Sex Siopa's Shawna Scott: "My business began when my vibrator broke" 4 months ago

Sex Siopa's Shawna Scott: "My business began when my vibrator broke"

"It was a real light bulb moment."

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May is Career Month on Her, a time where we'll be shining a light on the different fields that women in Ireland are taking charge of, and finding out how they got where they are today.

This week we spoke to Shawna Scott, founder of Irish sex boutique Sex Siopa, about what inspired her decision to start her own business, Ireland's sex education, and the changes she would like to see regarding the stigma around sexual health.

Tell us how you started your business. 

"My business began when my vibrator broke. I wanted to replace my broken vibrator and that's when I began to research and really look into the sex toys that are on the market.

"Unfortunately there isn't a lot of regulations when it comes to sex toys so they can be really be made out of everything and anything. I had worked in retail when I moved to Ireland from the States but I wanted to start my own business where I could pick and choose what went into it.

"I also found when I was shopping around for a new vibrator that I wasn't getting a great customer experience or any advice from the websites about which product would suit me best.

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"On a trip home to the States I came across a sex shop across from the college I dropped out of and it was a real light bulb moment. It didn't look seedy or have tinted windows, it was bright and inviting with beautiful displays. I hadn't seen a sex shop like it before.

"I wanted to create a place that had safe products for both sexual pleasure and sexual health, as well as a great customer experience, and that's when Sex Siopa was born."

You mentioned the lack of regulations regarding sex toys, do you think there should be more regulations in place?

"I have really mixed feelings when it comes to regulations or lack there of when it comes to sex toys.

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"Yes, I absolutely think sex toys should be made from the safest materials possibly and I always try to stop items made from body safe materials.

"The only problem with bringing in more regulations is that it will drive a lot of small businesses out of the market and leave only the huge corporations.

"Only a handful of companies at the very top will get certification because they can afford to, whereas all of us small manufacturer and retailers who have fought hard to educate people on body safe toys will be out of business."

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As well as sex toys you also stock sexual health products too, don't you?

"Yes, I also have a Health & Wellness section on my online shop that includes menstrual cups, kegel balls and dilator kits.

"Dilators are really helpful if you have a condition that can make sex feel painful such as vaginismus and endometriosis.

"Kegel balls on the other hand are a great way to strengthen and improve your pelvic floor muscles."

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Do you think a lot more needs to be done in Ireland, especially regarding young people, when it comes to sexual health education?

"Absolutely! It still amazes me when I got to talk to college students fresh out of secondary school and finding out that there are still some schools, in this day and age, that aren't giving their students any kind of sexual education.

"Many students are only hearing the most basic biology when it comes to sex and pregnancy but there's very little talk about consent or LGBT+ sex. The curriculum hasn't been updated in a very long time and it really needs to be.

"Teenagers aren't being given the proper vocabulary when it comes to talking about their anatomy or looking after themselves. Everyone should know as much about their body as possible, not just for their sexual health but for their health in general.

"Don't get me wrong, things are improving like the HSE pilot programme for Sexual Health 24 to provide free at home STI testing.

"You don't see anything like that in the States because everything is privatised, so while there is progress to be made I feel like Ireland is making more steps than some places."

Before I let you go and allow everyone reading to go browse your online shop, will there ever be a physical Sex Siopa store in the future?

"It's been a dream of mine for awhile, but living in Dublin it was just impossible.

"Renting a place to live was expensive enough and the cost of renting a retail space in Dublin is huge so I just kept my focus on improving my website.

"Recently I moved to Sligo and my cost of living has gone way down and retail spaces aren't as expensive so maybe at some point in the future there will be a Sex Siopa store in the West of Ireland."

You can find out more about Shawna and Sex Siopa here.