Chatting to us on International Women’s Day, entrepreneur and founder of intimate toy store gal pal told us why inclusivity, empowerment and education our so important to her brand’s philosophy.
Could you introduce us to you and your company?
My name is Fiona McMillan and I'm the founder and CEO of online retailer gal pal.
gal pal epitomises modern womanhood, offering a collection of high-quality, intimate lifestyle products (sex toys) at a range of prices from established brands around the world. Inclusivity is key, while health, education and empowerment are all intrinsic to our brand values. Through careful consideration of the products we sell, as well as a fresh and innovative approach to the content we create, we are working towards becoming a real disruptor in both the UK and global sex toy industries.
How did your background put you in a position to decide on founding gal pal?
I've been lucky enough to gain experience in working for one of the biggest paper-based packaging companies in the world. Focusing on the eCommerce side of the business, I've gained exposure in working with the fastest growing eRetailers across the UK. This really helped to shape my knowledge of the industry and was invaluable when outlining the steps I had to take to make gal pal a reality.
How did the idea behind gal pal come about?
I always wanted to start my own business, but never had an idea that I thought could really take off. I knew I wanted to do something female-focused, but wasn’t sure what! I read an article on Vice about Dame Products – a company based in Brooklyn that designs sex toys for women – and the idea for gal pal really grew from that.
After having a look at the industry leaders in the UK and Europe, I saw that there was a real gap in the market. Not only in terms of the brand experience, but the health, inclusivity and empowerment side of things too.
How did you manage to make the idea for your company a reality?
I got a small loan from Virgin StartUp which allowed me to buy the initial products, build the website and create the brand campaign. This included a photoshoot in Glasgow with models and products. Once those key things were done, everything else fell into place!
Why do you think gal pal is important?
I think that gal pal is important for a number of reasons. Firstly, our brand ethos really is focused around inclusivity, empowerment and education. We want to normalise female pleasure and allow empowered women to take time out to ‘get to know’ themselves and try things that they may not have thought to explore before. I think from mainstream media to pornography and Hollywood movies, female sexuality is often portrayed through the eyes of men. This has led to misrepresentation in a lot of cases and skewed the view of what pleasure for females should be.
The key for gal pal is to be as inclusive as possible, as well as being able to accurately represent the people who are interested in our products. With a limited budget for my initial photography campaign, I couldn’t be happier with the way everything turned out. I am, however, very aware that people are extremely diverse and that I need to address this in my next campaign, which will be focused on body positivity and inclusiveness.
gal pal isn't going to be just another sex toy company. I want to make a difference to my customers, make positive changes to the industry and create a community that females are excited to be a part of.
I’ve just partnered with a freelance sex journalist who, starting from March 14, will be writing informative articles for us on a weekly basis and discussing all things related to female pleasure! Throughout 2019, I’ll really focus on creating more substance around the education and empowerment side of things.
How has your startup fared so far?
The feedback and response to the brand so far has been amazing and extremely positive. People get what it is we’re trying to do with gal pal and many customers agree that they haven’t always had the best representation in this marketplace. We’re getting a lot of great engagement through our Instagram @galpaluk, which is where we’ve focused most of our marketing up until this point.
What are your plans for the future?
I have so many plans for growing the business and the brand by building on the foundations that I have so far. I will be adding to my product categories, creating new brand campaigns and focusing on the content side of things, as well as making videos and blogs that will resonate with my customers and be a source of education too!
One of the true high points from my whole startup experience has been all of the women who have reached out to me and offered support. The positivity and encouragement that I’ve received, often from complete strangers, has been so humbling and, on some days, was the boost I needed to get my work done and be productive! The support of other women will forever be an asset in any situation and I’m glad that gal pal can play a small part in that too.
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