Honey Play Box's Joreail Armstrong Reflects on Company's Growth

"I still do a bit of everything," says Joreail Armstrong. "I'm still out there, sometimes counting inventory in the warehouse and then packing something to get ready to go. It's always a learning experience."

Today, Armstrong serves as business development manager for boutique sex toy brand Honey Play Box, but he began his role there as a one-man marketing department, assisting CEO Shirley Wang with nearly every aspect of launching the brand.

Whether it's creating long- or short-distance connections, we just want to get people engaged with the products.

"We were a super-small company back in 2017," Armstrong explains. "We didn't have any big goals in mind. We just wanted to shift the way people talk about sex and pleasure in some small way, but we weren't exactly sure how to make this change at first."

As Armstrong recalls, Wang was first struck with the idea for the company after she delivered small gift boxes of assorted sex toys to a group of close friends that year.

"At first, they told her, 'I don't think my husband is going to be okay with this!'" Armstrong says. "A few weeks later, though, Shirley started getting all these text messages from her friends about how the toys allowed them to explore and express their sexuality. That inspired her to create a company that helps people embrace, explore and celebrate their sexual desires."

Armstrong found that he was particularly adept at creating eye-catching social media content, and soon took on the task of building Honey Play Box's Instagram following.

"We started with funny little Instagram memes, mainly about sex, loving yourself, self-care," Armstrong says. "We probably had about 120 followers."

Now, just a few years and nearly 50,000 followers later, Honey Play Box continues to expand its impressive online presence and ever-growing range of toys — everything from vibrators to suction toys to strokers and pumps, for couples and individuals of all genders.

"I guess you could say it all started with us just trying to put a smile on people's faces," Armstrong says.

XBIZ: How has your range of products grown and evolved since 2017?

Armstrong: Originally, we started with maybe eight toys, mostly dildos and rabbits. As we got more educated and found out about more types of products, we realized sex toys are never one-size-fits-all. All bodies are different, and there are always different strokes for different folks. From there, we realized we needed to expand our assortment.

Currently, we have hundreds of toys of all different types, for everyone and every body. We try to make sure everything does at least two or three different things at the same time. For example, every one of our dildos has a thrusting or rotating function, or both, so they're not just stagnant toys. Everything's moving and doing different things, and when you look at the products on our site, we include GIFs to show how they work. We also now have app-controlled toys, with an app that has a built-in chat room where people can join and talk, all for free.

I go to all the expert events. I talk to all my distributors. I talk to retailers. I look at our website data. I find out which toys work really well for retail stores and which work well for our website. I try to find out as much as I can and take everyone's advice back to our team and say, "This is what everyone's telling me they like, these are the toys that people love." But I also talk to individual people. Just listening to people is where we find out what works well.

XBIZ: What role does inclusivity and education play in generating brand awareness on social media?

Armstrong: We listen to what everyone says in the comments on our posts, and we try to provide everything from illustrations or whole mini blogs dedicated to that topic or question. When somebody comments and says, "Hey, we want to see a particular body type represented," or asks how to use a particular product if they're disabled, for example, we're on it. We have teams of people we work with in-house. We have artists creating original work for our Instagram posts, we have some comics. We work with a lot of certified sex educators that create and write our educational content.

When you look at our Instagram, you wouldn't immediately think we sell sex toys — it just looks like people creating educational content. My parents are religious, and I have no problem showing my 69-year-old dad our Instagram. We want everybody to feel safe viewing and engaging with our content, and to feel like sex is not as taboo as it used to be. There's something for everyone. I think raising awareness of the brand that way got us to where we are today, and I think that's the way we're going to continue. We don't even really show our toys in our Instagram posts. We just keep things light and fun.

We're always going to look at new ways to get in front of people, whether it's funny comics or mini blogs. We still do spicy video ads, and we're on all the main sites, like Pornhub, where we show our stuff working and that does well. But it's still always going to be educational content. We're always going to stick to what we believe, and we still believe education is kind of the best way to raise awareness. I don't think we're ever going to change that.

XBIZ: What are some of your business challenges, and how do you and the company tackle them?

Armstrong: You're always going to come across challenges, but for us, they're mostly smaller issues. Because of our growth and expansion, it's often about navigating supply and demand, where we release something and think, "This might do OK" — and then it sells out in a few days. But I think that's a good problem to have! The main challenge is always trying to stay informed and keeping up to date on current events that affect us. It's a challenge for everyone in the industry.

When I find out about some problem or issue, we run it by the team and then the team ultimately has to make a decision. But we always keep our core values in mind with everything that we do. That's where I always come in: I always say, "Let's not lose track." There are always going to be problems and challenges here and there, but because we're still a close-knit team, everyone's always in communication. There are something like 20 group chats that we're all in, and when anything arises, we all talk it out.

XBIZ: How does Honey Play Box plan to scale in 2024?

Armstrong: We just opened up to retail about a year ago. At one of the industry shows I just came back from, the retailers said things like, "I showed your product in our store. I showed this sample, and that's it. It's gone." We've gone to the top retailers with our main distributor, and we just opened up to some new ones very recently in Europe, India, Spain and Africa. So, we're basically going to be everywhere. We also have expanded to multiple sites, and people can now order from multiple countries in Europe, the U.K. and Brazil. We've opened up other warehouses so we can ship directly, which saves people from having to pay a huge amount for shipping. We hope to keep going, so basically everyone around the world can get a little taste of Honey.

In the future, we're planning to be a lot more innovative with our product designs, and we recently brought on in-house industrial designers. I think the way we're going with the products, the goal for where we're headed is definitely innovation. Whether it's creating long- or short-distance connections, we just want to get people engaged with the products. It's about fun, it's about getting people connected. We're always working to figure out what people like. We're always going to be open to new opportunities and trying to keep up with the trends. I think that's what has made us successful.

Reposted from XBIZ, Sofia Barrett-Ibarria