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How I Made $30K With The Best Side Hustle Ever

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Photographed by Noah Rabinowitz.
“Big anal month,” says Katrina Vidal authoritatively, closing the trunk of her white Corolla. She carries a tote full of her demonstration supplies up to a suburban home, where a group of 17 women await her presentation. It’s 7:30 p.m. on Saturday in Acushnet, MA, and this is Vidal’s second stop of the night. She’s just come from another party an hour away, where she sold $900 worth of sex toys to a group of women on Cape Cod.

The weeks leading up to Valentine’s Day are the busiest time of the year for Vidal, 29, a salesperson (a.k.a. Goddess) for Athena’s Home Novelties, a direct sales adult novelty company based out of Rhode Island. Athena’s was founded in 1998 by Jennifer Jolicoeur with a loan from her grandfather. The company is now valued at $5 million with 1,200 active Goddesses and Adoni (that’s the men) in 44 states. Athena’s self-proclaimed motto is to “take away the shame and guilt from human sexuality and replace it with enlightenment.” It’s also how Vidal has made approximately $30,000 in profit in the past three years. For a part-time gig, that’s not bad.

This kind of entrepreneurship is nothing new — just think of the Tupperware parties of yore. In 2014, women accounted for approximately 75% of the direct sales enterprise in the U.S. Vidal, who has a degree in psychology, is part of a shift in which millennial women are increasingly finding ways to become their own bosses, but they aren’t selling Mary Kay and Avon like their mothers — or their grandmothers — may have done. Instead, they’re redefining the side hustle. As Vidal says, “I’m a social worker — and I sell dildos.”
Photographed by Noah Rabinowitz.
Back at the house, the women have been snacking and chatting, awaiting Vidal’s arrival. Nearly everyone has a red Solo cup with a mixed drink. As they settle into the living room, Vidal sets up her four-drawer portable cabinet. There isn’t enough space — every available chair in the house is taken — so some sit on the floor.

“Who here is a sex-toy party virgin?” Vidal asks, passing out Athena’s catalogs. One attendee raises her hand and Vidal rewards her with a few raffle tickets for the Dildo Lottery, which will take place at the end of the party. (Contrary to its name, the lottery is actually for free money toward your order, not for a dildo itself. Though the winner can use the funds to purchase a dildo, if she feels like it.) “I’m not ready for this,” jokes Talia M., a 24-year-old preschool teacher. Everyone laughs.
Vidal begins her demonstration, starting with her simpler items in the top drawer before launching into the more intense toys in the bottom drawers. She eases in everyone with “Roar” Pheromone Cologne, $26, which she rolls on the wrists of each woman. The group is giddy, talkative, and excited. “Oooh I like this!” says one. “Smells like Sweet Tarts,” says another, sniffing her wrist.
Also from the top drawer is the Silky Sheets Spray, which Melissa D., a 34-year-old dental office coordinator in attendance, raves about. “I brought it on my honeymoon and it resulted in...” she says, pointing at her pregnant belly. “Wait, am I responsible for that?” Vidal asks. Melissa nods and Vidal hands her some Dildo Lottery tickets. The women are thrilled. And the spray will cost you just $13.75!

Indeed, Vidal has an item for every budget — and promises her audience, “I’ll make you come in any price range.”

Though the group is chatty and excited at first, they are silent at the introduction of the first vibrating product, The Main Squeeze, which for $39 both serves as a pleasurable vibrator and facilitates your Kegel exercises. They take turns holding it up to their ears and running it through their fingers. Vidal encourages everyone to do a group Kegel together.
Then, Vidal whips out Romeo, a $22 realistic phallus with a suction cup. She jokes about how you can, for example, stick it on the fridge and have it inside you while you’re cutting up some vegetables for dinner. The conversation among the guests strays to jokes about whether Romeo comes in different shades and sizes.

“I’m gonna come around and jerk off your fingers, if you’ll let me,” Vidal continues, demonstrating a lube on their hands before applying it to Romeo himself, using a corkscrew motion to show exactly how these products would work together. With each product, she takes the time to explain not only how it works, but how all couples, regardless of sexuality, can use it. The room is silent, but not for long, because Vidal needs a volunteer.

She asks Amanda, the group’s bravest participant, to get on all fours in doggy-style position, accessorizes her with the Mesmer-EYES eye mask inspired by Fifty Shades of Grey ($11) and a Silence is Golden Breathable Ball Gag ($12) before using a Doggie Style Strap (new and improved at $24) to illustrate how you could make thrusting a bit more, well, thrusty. “Amanda! You used to be my daughter’s teacher!” Samantha D., 27, shouts. The group laughs.

Vidal says she’s a very sexual, open person and she’s always been interested in direct sales. She heard about Athena’s through a high school friend and hosted a party for her birthday in 2012, where she met Goddess Kelly. About a year later, in March 2013, Vidal decided to message Kelly on Facebook and express her interest. She was inspired by her posts on social media about how much cash she was making and how she was able to not only leave her job as a waitress, but support her four children doing only Goddess work for Athena’s.
They met at Panera and Kelly gave her a pamphlet with all the information about becoming a Goddess. “By the end of that [conversation], I bought the biggest kit for an initial investment of $500,” Vidal says. She could have invested just $99 or $250, since Athena’s offers lower buy-in options, but Vidal felt energized from her meeting with Kelly. “I’m such a ‘Go big or go home' person. That’s just kind of my personality.”

