Kama Sutra: Out of the Gate

February 05, 2015

Out of the Gate

We began to sell our Oil of Love around the Los Angeles area to the boutique and the head shops of the day and I got my first lesson in “credit.” Foolishly I gave credit- or, to put in more bluntly- I gave my product away. We soon solved that problem- but what was I thinking??

Our sales force were young women we knew in the area, wannabe actresses, models, etc. We called them “Love Oil Ladies” and we paid them a commission on what they sold. It was the heady times of the 1960’s in Hollywood, California.

I had since left my job in the ad agency business and started a small graphic design studio serving some of the accounts I knew in the ad biz with their design needs. So my time was flexible and I could spend a fair amount of time on Kama Sutra before the company started making a profit. So far the company had existed on a loan I got from my uncle Ed, an industrial real estate developer but we were running short and had to find a way to make a profit- and soon.

We decided to rent a booth at the July 1971 Los Angeles Gift Show. This was way before the Convention Center of today. The show was at the Biltmore Hotel, a large old hotel in Downtown LA.

We signed up for a small booth- gave them the money and waited for confirmation. Because we were so small and unknown our ‘booth’ was not a booth in the main area of the show but a small hotel room on the 3rd floor of the hotel- basically Siberia.

So what do we do now? Over beers one night Hal and I came up with the idea of making the room a ‘Love Tent.’ I bought in instantly and off we went to create the Love Tent.

First, we went to the hotel and asked to see one of the rooms on the 3rd floor that had been assigned to the trade show. We made detailed measurements of the room, thanked them and went about planning our next move. We decided to buy a camping tent the exact same size and shape of the room. We found the ‘King of Tents” in Downtown Los Angeles. We found the perfect tent that fit the room just right. We had him pack it up for us and off we went with our Love Tent.

After setting the tent up in the room, we draped the inside of the tent with Indian fabrics, a brass lamp, pillows and Indian-style rugs. We then placed a music box outside the tent that played Ravi Shanker- music. We draped the entryway to the room that goes to the hotel hallway with fabrics as well- so if you were walking by in the hallway it was an intriguing view to say the least. Peeking into this room, passersby would see an entryway with a dimly lit Love Tent with Ravi Shanker music playing in the background. To top it off we had two of our Love Oil Ladies wearing Indian dresses and slippers manning the booth. It was quite a sight.

Remember we had just ONE product to sell, Kama Sutra Oil of Love. The rest of the vendors on the floor had their rooms full of dozens, if not hundreds, of products they were attempting to sell. It was a quite a contrast.

The day the show started I watched from the end of the hallway. We had our two Love Oil Ladies in place. One seated on a pillow inside the tent with a small round, short, Indian-style table in front of her with one opened bottle of Oil of Love ready for demonstrating. The other Love Oil Lady was out in the hallway in front of our room, to invite people in.

Well, we waited and waited for attendees to appear. Remember, we were in Siberia. Slowly, by mid-day a few visitors would show up on our floor and slowly they would peek into our ‘Tent.’ A few more brave ones would enter, then a few more, then a few more until people were waiting in line to enter our tent and learn about the Kama Sutra Oil of Love. It was that way for the rest of the show.

 I would occasionally sit in on a demonstration by one of our Love Oil Ladies and I continuously got the same reaction from the visitors. The demonstration went like this:

She would pour a small amount on the inside of the customer’s wrist. She would then ask them to smell it– “Good,” they would say. Then she would ask them to taste it, “Good,” they would say.  “Now see how slippery it is?” she would ask, “See how it goes on stain free – even though it’s colored in the bottle?” The customer would always nod in agreement.

 Then she would ask them to gently blow on the area to feel the warming sensation on the skin. Almost everyone has the same response to this experience, they’d exclaim, “Oh my God!”

*KA-CHING!* Kama Sutra was on its way. We took many orders at the show, big and small.

So what was next? We needed to produce.


©2015 Joe Bolstad

Founder and CEO of The Kama Sutra Company

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