BY LYNSEY G.
Meg Ross is the founder of the Nooky Box, a sex-positive subscription box service that’s focused on changing the conversation around sex. We chatted with Meg about her box (tee-hee!), her company’s goals, her life, and her philosophy. Yay, sex!
What brought you to being an entrepreneur?
It started when I was a very young girl growing up in Missoula. I just had this affinity for figuring out how to make a profit. The first book I ever checked out of the library was called How to Make a Profit for Kids. And it literally had recipes for how to make slushies and cookies, and how much you’d have to spend and how much money you’d have to make and charge for everything. I checked that out at the library and started making slushies and cookies and selling them on the street corner in downtown Missoula in front of my dad’s store. I made the first two dollars I needed, and ever since then it’s been like, "Yeah, I’m really good at this. I like it."
How much money did you make?
Eleven dollars the first day, and for a kid that was great.
Did you keep making a profit after that, throughout your life?
I worked a lot. I think that there was a point where I realized that I wanted more. Not just physical stuff; I wanted a different life than what my family had. And I knew that I couldn’t have that if I didn’t have independence. And independence comes with money.
I left Missoula when I was seventeen and moved to New York City as a nanny. I worked as a nanny for a very short period of time, mostly because I needed to get someplace else. That’s what got me there. But I didn’t enjoy watching other people’s kids.
You’re not the sweet homebody type.
No, definitely not.
I feel like, as a female entrepreneur, that could help you and also hurt you.
I think that, at times, it’s helped, and sometimes it’s hurt. I definitely think I’ve gotten a lot more out of life than most people have. I’ve basically done every single thing I ever said I was going to do. Everything. I’ve made list after list of things that I was going to do, and I’ve done them all.
I made a list when I was in New York that was like, "Give something away every single day." So I live for that. To give something away, every day. And I did. Like, today, I gave chalkboard paint to an employee. That worked for me. There’s always something. Hug somebody. It could be anything.
That’s cool! Many people tend to think of business as cutthroat, not caring about people.
I totally disagree with that philosophy. You know, you can’t give people your energy if you don’t have it. I think that and finances really go hand in hand. You have to be successful before you can help other people be successful. Period. You cannot help other people if you do not have the means to do it.
Everybody needs some revenue stream; they need some foundation; they need something to get them the platform on which they would do the next thing. You can’t make change if you don’t have resources.
So tell me your New York story.
I started a cosmetology school for Paul Mitchell. Because I couldn’t afford the rent, I built two bedrooms in the apartment, rented them out for more than what I needed to make to pay rent. I was in the Financial District, and I had a couple of Wall Street guys living there, and it was great. I didn’t have to pay rent. I stayed for a long time.
What I was interested in doing was anything that had to do with helping women who don’t have a lot of means recognize their value and learn life skills that could actually transition into something important. As a cosmetologist, you can make a ton of money if you actually understand what business is, and you function like that. But what happens, especially in America, is that the people that are going into that industry…have been told for a really long time that they don’t have any value, and they’re not going to be anything, which is bullshit.
Then started to work with small salons in the city, and teach people how to run their businesses so that they could actually profit just enough to turn around and sell them.
Between the consulting and Nooky Box, what was the progression?
My dad asked me to come to Montana to start a brewery, so I came back to Missoula. We had a business plan; it was two years of work on this brewery, but it didn’t happen. At one point I realized that I was actually going to be doing every single part of the brewery. Finally I was like, "Dad! I can’t do this by myself! This is a huge business! I’m going to go to do something else."
He was like, "Well what are you going to do?" And I said, "Well I don’t know quite yet."
So I took a month off. I left Missoula and went to Utah for a month by myself and stayed at a resort. I brought big sticky pads and some markers, and I started brainstorming about what I was going to do next. And then the sex toy thing just kind of evolved from that perspective of what was available out there, and what I think I could potentially bring to the table.
What made Nooky Box the idea that you went with?
I looked at myself and decided, "Okay, what am I passionate about? Who do people know me as, and why do people call me to talk to me? Why are people friends with me?" And I realized that I give really good advice, and I have good perspective.
So I started thinking, "Should I be talking about dating? What things can I help people with?" And then I started researching sex toys in particular, in regards to how they’re being sold, and I really love the whole subscription service model. That opened my eyes to researching subscription models for sex toys and looking at who’s out there right now, and going, "Is there something that’s missing here?"
