gender-inclusive and expert-curated sex toys. The Pleasure Parlor is the first and only sex toy subscription box that is owned and operated by a veteran in the sex toy industry (that’s me)! What sets The Pleasure Parlor aside from other sex toy stores is the level of product curation and care that goes into what customers see online and in the subscription boxes.

I possess a background in the sex toy industry – nearly 20 years of marketing, sales, and product manufacturing. Additionally, I am a Certified Sex Educator. I have worked within all facets of this industry and I take pride in the fact that there are very few people – not only sex toy business owners, but in the industry as a whole – who share a similar background.

Products on the website and in each subscription box are selected with intention, based on first-hand experience with a product manufacturer, or with the product itself. I choose brands that have a reputation for making high-quality products that don’t break after two months. I choose products that don’t contain harmful ingredients (like glycerin, parabens, or thermoplastic rubbers) – and I like to list products that I find unique or interesting based on what the customer’s desired experience is. I am a consumer first, and a business owner second.

The subscription boxes are the most gender-inclusive, customizable adult subscription boxes available – this is something that we do better than anyone. I curate products based on anatomy and a few preferences that subscribers select when they place their orders. I am proud of building this brand from the ground up, from the website to brand identity to product curation. I started the company to hopefully resonate with people who are curious about sex toys but don’t know where to start.

Despite knowing this industry inside and out, I have had to work through my conditioning regarding sex, pleasure, and shame throughout my career – I was raised Catholic. My biggest goal is to help people unravel that wiring within themselves. I love converting a skeptic. My argument is that regardless of religion, human bodies were designed to experience pleasure to the fullest. Name a better feeling than an orgasm. I’ll wait.

We’re always looking for the lessons that can be learned in any situation, including tragic ones like the Covid-19 crisis. Are there any lessons you’ve learned that you can share?
As the pandemic ramped up in April 2020, I was furloughed from my full-time job like many others. Something I didn’t anticipate was how that disruption in routine rattled me to the core, creatively and energetically. Like second nature, I was juggling several creative projects simultaneously just a couple of weeks before. Once I didn’t have that consistent work every day, it felt impossible trying to navigate one basic task at a time at the beginning of lockdown.

As a result, I inadvertently disengaged from marketing efforts for the Pleasure Parlor, despite having more time and freedom to work on the business. That generated more and more pressure as weeks and eventually, months went by. I couldn’t put one foot in front of the other to do the one thing I enjoyed doing most in my free time, and that was difficult to try and understand.

The idea of amplifying (and just maintaining) the presence of a products-based business did not feel aligned either, because so many folks were struggling financially. As much as I will advocate for the distinctive value that the Pleasure Parlor offers – and the need for a service like this during the pandemic – my creative flow wasn’t waking up. I wasn’t sure if my entrepreneurial spirit was gone for good, or if creativity was just on vacation. I just had to make peace with the absence of inspiration; accept that I was burned out from running on fumes.

Without any other solutions in mind, I had to permit myself to take a break without a timeframe, or any expectations for the future. I did not want to let go of the business that I had nurtured like a child, especially while watching other small businesses in the pleasure products industry propel themselves during the pandemic. But I couldn’t force an outcome. I just needed to trust the process.

After several months, I started connecting the lack of inspiration to fear. Of failure. Of success. Equally terrifying. The more opportunity presented itself to run with the Pleasure Parlor, the more paralyzed I felt. “What if I invest 100% into the business, and mess this up?” “What if so-and-so rolls their eyes every time I post on social media?” “What if I am never as good as this other business? Businesses who are doing more with less?” “What if…?”, “what if…?”, “what if…?”, over and over and over again.

Subscription box customers were steady pre-pandemic, and even though all marketing and social media were on hold during those months, the Pleasure Parlor continued to acquire new customers without any marketing whatsoever. That made me feel so fortunate. Years ago, I was elated to wake up to a $20 sale on my website once a week. I was reminded that I created this business from a place of service, and am so grateful that the people who need it continue to find it organically.

Contact Info:

Suggest a Story: VoyageDenver is built on recommendations from the community; it’s how we uncover hidden gems, so if you or someone you know deserves recognition please let us know here.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

More in Local Stories