Interested in starting your own entrepreneurial journey but unsure what to expect? Then read up on our interview with Marcelle LeBlanc, owner of Velvet Box, located in Fort Worth, TX, USA.

What's your business, and who are your customers?

Velvet Box is a woman-owned company with six North Texas retail locations staffed by a team of professionals trained in a program designed by a licensed sex educator.

In Velvet Box stores and in our burgeoning online presence, we provide a warm and inviting shopping environment that encourages our customers' safe exploration of good sex through sex education and sex-enhancing products. We understand that our customers may have experienced a stigma around talking and learning about sex, and we want them to feel reassured in their desires, their bodies, and their joys.

Tell us about yourself

I'm from the Deep South, where we know a lot about human nature, and I've worked in the adult business for over 25 years. I started my own business, Velvet Box, over ten years ago because I could see that a lot of people were not getting what they needed from the existing adult retail trade.

For a long time, selling sex toys was actually illegal in Texas, and even after that changed, the adult shop experience remained stuck in a seedy, back-alley mentality. My vision for Velvet Box was to bring sex products and sex education out of the shadows and to provide a comfortable, upscale experience instead where ordinary people who just want to enjoy great sex could explore options that weren't previously available to them. I know that the people who come back to my store, again and again, aren't just there for the products. They're there for the education and the support and the compassion — and honestly, the love and acceptance — they find in my stores and from my staff. Maybe that's why one of the things that have always motivated me to keep going is the resistance I sometimes face because I know my customers face it, too.

What's your biggest accomplishment as a business owner?

I'm so proud of Velvet Box and my team, and our performance over the last few years. In particular, 2020 was a difficult year for many industries, but with a focus on company culture and employee morale — and a swift move to online retail and customer support — we came through the pandemic with double-digit profits and a whole new audience for our web storefront. Brick-and-mortar sales are doing great as well, and we just opened our sixth store in the Dallas-Fort Worth area. All of this tells me that my vision was right. With Velvet Box, I really am helping people find the physical and emotional connections they need as they go through life and thrive. So that's my biggest accomplishment: I run a business that changes people's lives.

What's one of the hardest things that comes with being a business owner?

I don't know if it's the hardest thing, but the most critical thing has to be finding, training, and keeping the best employees. I want customers for life — and that means I need to have employees who feel the same reciprocal loyalty. That's why we rigorously screen applicants, provide in-depth, ongoing training, and pay competitive wages. When I first started out, everyone laughed because they thought I was paying too much, but it worked. We continue to make great progress in limiting employee turnover and increasing customer satisfaction, even in an era when frontline employees are in high demand and customer service seems a thing of the past.

What are the top tips you'd give to anyone looking to start, run and grow a business today?

  1. Know your customers and give them what they need.
  2. Have faith in yourself. If you know that you're on track with (1), you can treat obstacles as challenges and keep pursuing your vision.
  3. Find, train, and keep the best employees.

Where can people find you and your business?


If you like what you've read here and have your own story as a solo or small business entrepreneur that you'd like to share, then please answer these interview questions. We'd love to feature your journey on these pages.

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