OXBALLS – Los Angeles

By on October 26, 2018
Ryan and Ox

Owner Stephen Lane, AKA “OX”, in a previous career in men’s apparel, used to fly a lot of international flights. It was boring, and he spent time writing porn stories for adult magazines. He wanted to get out of New York City and move to LA and had come out to help deliver some magazines to stores for one of the publications he wrote for. He’d always been curious about all types of design, and when visiting adult retailers, he noticed that men’s products were not as creative or plentiful as women’s toys. He immediately went back to New York, started sketching and learned how to make molds. After a few tests in his NYC loft, he decided to commit and moved to Silverlake to start making the first Oxballs products. This was just over ten years ago.

Tell us about your premises
Ox’s goal with any product he’s ever designed has always been to get a consumer to pick up the product off the shelf and immediately say, “I want this, I want to put this on, I want to know what this feels like…I want to use this.” For Oxballs, there is no such thing as a basic design. Even the simplest items we’ve ever created were made to be better – to have some kind of design element that made them function and feel more interesting than what people expect.

How and to which countries are you selling
We’ve truly become a global business, operating and selling anywhere from Asia, all over the EU, South America, North America, Africa, and even the Middle East in Israel. Oxballs wholesale arm started with direct retailers. In the beginning, Oxballs was really just aiming at being a consumer business, but soon buyers came and sent orders driving us to begin wholesaling our products. Later came our distribution footprint. Our distributors have really given us new reach with retailers and broader markets. We’ve never let go of our direct business with those customers who first bought our products and helped build our business in the very beginning. We also like to work directly with retailers helping them make smart choices to create impactful offerings with our products, regardless of where they’re sourcing our products from whether through distribution or us directly. We feel it’s our job to be of service to any business who is selling Oxballs, this doesn’t stop just because someone buys through one of our distributors.

In terms of growth, where do you see yourselves now?
We started off creating products for the leather hardcore gay customer. We quickly had to morph our understanding of ourselves and our customer as we’ve come to realize that all men- gay, straight and anyone in between were using our products. All types of men wanted to use our snarky unusual designs, and we’ve grown our thinking along with this. Something has certainly changed with straight men and toys – ten years ago our straight friends would all refer to cockrings as gay products. Over the last decade, all types of men have really embraced toys and have become more open about using them.

How do you reach your customers and keep them informed about what’s going on with Oxballs?
Form the beginning, we always had a sort of cult-following from the consumer. Our core customer fetishized Oxballs right away. We certainly continue to use this following to promote new ideas and designs to our core audience, we’re really able to create excitement and awareness of our products and new designs. For trade and wholesale, we travel and attend many events and trade shows globally, our goal is to make sure we spend time in any marketplace regularly.

What percentage of your product do you think is sold online vs in-store?
Our Australian distributors would be better at answering this question than we are. Online has certainly become a strong and crucial part of our reach, as is the case for any brand-focused consumer product. We don’t see brick and mortar declining however, we just see an increase of our presence online including more and more brick and mortar stores creating online spaces for their customers. Because we offer so many unusual fetish-based products, customers often want to feel, hold and touch things when they’re making a purchase. Also, on a lot of our product we offer many sizes, which is why our customers love the fit.

What can you tell us about working with retailers?
Staying connected with retailers is so important to our team. Along with promoting the brand to the consumer and creating excitement, we feel it is our job to provide guidance on how a business can thrive with our products and make the right buying and merchandising choices to match their business and clientele. It’s also very important to us to provide training to teach retailers how our more elaborate or fetish based products work. The feedback we get from retailers about what people do and do not like is also very important to us – it drives our design team moving forward. Retailers are an incredible resource; they know what customers like or want, or what isn’t being offered that is needed.

What can you tell us about working with distributors?
Our distribution network is crucial to our success in that they can provide faster service and shipping for access to our goods regularly. It allows retailers to keep less stock, buy more often, and try new things with minimal risk. Distributors in turn don’t have to stock as much as our fill-rate in the past 12 months was literally 100%.

What are some of your best selling items?
Certainly our COCKSLING and COCKSHEATH styles, this includes our original COCKSLING-2, TRI-SPORT, 360, and UNIT-X designs in our cocksling offering, and MUSCLE, SACKJACK, and DADDY in our sheath styles. I would have to mention SQUEEZE ballstretcher and AIR cocking as well.

How has the global market in terms of distribution and retail evolved?
Going back to our evolution over the past decade, we built a bit opposite than other manufacturers or brands; starting with a consumer-only business, then selling to retailers, and only the past 5 years opening up a distribution network. We’re still very product and design focused, but we now have a strong and experienced team which supports and guides our strategy for every layer of our business, from consumer to distribution.

Are there any country specific trends globally or are some countries more receptive to certain product categories over others?
Certainly, I think the biggest trends in this are that in some areas of the world we have become very successful in straight and mainstream boutique retail shops, whereas in others, we are still seen as mainly attracting gay male customers. We’re doing our best to help our retailers understand that men of all types want our products. Men in general want snarky exciting designs that fit and feel good, men with many interests buy our products because of this.

What can you tell us about the manufacturing process?
What’s most unique about Oxballs is we’re so focused on design and creating original product. We don’t go to a factory and purchase already made molds and repackage them under Oxballs – everything we make is original, everything we make is designed to fit our customer. We don’t just hand a sketch to a factory who interprets the product, we work out the specs of a design by working and reworking a design in our studio, building it with a hand-made mold in house, trying and using it, reworking proportions and materials, until it’s exactly what we want it to be. Once we’re through this process, we give our factories an already finished piece that is exactly what we want. I’m sure we’re probably a bit difficult to deal with for our factories, but we treat the product we manufacture in-house the same way. I think most retailers don’t realize that our domestic silicone range is entirely hand-poured using Platinum-Cure silicone from start to finish in Los Angeles. It is a very long and messy process, but there is nothing like the feel of our handmade Pure-Platinum silicone pieces.

Tell us about your staff resources
We’re a staff of 35 full-time. There is so much we actually do as a business; manufacturing, sales and support, warehousing and dispatch of goods, design and development, buying and procurement…Ten years ago, it was really a one-man show. Ox would make product during the day and sculpted new designs and sketched new ideas at night. Our reach and support needs are so much bigger than they used to be, it required that we grew into a large enough team to handle the work load. Technology has always played a crucial role in our design and development, we had 3D printers and other technology long before it was common in the industry, but our sales team still uses very basic tech to stay connected: email and the phones are still how buyers like to stay connected to new ideas and products. We’re proud to finally be launching a wholesale web platform coming soon!

Where do you see the company now and where would you like it to be in 5 years?
We can’t speak too specifically at this time, but our goal going forward is to reach beyond Oxballs to other demographics and customers that want something else, something new, something they haven’t seen before. There are some very exciting things coming in 2019 and the years to come.



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