An Interview with Mariah Byrne - Co-Founder & CEO at The Fantasy Box

We were lucky enough to sit down with Mariah Byrne, Co-Founder & CEO of The Fantasy Box, recently and get all the juicy details of what it's like to be the CEO of a popular subscription service

Hey Mariah! Can we start with you giving us a little overview of your company? 

Absolutely! We are a service for couples that provides in-home sexy date nights. Each box has a specific theme with “role cards” for each person that specifies who is in charge of setting up the date and what to do, as well as including all the full-sized, carefully-selected products to play it out. 

The goal is to provide a great new experience for both partners that requires little-to-no effort or planning, builds trust and communication, and creates new memories. The fantasies are written in four main “theme categories” – Sensual, Playful, Control and Costume.

The subscription includes boxes from all the theme categories (unless a couple asks to skip one or more) to keep the exploration exciting. Couples can also get individual boxes on an a-la-carte basis or a “bundle” of three boxes in their chosen theme. 

mariah byrne

What were the driving factors for you deciding to start this business? How did you come up with the idea? When did you first launch?

We launched the business in late 2012, out of my apartment in New York City. They say you should create the business that you wished existed for you…well; this was it. Ha. 

In today’s society, most couples become physically intimate before they are emotionally intimate…so we never really talk about what we want once the thrill of newness wears off.

We've all been in long-term relationships where we fall into routines that are hard to break out of. Date night and intimacy lose that spark of the unexpected…but it's hard to ask your partner to do something new, the shopping experience is really poor, and there is a lack of knowledge on what good products are and how to use them.

So, we decided to solve all that and deliver it to your doorstep. Oh, and having a job where you write fantasies, work with couples and shop for pleasure products is pretty awesome.

How has the business evolved since then?

We started out with just the subscription at $59 (Classic) and $159 (Platinum) tiers. We later added in the Essentials tier at $39 so that couples who wanted the experiences could still get them in times of budget constraints. Then, we started offering 3-box bundles and individual boxes, followed by individual products that we’ve tried and approved. 

We also started writing Special Edition boxes for high-demand scenarios that we don’t include in the subscription because some folks might not be interested in them (like Backdoor 101) or that are related to an event (like a Honeymoon, Anniversary or Holiday). We listen very carefully to what our couples want and find a way to serve them.

Did you have any experience in operating a subscription-based business previously? 

Nope. My background was in Psychology and Business (finance, management consulting, leadership development). I'd only ever dealt with intangible goods and knowledge capital. Starting a business that involved shipping physical products was a whole new world for me.

Were there any unexpected obstacles that you ran into while trying to bring your product to market?

Surprisingly, no. There were the usual bumps of learning how to do things that you've never done before (like designing packaging, sourcing product, fulfillment, and operations, building a brand from scratch, etc.)…but nothing that ever was a potential deal-killer for us. 

I was lucky that I had a good friend from graduate school who had started a subscription box a year before me so he mentored me through the early stages and I try to pay that forward with entrepreneurs today.

What do you feel makes the perfect date night?

Two people who are connected and present. You can be sitting on a floor in a vacant apartment with a candle and two sets of questionnaires and end up with better memories than if you spent thousands of dollars on a night out in Paris. 

Of course, I’m partial to great products to add to the mood and fun, spicy or romantic dynamics…but the core is the two people being there with each other.

Who is the company’s ideal audience?

Couples who are committed to being together. Because our subscription is progressive, meaning that you get the boxes in a particular order regardless of when you sign up, it’s meant to be done with the same person month after month so that you build on the knowledge you gain in earlier boxes. 

It’s designed as a shared adventure. So, while you could do a box with a person one time, you won’t get the richness of the experience and the benefit to the relationship like you would of doing multiple boxes in a row with the same partner.

Do you feel that your boxes are just for young, wild lovers? Or, will it work for couples of all ages?

Our couples range in age from 18 to 90, sizes S-4X, together for a month to 50+ years. The bulk of our subscribers have been together 5+ years and are doing this as an investment in their relationship. 

We’re easier than date night on the town and vastly less expensive than therapy. Haha.

As the CEO, what are you hoping your customers will get out of the monthly box? How do you envision them using the items in the box to strengthen their relationship?

I'm very, very hands-on in the business. I write every fantasy and pick all the products. I think about what a couple has experienced and received before and am constantly working to create that "wow" moment, especially for couples that have been with us for 4+ years. I work with a number of Platinum couples as a romance concierge, so I get to know them and their preferences and relationships and successes! 

I consider each experience a reflection of me and, so, selfishly I hope that our couples use their expanding preferences to tell us how to customize their progression to be exactly what they want.

For example, couples can write in and say "we don't want any boxes that contain vibrators" or "we want to exclude the SchoolGirl box” or “I’m recovering from cancer and need special lubricants.” Whatever someone is into or not into, we will make sure that once we know, we make the changes they desire.

How do you choose the products that are included each month? Does it revolve around specific themes? 

We have over 15K different combinations of products that go out in any given month because every couple’s progression is different. 

The box contents are determined by the combination of:

  • Fantasy
  • Price Tier
  • Female Size
  • Male Size

...that a couple’s profile and progression dictate. 

Each mix of products is chosen specifically to play out the fantasy instructions that are sent and distinct from any other products they have received in the past.

We may send the same category for things that run out (like lubricant) more than once or send lingerie in different cuts/colors/styles, but we guarantee our subscribers will never get the same product twice.

I see that you have individual products for sale beyond your curated boxes. Were all of these products previously included in a box?

Many of them are or have been included in our boxes, but not all. However, everything on our site has been tested and vetted by our staff for quality. Since our industry is not able to accept returns, we want our customers to feel secure that they are buying something that has passed our strict quality standards.

Was there a single box or item within a box that is just your absolute favorite?

I absolutely adore Sliquid lubricant. It’s natural, vegan, organic and all their formulations are wonderful. I also love bondage tape. It’s low-tech but the coolest stuff ever. 

And, for external stimulation, the Womanizer (which is air-based instead of vibration) is absolutely divine. I wrote the “All About Her” box specifically around it since, I think, no woman who enjoys that type of sensation should be without one. I sent them to all my besties for birthday/new baby presents. 

As a female entrepreneur, do you have any advice for women who would like to one day own & operate their own company?

Find something that gives you energy. If you are starting a company in your "free" time, you need to have the feeling of "I just finished work, and now I have 6 hours free to work on my new company!" and mean it. 

If you're doing it because you think it makes sense and not from a true place of passion, it will drain your energy, and you will abandon it. I never seriously considered starting a company until I found an idea I “couldn’t not do.”

I did it in tandem with my full-time job for about a year and, when it grew beyond the “after hours and weekends," I switched to full-time and never looked back.

What can we expect from your company over the next 5 years? 

In 2018, you’ll see us serving more types of relationships, especially “women who are in relationships with themselves”- which I consider to be very different from being single. 

You’ll also see a higher degree of control over the subscription- such as choosing your next box- and a series of improvements to the website (we’re doing a complete redesign).

Longer term, you’ll see the ability to manage your experiences via an application (which we think provides greater privacy and flexibility), one-click ordering, digital-only products and expansion to serving more countries (looking at you, Australia!).

One thing we will never change is our commitment to serving our customers and their relationships and listening to what we can be doing to make their relationships even better.

If you'd like to keep up with Mariah and her company, check out their Twitter profile

Learn all about The Fantasy Box and what they offer by clicking here


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