So what was missing? What does Nooky Box do?
We’re basically saying, as a company, we’re recognizing that everybody’s having sex, it’s always been happening. We think that everyone should continue to do it and talk about it in a really healthy way so that you can enjoy it more, not feel ashamed, not feel embarrassed, and really just enjoy yourself. That’s our philosophy.
We’re really into LGBT rights, recognizing that that community is having sex, too, and why are we not talking about that? Why do they have to be separated, as though they’re completely different people? They’re not, they’re just individuals who love who they love.
When I say that, I know that I know that I like men. But why does that make me "normal?" I’m just a person. They’re just people, too. Everybody’s just people! We’re all just people! I get that I feel good about who I am. Why doesn’t everybody else get to feel that way? And how unfair is that? We should all feel good about who we are.
I’m kind of going back to the initial part of our conversation. What difference do I want to make? With my sister saying, "You’re all about making money." Well I’m not, actually. What I am about is trying to change things. And you can’t effectively change things if you haven’t got a revenue stream. So the Nooky Box is a way of providing great stuff that people are buying anyway, to its consumer, and the revenue turns around and becomes something that we can use to build out what we’re calling the Nooky U, which is our educational platform.
Long-term, our goal is to become the place that you go to get advice on sex. There will be webinars available, there will be seminars available, there will be question-and-answer sessions. We are the expert. And we will be looked at from that perspective by people all over the world, and give people a voice so that everyone can ask questions in whatever format they want, on whatever level, and about whatever they want.
Let’s say you want to try anal and you haven’t done that before, or BDSM, or any kind of new thing. We’re that place where you go and you ask questions to become familiar. Like, "Is this going to scare me? Is this going to hurt? What should I feel about these things?" I want it to be a safe place for people to go so they don’t have to feel like they’re alone.
Cool! So tell me about the Nooky Box. What is it?
We have two different [kinds of] boxes: signature boxes and subscription boxes. The subscription box itself is a quarterly themed box. We only have one so far; it’s called "Sex is Fun." The products in the box are very simple but fun. They’re great quality Picobong products. A vibrator and a vibrating butt plug, and we threw in Pop Rocks as an on add-on, because you can do fun things with Pop Rocks. And then a great lube, of course, that’s also body friendly. We have no weird chemicals in any of the products.
The other part of what we’re doing in terms of boxes is that we have signature boxes, and those boxes are one-offs. So you can just go and buy a box, like a lube box that has a bunch of different kinds of lubes. It has flavored lubes, and heating lubes, and anal lubes, and regular lubes, and high-end lubes…Just so you can try them all and decide what you like.
That’s just an example. We also have a bridal box, and a bachelorette box, we have an edible box that’s all products you can eat off of somebody. They’re just really fun things.
We’re selling a box, but we’re not saying that we’re specifically for any one gender or any one orientation. And we’re creating a curated experience where when you get the box, you can choose what kind of sexual-oriented erotic story you get in it—"Suggested Nooky" is what I’m calling it. It’s basically suggesting ways that you could potentially use the products that are in the box. So you’re giving people a little bit of help. We’re also creating a separate playlist on Spotify for every one of the boxes, as well. So each box has its own theme songs, and I think that’s really fun.
So, for someone who is interested in Nooky U as a long-term goal, what’s the best thing that they can do to see that happen? Buy a Nooky Box?
Absolutely. Not just buy a Nooky Box, but ask their friends to buy a Nooky Box. Support us on social media. Let us know some of the things, subjects that you want to read about. Or learn more about long-term. That kind of feedback is really super-helpful. But we’re not asking for anyone to go and give us money, just support the business and what we do, and it will, in turn, turn into something bigger and better.
Lynsey G. is a writerly type with an interest in sex, feminism, pornography, and paisley print. Her work across multiple genres has appeared in Bitch Magazine, Refinery 29, Nerve.com, McSweeney’s Internet Tendency, xoJane, the Doctor T. J. Eckleburg Review, Menacing Hedge, and elsewhere . The winner of a 2013 Feminist Porn Award for her documentary film "Consent: Society" and an avid defender of the Oxford comma, she's currently blogging at LynseyG.com and working on a graphic novel, a poetry chapbook, and a memoir of her time as a reporter for the adult entertainment industry (forthcoming from Overlook Press).