Emma Sayle, Founder of​ Killing Kittens – The Changing Landscape of Sex & Sexuality

  • Published on:
    September 19, 2019
  • Reading time by:
    7 minutes
Creating Sexual Liberation For Women Through Adult Events On Top Of A Global Online Community Platform

In 2005 there was nowhere women could go to feel in control and explore their sexuality in a safe environment, so Emma Sayle created Killing Kittens.  KK has grown to a fierce army of over 100,000 sexually liberated people around the world, through events hosted from New York to Venice to Sydney on top of a global online community platform.  Popular press regularly pronounces Emma a leader in female sexual liberation and empowerment.

When Emma started Killing Kittens 13 years ago, she wanted to create a brand that stood for women and what they wanted.   Greater awareness of female sexuality and sexual freedom was slowly becoming more socially and commercially acceptable, but there was still a long way to go in an industry that claimed to be for women but run almost exclusively run by men.  She knew that to empower women sexually, it had to be with a business that put them first. 

She understands that a successful business can’t be built without a passion and a team who believes in it just as much, and that one must have fire in the belly to take on an industry that is almost universally run by men, like the adult and ‘sex-tech’ industries.

Unfortunately, there is still a huge amount of bias and misconceptions to address, but Emma has never once doubted her belief to lead the business and keep pushing the boundaries.  It is true, sadly, that sexual discrimination is still alive and kicking in many sectors, across all levels, and many women struggle to be treated with the respect they deserve. She has learned that the best way to deal with the negativity is to stick to the facts, stick to the evidence; track your achievements, demonstrate your successes and let the facts and figures do the talking. 

In 2018, she led the business through a funding round.  The first ever public crowdfund for an adult sector brand of this nature and closed the round at 118% overfunded.

Most recently, she has launched Sistr, under the umbrella of the KK brands.  Sistr, a dedicated platform for women to connect, share and learn from one another.      

What inspired you to start Killing Kittens? 

I founded Killing Kittens in 2005 in response to demand from young, independent and solvent single girls and couples who needed something more. Killing Kittens is the world’s most exclusive, decadent and hedonistic parties and female empowerment brand, fully focused on the pursuit of female pleasure for girls in control who know what they want.

Women exploring their sexuality was spoken about in society and whilst the TV programme Sex in The City was bringing this to the forefront of the media, in reality there was still a real imbalance. My background is PR; I began in financial PR and then followed up with entertainment PR, during which I witnessed a very male-dominated adult industry offering nowhere for women to go to explore their sexuality and feel in control within a safe environment.  We were still living in this patriarchal society and I felt passionately that something had to change. So, what started as a few parties years before social media, female-focused apps and femaleled campaigns like #Metoo has now grown into a global movement that empowers both women and men online and offline. I couldn’t have foreseen just how current the business model would be in 2019, as an established brand in the sex and sextech sector, it’s so interesting right now.  What we’ve seen coming out of the #MeToo movement is the real need for an attitude shift, one that is so positive for women, as behaviours are changing to accommodate female thinking like never before in business and My goal is to provide the world’s biggest female empowerment brand both on and offline that brings the sexual liberation of women to the mainstream…the modernisation of womanhood.

What are the key elements of a successful crowdfunding? 

For the wearekk brand portfolio, consiting now of Killing Kittens, Safedate and Sistr there were three key elements; 

  1. Timing:  Ensure you have the time available to support the process, alongside the hands-on and day to day of your actual job! 
  2. Valuation:  Find a balance between not wanting to give away too much equity, with creating a ‘good deal’ for investors.  As my initial raise was a brand new area for me, I relied heavily on my close team for reassurance when making the final decision to crowdfund versus accepting private funding
  3. Patience:  You must have it!   We launched a first phase of our crowdfund campaign privately, to our community, by the end of day one we closed at 70% funded.  From there we turned to the Seedrs platform and watched the clock tick.  Just 28 days later we’d smashed through our target.  However, the 28 days was a challenge…I questioned myself constantly; ‘have we got this right’, ‘why taking so long to raise…did I get that wrong,’ and so on.  In the end, I found another challenge when had to say stop!  No more investors, please.  I have felt truly humbled by the process.

If I were to start the campaign again…

…Isn’t hindsight a wonderful thing, luckily, we successfully raised.  There are always small things we would change, but nothing of any real significance.  I think it was exactly the right campaign for our first raise. 

Did you start all by yourself?

I started the business alone, just me.  What began as a few parties, years before social media, female-focused apps and femaleled campaigns like #Metoo, has now grown into a global movement of over 120,000 people that empowers both women and men online and offline. 

