California Exotic Novelties and Susan Colvin, 21 Years Strong And Innovating

By on July 1, 2015
susan colvin

The story begins in the early 1990’s when Susan Colvin, then General Manager for the distribution company CPLC and Video Team, had a different vision for a small novelty branch of the company, Swedish Erotica. During a time when video dominated the market and sex toys were mostly an afterthought, she saw a world of better quality toys that spoke to the consumer.

Relegated to the back of the store and intended to be purchased by only male customers, sex toys weren’t considered nearly as important as they are today. Vibrators were made of hard plastic, with only two color choices, ivory or black. The motors were loud, unruly and undependable; often times, the wires on many rabbit-style vibes would easily pull out. Generally the products were poor quality and would break easily.

Similar to many of the other products of its time, the original Swedish Erotica boxes were plain, modest and uninspired. Red and yellow with a flimsy window box, Swedish Erotica’s packaging was basic and unimaginative.

None of this made sense to Susan, a visionary woman that loves art as much as she loves animals. She saw so much potential in the market.

“I wanted to make packaging with personality; to create toys that were reliable, quiet, more powerful, and with wires that didn’t easily slip out. I knew the market was ripe for something better, and I wanted to make that happen” says Colvin.

When CPLC disbanded in 1994, Susan bought Swedish Erotica inspired by her vision for something different. Desiring to distance herself from the hard-core video market, she changed the name to California Exotic Novelties (often referred to as “CalExotics”). In 1994, California Exotic Novelties opened on the corner of Halldale and Adams Streets in Los Angeles. Right from the start, this family-like, collaborative environment did things differently.

After six months, the company outgrew that location and moved to the quiet community of Chino, where it eventually expanded to three buildings, encompassing over 200,000 square feet.

With a team of all-women product developers, and a keen understanding of what it meant to market products to women and couples, CalExotics introduced many groundbreaking innovations to the industry. For example, photo shoots were held for catalogs and marketing material, and the art was only graphic when it needed to be. Vibrant colors such as pink and purple, which are the most popular colors today, were first introduced by CalExotics. Simple concepts like these would set the stage for a long list of industry firsts for the company.

Jackie White, an original employee, who today is the company’s Vice President of Sales, says, “The goal for California Exotic Novelties was to create a company that was in-tune with, and created products for, women, men, and couples. Then, as now, we want to create something for everyone!”

In 1994, many thought it was crazy to cater to women and couples. Retailers felt that the market couldn’t bear higher price-points that came with quality products with sharper packaging. It was common to hear store owners say things like, “We have three plastic vibes in two styles. That’s more than enough! Why would we need more colors or styles?” Susan and her team at CalExotics quickly proved otherwise.

Today, California Exotics Novelties is the world’s most respected pleasure product manufacturer. The company offers the widest selection of adult pleasure products with 60 individual collections. Popular lines include: Apollo, Body & Soul, Coco Licious, COLT, Dr. Joel Kaplan, Dr. Laura Berman, Embrace, Entice, First Time, Impress, Jack Rabbit, Love Rider, Nipple Play, POSH, Scandal, Shane’s World, Silhouette, Vivid Raw, and more.

Success continues to come to California Exotic Novelties, pushing the company to grow into a new location to support their operations. Mark Jackson, Chief Operating Officer, says “We’ve outgrown the Chino location. The new office and warehouse is located in one large building, which has helped bring all our teams together and further streamline our operations.”

CalExotics continues to make enhancements with products and marketing to support its motto: When you win, we win. The company has enlarged its offering of retailer support tools, including customizable visual merchandising plans, store signage, point-of-purchase displays, product videos and shareable social media content through Club CalExotics.

California Exotic Novelties heralded in a new era of adult toys, creating an entirely new category. Much of the industry has grown with CalExotics, from manufacturer to retailer. Today the industry is projected to be a $15 billion global powerhouse.

To find out more about CalExotics, go to  Join the most popular online sexual wellness community on the internet by visiting

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