Y’all, I wanted 2022 to be a great year so bad. I really did.
My birthday is 2/22. We are called ANGEL Candy. It was an angel number year! It just made SENSE that this would be a year of success, luxury, and wins. Spoiler alert: it was… not quite that.
I started this company in 2020 and my first ever goal was one sale per day. We achieved that in May, and I cried (shoutout to the OG customers who trusted us back in those wild wild west bootleg days, my heart is yours 4lyf). It wasn’t a huge year, but any growth is exciting when you're starting at 0.
2021 was chaotic as hell (there are some BTS pics we'll release someday), but successful. Lockdowns started lifting, clubs started reopening, and the money was once again flying through the air. I hired Alyssa, a fellow Jersey Girl stripper, and we let our creativity run wild. We went to expos, we released a magazine, we put out over 120 different outfits. 2021 felt like a sexy fever dream. We danced up a mountain in our 8” heels, pushing our ball of sparkly lil bikinis up and up and up.
Us calling an Uber to the Miami Garment District to zoom through aisles of Spandex still drunk after leaving Tootsies at 437 AM
And then came 2022. Oh, my hopes were so high. Even as she knocked me down again and again. “The fun is coming,” I thought. About a quarter of the way through the year, I finally accepted that our 8” heels were sinking into the mud. This was going to be a year of trials and tribulations. “Oh jeez,” I thought. “This is no fun at all.”
When you start a business, you have to carefully balance the use of your money vs. the use of your time. In 2020 I had some money, but way more time. It was lockdown, so I studied how to make creatives, marketing, website optimization, and stuff like that. I added glitter backgrounds to our product photos with Tiger King on in the background.
The Creative Fuel that is forever woven into the foundation of this company, Amen
Knowing how to do these things myself, plus knowing our market intimately because I belong to it, worked. This led to the growth I am so grateful for throughout 2020-21. Despite seeing Angel Candy’s success, despite EXPERIENCING it- imposter syndrome lingered, and led me to believe that I wasn’t that good and that “real business people'' knew better. I became insecure given the dismissiveness people treated my accomplishments with simply because this is a company for sex workers.
So in 2022, I spent a lot of money hiring people who were “experts” and on things that I imagined “real businesses” do. Only to find that me and my team of neuro divergent, crafty sluts who had never officially studied branding, marketing, or any of those things, knocked the experts out of the water every time. Thank God for analytics, because numbers don't lie.
Me digging through 3 years worth of analytics to find that some wily Jersey strippers with mental health issues and no college degrees achieved engagement rates more than 2x the industry standard
Thinking I’d find solace in a creative project, I planned an editorial shoot. The photographer didn’t bring any lights… to shoot in a dark strip club. Half of the “finals” sent to me were blurry, out of frame, or had parts of the model’s bodies cut off. Over 5,000 photos were taken and we ended up with *5* good ones (12 after Tati came through with the magic photoshop touch and spliced some together). It is only through the incredible sex appeal and grace of our hot models that the shoot was salvaged.
It's not possible for them to not be hot, bad lighting and all. That light you see in the corner? It's mine.
Inventory was also a complete nightmare- if it could go wrong, it did. Suppliers telling me they could make the Signature sizes and then making them wrong. Arguing with me that “no one is going to buy those sizes anyway.” Using the wrong fabric. The wrong elastic. The wrong color. Packages being lost. A months long back and forth dilemma with Signature V backs always arriving with the sizes wrong, only to find out someone had been *intentionally* sabotaging them in hopes of stealing our business.
Half of new businesses do not make it to 5 years and after the year I've had, baby I see why. I would have quit had I experienced even half of this nonsense when I started. It is very, very difficult to stick with something when it’s costing more money than it makes. When you are spending hours fixing mistakes you didn’t make. When you pay someone to do something, only to realize they are pretending to do it or don’t know how to do it well. Spending hours, days, weeks, meticulously planning only for things to go wrong anyway.
The Theme of 2022 for me personally
Whew, Girlsssss! I made so many mistakes this year, all while dealing with personal issues that made accountability to the business harder than ever before. This year taught me that working hard doesn’t guarantee success, and that accolades will never beat authenticity. 2022… Kicked. My. Ass. Up. And. Down.
The only thing keeping my hope alive this year has been you, our supporters. Sorry to be a sappy emo girl (MySpace was my first ever social media, what do u expect) but it is true. Getting your DMs and messages about how you felt so sexy or made a bag always reminds me that we deserve to have a brand that is JUST for us. Not kind for us. Not ‘inspired’ by us. But made FOR us, specifically. Seeing ALL of the Signature sizes sell confirms that I wasn’t crazy, because every body deserves to get a bag. Getting pics of y’all wearing your mix n’ match Signature fits literally makes my heart flutter and brings me SO much joy.
*fists pumps and cries slutty happy tears*
I know this year has been rocky. Thank you for being understanding, even when we make mistakes. Thank you for making us look *so* good… on stage, on cam, and on date night with that 47 year old surgeon from Connecticut who just luvvvvs to bring you shopping. Thank you for all of your design input in our polls, sending pics of your pets with cash, and for proving wrong the 99% of suppliers who said there was no need for sizes in this industry. Most importantly- thank you for your business, which allows us to continue to grow from “baby stripper” to “veteran” as a company.
The blessing in being beat down by 2022 (i wanted to love u boo!!!) is that she beat the imposter syndrome and doubt right out of me. I feel so much more confident that *I do* know what is best. While we of course can’t do it all, no marketing expert will ever be able to capture what is so special and cool about our community. I know that now. As our Angel of September 2022 Amethyst put perfectly, “I think we’re like the best kind of girls.”
Seeing how creative you all are with your outfits (finding matching hair things! Tying them in new and crazy ways! Mixing n Matching with stuff you have from other stores!) inspires us to keep pushing creatively. Seeing the way that you show up and care for one another (so many of you said you got your first fit as a gift from a fellow Industry Girl, or have held fundraisers for your friends in the industry when they've gone through something difficult) reflects the unique energy that makes us so special. We are fierce, and sexy, and cool- but also soft. Loving. Kind. We are unique individuals and human, despite civilians convincing themselves we are XXX fairy tale demons here to steal their mediocre men and rub our butts on their values.
Society is obsessed with the idea of us. The way that our lives are simplified and glamorized in most popular media proves this. We are often portrayed, but rarely truly represented. We are frequently spoken of, but rarely heard. We are not just an "idea." We are people who deserve to take up space just as much as everyone else.
There are plenty of stores we can shop at, but few that outwardly market that they are FOR sex workers. It has always been my hope to create a brand that celebrates us. Our creativity, our strength, our beauty, and our immense courage to work in an industry that deals in the two most taboo topics in the world- sex and money- in order to build the life we want and deserve. I truly believe 2023 will be our best year yet. The blacklight at the end of the tunnel, so to speak. I am SO excited to roll out designs and creative projects we have planned.
It is my wish for all of you to spend 2023 growing towards and living the life of your dreams, and earning racks on racks along the way. It's what you deserve <3. THANK YOU for rockin’ with us today, tomorrow, and forever (because if this year didn’t take me out, none of them will.) You are truly the most special thing about us.
At least 2022 brought us *drumroll please* ... Bankroll Blue