Years on however, my team is now made up of experts in their fields.  The team, simply, are a group of gladiators who work incredibly hard to bring our events together, create new services and support our community. They believe in what they do and we have first-hand customer feedback that confirms that, for many women (and men!) we have helped transform their lives.   

Who or what influences you?

So many different things across the media and the people I surround myself with.  However, if I think back to the very first influence, it has to be my mother.  She was an amazing army wife, having to move homes every two years and abroad most of the time.  Everywhere we went she got stuck into the local community and organised amazing and inspiring things…a food and medicine convoy from Berlin to Russia, for example, just after the wall came down…and it was covered as a news item by ITN.  My mother taught me to get out there and make the most of any bad situation, that life is to be lived and every opportunity grabbed with both hands – exactly the philosophy I live by now.  

What have been some of the particular challenges of building a business in the adult industry?

There have been so many challenges.  At different times I’ve faced different challenges but specifically, at the beginning of the Killing Kittens adventure I found there was a lot of resistance from men, who thought I was just a silly girl with a silly idea, and also, surprisingly at the time, from friends who didn’t agree with my vision for my business idea. 

I persevered with my vision however and I’ve never looked back, particularly at those quick to criticise at the beginning. 

Have there been any particular high points?

As a brand that continues to lead the charge in the female adult sector, Killing Kittens is the first brand in this sector of its kind to crowdfund publicly, after being turned away by every public platform, previously, numerous times.  

Rather than accepting private equity investment we instead opted to offer the chance to invest in the brand to our own ‘Kommunity’ first, offering investors large and small who we truly believed would support the Killing Kittens vision to  deliver unforgettable experiences that continue to inspire confidence, sexuality and femininity whilst continuing to push the boundaries for female expression.  KK has always been about community so this seemed like the best fit for this first raise. I would rather have 300 investors all feeling part of the business than 5 city boys.

We had so many investors, from people I know personally to business associates, I have felt truly humbled by the process, to see so many individuals invest in my company is truly astonishing.  I am so grateful. 

What advice would you want to give women who are starting out?

I would suggest seeking a mentor as a starting point.  Mentoring brings rich rewards to both parties and for those being mentored, it is a safe and trusted place to explore key areas of business and leadership challenges and find the belief and confidence that they can fulfill their ambition.  

However, choosing the right mentor requires careful consideration and this is where networking plays an equally crucial role so, secondly, network.  Networking offers opportunities to connect and identify with a much wider community and its potentially rich resource of experience and expertise, but it requires sustained personal commitment and effort. Attending talks, conferences and workshops are all excellent ways to forge new connections both inside and outside of one’s network. But it is the prevalence of online communities, especially those that represent minority groups, which are starting to be a real game-changer in this area.  They are rapidly changing the face of networking and mentoring as one of the most accessible and efficient ways to reach out to a niche source of inspiration, advice and support. 

What is your favorite part of being an entrepreneur?

I have total, and absolute, freedom to be creative and generate my own ideas, without them being squashed by management or controlled in a way I hadn’t initially intended. 

Personally, I’m a free spirit and it’s always been my maddest and craziest ideas that have been the most successful on a business level.  I’m lucky to see my spirit, mindset and personal passions streamlining through the heart of all my businesses, if I weren’t an entrepreneur, I know I wouldn’t be this lucky! 

What do you have to keep in mind BEFORE getting into entrepreneurship? 

I don’t believe anyone decides to get into entrepreneurship, I like to think that entrepreneurs have a drive, spirit and level of positivity that just leads them into being an entrepreneur, almost without realising it.  These traits lead to us wanting to fix industries, create new ideas and concepts, all whilst looking at the bigger picture and avoiding getting caught up in the chatter and detail.  Most entrepreneurs do not do it for the money either, money is the byproduct of being a successful entrepreneur, so those entering the entrepreneurial pool shouldn’t expect to suddenly make millions, they have to do it for the passion and therefore need to be so passionate and focused about their idea and making it happen that everyone around you thinks they’re crazy! 

Many will fail but I truly believe it’s the failures that really make an entrepreneur!

Do you believe in destiny or do you think you can control your fate?

I don’t believe that all good things come to those that wait, I genuinely believe that they come to those people that get out there and work their arses off, those that seize every opportunity, who constantly learn and want to continue to learn, be it from books, podcasts or networking. 

I do have an insane faith in things happening for a reason however and that everything will work out but I think controlling your mindset, keeping positive, keeping driven and having an open mind can definitely help control your fate.  There is always 2 ways to look at any picture, no matter how awful you think it is, try and find one positive, there is always 1 when you really look.

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