TORONTO - In the early 1990s, Larry Gayne was the successful but unsatisfied vice-president of a large engineering firm. An engineer himself, he started toying with the idea of running his own business. But with the country facing an economic recession, he was pragmatic enough to realize he would need a unique idea on which to build his future. His timing may not have been great, but his idea was timeless.
Calling it "more of a joke at the outset," Gayne's first product - The Tongue, an adult toy that simulated oral sex - literally came to him in a dream.
"At that time, I was a structural engineer responsible for the construction of high-rise office buildings, hotels, and condos," says Gayne, the founder, president, and majority shareholder of Calston Industries, which now markets more than 300 products under the name Lady Calston. "In fact, the idea for a licking product seemed preposterous to me until I actually dreamt up the mechanism while asleep. So, the next morning I grabbed a bunch of my kids' toys, spread them over the kitchen table, and voilà! A few hours later, there sat a crude prototype for a working tongue!"
The company's third generation tongue, the Mini Tongue, was its top seller for 12 years straight-a result, Gayne believes, of its simplicity. "Its continued success is the clear result of the fact that it directly addresses a woman's most common and desirable means of reaching orgasm, namely clitoral stimulation and oral sex, without the requirement of a partner," he says. Since then, more than one million of the patented Mini Tongues have been purchased.
Sixteen years after that first tongue prototype, Gayne is still visualizing ideas that continue to sell in the highly saturated sex toy market.
"I spend an awful lot of time dreaming up new ideas," he says. "We do not run to China looking for exclusive rights on other people's products, nor do we subcontract others to undertake those creative tasks."
As the creative force behind Lady Calston, Gayne keeps the couples market in mind.
"We really strive to develop innovative specialty products that work for women and couples," he says. "Products that are fun, enjoyable, and easy to use...and, of course, products that are likely to produce the desired results with the highest frequency."
Gayne determined early in his business that such unique products would become Lady Calston's trademark.
"We pride ourselves on being original and first," he says. "We were the first to produce a tongue; we were the first to produce the tickling panty concept; and we were the first to produce the pulsing concept in a controller."
Lady Calston was also at the forefront of the phthalates controversy. Gayne believes there is sufficient cause to avoid their use in adult toys, but that they are more harmful in food products. Speaking to the Certified Adult Home Parties Association in 2007, Gayne gave an overview of the inconclusive research on phthalates, encouraging adult toy manufacturers to "switch over immediately" to non-phthalate materials and "long term...move away from phthalates entirely." The industry as a whole, he says, needs to promote non-phthalate products as safe and "educate our customers accordingly."
Gayne's emphasis on consumer education extends to the company's sales and marketing strategy. Marketing the label's products exclusively through distributors and home party companies, Lady Calston reps accompany distributors on sales calls to answer questions.
It's a face-to-face approach that adds real credibility to the sales process," Gayne said.
Despite the current economic downturn, Lady Calston is increasing its sales budget. The company has expanded its reach in the European market, and plans to release several new products in 2009.
"We have the new Cuddle series," says Gayne, "and we expect the all-new Alladin, Pulsatron 111, Wishbone, and Fat Albert to be ready."
In addition, the company's FeelGood line has been redeveloped to offer multiple speeds and reduce noise, and Gayne is working on a new purse-sized tongue.
"There is incredible passion and energy here at Lady Calston that is unquestionably the driving force behind our endeavors," he says. "There is certainly no shortage of new ideas here at Lady Calston, only a shortage of time!"
To contact Lady Calston, call 416-398-0999, or visit Lady-Calston.com.