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How Intercourse-Toy Firm CEO Lora Haddock DiCarlo Will get It Finished

Successful women talk about managing their careers and their lives.

Illustration: Lauren Tamaki

Lora Haddock DiCarlo believes in the power of sex toys – not just as a means to an obvious end, but as a tool by which you can “gain more confidence in your identity through sexual exploration”. It is one of the guiding principles of her sex toy company Lora DiCarlo, which offers inclusive products and a robust sexual wellness coaching service. The company caused a sensation not long after it arrived. In 2019, two years after DiCarlo founded the company, their Osé Robotic Massager won an innovation award at the CES technology conference, which the organizers later withdrew after classifying the product as “immoral” and “indecent” . In response, DiCarlo wrote an open letter condemning the show for its “history of gender bias” and campaigning for CES to allow sex toys on the show. Since then, DiCarlo’s profile and company have only grown. Last fall, Cara Delevingne joined as a co-owner and creative consultant. As recently as this month, the company launched a crowdfunding campaign for stocks on the Republic platform, which allows users to invest in the company. DiCarlo currently resides in Bend, Oregon with her Pomeranian Enzo. Here’s how she does it.

On a typical (pandemic) morning:
I get up around 4:30 or 5:00 a.m. I have an alarm clock that I have to run across the house with and scan a barcode to get my bum out of bed. I know there are a lot of stereotypes about CEOs getting up early in the morning, but that’s when I’m the most creative – when it’s all flowing. The first thing I will do is write a journal and drink apple cider vinegar and lemon water. Next, I do about 20 minutes of yoga and meditate for between five and 15 minutes. I will also train for at least half an hour. I’m a peloton addict and I lift a lot of weights. I’m not a little girl that’s for sure. And then I sit down and write a journal to prepare for the day. At this point it is about 6:30 a.m. Then I go through my email and take the dog for a walk. I have a little pomeranian who is excited all the time. The nice thing about all of this is that I can get through all of my “me time” in the morning. At any other time of the day, if I try to do something that is just for me, I really feel guilty.

On a normal working day:
I start working around 8 a.m. and stop at 6 p.m. at the earliest – it is often more than 8 p.m. or even midnight; it just depends. I usually work both in and out of the office. When I go to the office I generally try to spend between one and three hours in the lab with our engineers, just going through products and discussing prototypes. But for the most part, my job is not in the company. My job is really rooted in a couple of important things. The first is PR – you know how to be the speaker and really understand and communicate with our audience. The second is product. We talk about products on a daily basis and I want to make sure we absorb outside influences and listen to our community. For example, what are the biggest issues that need to be resolved in sex tech and sexual wellness? And I work creatively with my marketing team.

It’s a long day, but when you love what you do, you get super drawn into the work. When I know I have a lot of back-to-back things or a lot of projects to work on, I use a pomodoro timer. So I go to the grindstone for 25 minutes with my headphones on, then take five minutes off to walk around, stretch, or do yoga. I sometimes play the timer during meetings because I have attention deficit issues and just can’t concentrate. I also have a seltzer-and-lime habit.

On the battle for legitimacy in a male-dominated technology industry:
When we found that the Consumer Technology Association was taking our award away after winning at CES and that I was faced with the responsibility of pushing back and talking to them about their gender biases, I was shocked. I looked at this big patriarchal association and very likely called myself a whiny slut. And I didn’t want to be called for that. If I didn’t have the great team that I have, I don’t know if I could have responded alone. They gave me the strength to do this and then we went ahead and started an international awareness campaign on gender bias. I was empowered, but I was also scared the entire time until it went live. My mother has influenced me a lot and encouraged me to fight for what I believe in and for my values, but my community and my team are what fuel that flame.

On mainstreaming sexual health and wellbeing:
Our mission is based on the importance of sexual health and education, and enables everyone to explore their sexuality with certainty and confidence. The fact is, sex education in the US – and many other countries – is terrible. I’ve had both teenagers and people in their 70s contacting me directly on social media asking questions about orgasms. Sex tech company owners know what we’re doing and can actually educate our community. I see this as a privilege and it is very important to us to be able to offer this training. That’s why we’ve started a sexual wellness and coaching program that anyone can sign up for.

To use data to provide information about products and services:
We originally conducted studies to understand what kind of products people were buying and where they were buying them. We noticed how little brand awareness there is: almost 40 percent of people misidentified the brand of their sex toy, and another 40 percent didn’t know the brand at all. So we have 80 percent of the population who don’t know what brand their sex toy is, which made us realize that we have a lot of space to make a really wonderful connection with people through ours.

What we really want to know is how people communicate with each other. We saw some interesting trends – the bigger picture was that LGBTQ people were more likely to be more likely to communicate effectively with partners, be realistic about body expectations, and know where their sexual pleasure points are.

We also looked at the data to find out why people masturbate and the top three reasons were to sleep better, undress, and achieve general well-being. That just screams wellness for me. From there we started to develop products – not for men or women, but for body parts, because we don’t want our products to be gender-specific. Ultimately, we’re a for-profit company, but this brand is totally focused.

When decompressing:
It depends where I am and what time of the year. I read a lot and I love dance, music and art. I also have a pole in my little gym for dancing, which I’ve probably been doing for about 26 years. I love to work in the garden. I’m also an adrenaline junkie – hardcore. I love kite surfing, mountain biking, climbing. I rode a motorcycle, which probably caused my mom to have several heart attacks.

In her night routine:
I usually drink chamomile tea in the evening to relax. I do a facial with cleansing and oil. Once in bed, I fall asleep, either listening to a meditation podcast or reading or listening to an audio book and reading at the same time. Like I said, my focus is all over the place sometimes and that helps me fall asleep. I’ve been sleeping really well since I’ve been wearing headphones in bed.