Co-founders of Hedonist and Genvie
Given how so many of us are having or will have sex in life, why aren't we taught better how to prepare for sex or to have better sex? After all, sex is a human need.
Tell us your story, how did you get here?
Jacqueline: When I was turning 30 – call it the second rebirth – I decided to challenge myself to pursue things I was passionate about: fitness, well-being and doing things that would make a positive impact on myself and those around me. So, I took a 180-degree turn on my business career to become a certified fitness instructor and, later on, a matchmaker and date coach at Society W. These experiences made me realise how much joy it was to empower others to discover their authentic self. They inspired me to create something bigger than myself.
I also re-acquainted myself with sex toys and started practising more self-love and care on my own and with my now-husband. These experiences ignited something in me that had laid dormant and suppressed for a long time. Growing up as an Asian kid, I felt alone navigating the conversation about sex and pleasure due to the lack of positive information available or what was typically deemed acceptable (for example, women playing a more subservient role).
This didn’t lay a good foundation for developing a healthy relationship for myself. The irony is that at least 90% of the Asian population have a very similar experience to my upbringing. Yet everyone is too shy to admit it out loud, so we end up feeling “alone” together.
When I was fully honest with myself, I started exploring my body and really appreciating it for what it is. That’s when something clicked in my brain and Hedonist came (pun intended). Hedonist isn’t just about sex toys. The tools have always been an interesting conversation starter, but the bigger picture is to create a safe community for people to open their views on sex and pleasure without being shamed or judged, and to bridge the orgasm gap – especially among women.
Meryl: I was a partner at The KraftHeinz Company and had a good career run for 5 years. In 2019, they were doing a global restructuring and closing down the Singapore office. They offered me a role in the UK but I turned them down. I wanted to fulfil my lifelong dream of travelling for a couple of years. My last day there was 31 March 2020, just a couple of weeks before the Circuit Breaker kicked in.
During that uncertain period, I met some close male friends for drinks. As we brainstormed Instagram names for my travel account, one friend suggested “Good Vibes Only”. I immediately thought that sounded like a sex toy company. Funny how it might sound, but it’s a true story!
That’s how we started talking about sex that night for the first time ever. The more we spoke, the more I realised how seldom we talk about this and how reliant I am on Google to answer my sex questions. I started questioning why we tend to avoid this topic. It simply didn’t make sense; it was like an ah-ha moment for me. Given how so many of us are having or will have sex in life, why aren’t we taught better how to prepare for sex or to have better sex? After all, sex is a human need.
That night was when everything started. Something just clicked – this was something I wanted to pursue as a passion project. Today, it’s become a passion business – definitely no regrets at all! I’m living life with a lot more intention, meaning and purpose. It’s the feeling of playing a role I believe society needs and has been hoping for.
What impact have you made in Singapore?
Jacqueline: Some Singaporeans may think it’s strange that a woman runs a sexual wellness company. But they end up quickly coming in line with my mission when I start educating them about what sex, pleasure and masturbation can do to benefit their well-being and mental health. There’s a lot of unlearning and relearning to be done regarding this taboo subject among Singaporeans.
So I decided to openly be one of the first female entrepreneurs in Singapore to daringly put my face to my brand. I want to rewrite the impression of how self-pleasure or a sex store is typically viewed as “seedy and shameful”.
Hedonist has done multiple workshops, talks and podcasts with other like-minded professionals, doctors and intimacy coaches. It’s real talk by real people. I believe this has helped to slowly change the social stigma of how people view the topic of sex and the use of sex toys.
The most heartwarming conversation was when someone told me she wanted to change her major to psychology in intimacy and relationships after attending some of Hedonist’s events. She was inspired to grow a more sex positive community in Singapore too.
What does 2022 look like for you?
Jacqueline: 2022 brings double the pleasure for everyone. It’s looking very promising. Ever since the recent merger with our sister brand, Genvie, it’s certainly fortified a stronger platform for organic growth in Singapore as well as global expansion. By combining Genvie’s new toy user community with Hedonist’s wide range of products and proven healthy rate of returning customers, we’re growing at a rapid rate, both in sales and following.
We launched an experiential physical pop-up store at Siri House in Dempsey for 3 months earlier this year, with friendly pleasure consultants assisting with recommending pleasure toys. We also used the safe space to conduct weekly workshops around pleasure and women empowerment with like-minded professionals, doctors and intimacy coaches to normalise the conversation around sex and pleasure.
What do you love most about Singapore?
We love how Singapore is a safe place to live in and do business. With the nature of our industry, you never know who you might come across. However, we’ve been very blessed to be receiving nothing but lots of positive feedback. The diversity in Singapore also creates such an interesting melting pot of different cultures and upbringing that makes speaking to different people very enriching when we conduct our talks and events.
What’s the one product you can’t live without?
Jacqueline: It’d be a hard pick between my two pleasure toys; either the Lana Del Wand or the Polly clit sucker. The wand is what I always have by my bedside on standby for when I want to get intimate with my husband. The Polly is for when I want to reconnect with myself and recharge from the daily grind.
Meryl: Koi is my companion; it’s hard to travel anywhere without it ever since I’ve been acquainted with it.
Who is your Local Legend, and why?
We don’t have just one person in particular. We both agree that everyone we meet tends to inspire us in one way or another. The local hawkers that serve our lunches, the taxi drivers that get us from one destination to another, our followers who’ve been such great support, and the leaders we’ve been fortunate enough to work with. Everyone has their own positive influence in our lives. They constantly keep us humble and inspire us to become better versions of ourselves every day.