That day, Vidal created a website, ordered personalized pens, and started a Facebook invitation for her first launch party, which would come after her two weeks of training. In the three years since, she has continued to invest some of her own money to buy products she can use for demonstrations at her parties. (She receives a 40 to 50% discount from Athena’s.) And beyond that, she estimates that about $25 of profit per party goes back into her business for supplies, advertising, catalogs, and prizes.

Vidal was a natural from the start. She made over $39,000 in sales in just nine months — $11K in November 2013 alone. Vidal was set on getting the title of Top New Goddess. “I wanted it so bad. I did raffles, vendor events, special sales, everything. Black Friday events.” Her hard work payed off and she learned she reached her goal during Athena’s annual holiday party. “I cried and cried. I got a trophy and a $1,500 Macy’s shopping spree. And then, I got to be on the Goddess Advisory Board for the following year.”

A major perk of the Goddess Advisory Board: You not only choose which products Athena’s will carry, but you can name them, too. Vidal’s responsible for Vanilla Swirl, a $89 round-tipped shaft vibrator she named after Crazy Eyes’ signature pet name for Piper in Orange Is The New Black.
Though Vidal’s always trying to book parties, her efforts have become more concentrated since August 2015, when she got engaged. Every party she booked from September onward has been under the umbrella of her #dildosforweddingbells campaign. Vidal wants to earn $10K in profits before her wedding in October 2016. Her fiancé is paying for the venue. With her Athena's money, she will pay for the vendors, so it won't be touching their primary incomes at all.

"Athena's is my fun money to meet goals, like vacations and adventures," she says. “[It’s] a great way for people to book parties and get really invested in you, because people want to help and they want to see and be a part of what you’re doing,” she says. She mines her vast network of contacts and uses social media to promote her business. After just five months, she’s almost halfway to her goal at $4,500. And to date, Vidal is just shy of selling $100,000 worth of product for Athena. "After the wedding, I want hardwood floors," she says. "#dildosforhardwoodfloors. Or my cousin just suggested #woodforwood," she laughs.

Athena's sales team is devoted. They share video testimonials on YouTube explaining why they became a Goddess — and obviously, potential earnings are a big attraction. Salespeople earn 35 to 40% commission, depending on which business plan you choose, and the company offers incentives throughout the year, like free products, shopping sprees, and trips. (Vidal went to Daytona Beach, FL, in December with the Jolicoeur and another top seller in the company. They stayed with Jolicoeur’s grandfather at his condo.) And then, there’s the chance to take home $10K during the annual holiday party, which is a centerpiece of the event. Throughout the year, Goddesses and Adoni will get keys as rewards for hitting certain sales and recruiting goals. One of the keys will open the padlocked chest that holds the giant check. You can even watch footage of these moments on Athena’s site.

The reaction from the crowd shows what it’s like to be part of the Athena’s community. When the Goddess opens the chest to see she’s won, the women around her rush up to hug her, screaming for excitement for her. “Athena’s is like a family,” Vidal says. “When we all get together for the meetings, it’s a really powerful feeling. You leave feeling really positive. And when Eric [my fiancé] comes, he feels it, too.”
Athena’s offers support meetings for its employees’ partners, run by the CEO’s husband. At this year’s meeting, participants filled out worksheets where they answered questions: What has Athena’s given you? How can I help my partner be more prepared for parties? Vidal says her fiancé is 100% supportive. “He loves it. He benefits from it, for sure.”

But beyond the cash and sense of community, there’s also the thrill of running your own business. “I do have a lot of autonomy in my day work, but at Athena’s, I’m my own boss. This is my own business. I determine if I’m successful or not. And I make sure my clients are happy and satisfied to the best of my ability. I’ve always been a really confident person, but it brings a lot of light into my life,” Vidal says, recounting when Melissa told her about her pregnancy at the party. “How amazing is that? That’s so cool.”

Back at the party, things are winding down, but Vidal still has work to do. First, she encourages everyone to add her number into their phone. “Save me as sex goddess. Save me as Katrina. Save me as the little eggplant emoji. Whatever!” Then, she sets up shop in one of the bedrooms, where each woman will have a chance to go in individually to place her private order.
There are moments when Vidal pulls from her social worker skill set for her Goddess job. “You get some people who pour their heart out to you. They’ve never had an orgasm. They’ve been sexually abused. I want to be able to speak to that person one-on-one freely, so they feel absolutely comfortable,” Vidal explains. “Some people don’t want other people to know what they’re ordering. It’s gratifying to do what I do.”
Vidal doesn’t anticipate that her Goddess business will ever replace her full-time career as a social worker, though she wishes it could. “I would love to, but my [day] job gives me benefits. I have a mortgage. I’m in a union. In Athena’s, I can control what I make, because I can do more parties.” But there are risks. “If I have a really crappy party that I don’t anticipate, if I have cancellations, the weather. There’s no sick time; no paid time off. With my full-time job, when I get married, my partner can have all the same benefits.”

Being a full-time Goddess isn’t out of the question, though. “Maybe I will hit the lottery. Who knows? Sometimes, I just think about it like, God, how cool would it be to just do this? In my dreams of dreams.”
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