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In 1989, there wasn’t much of a business in selling lingerie as well as a unique selection of sexual enhancement items in the U.S. At the time, Sue Rhea was working in administration with a group of doctors, primarily depending on her husband to bring home the real money. But when he became critically ill, she knew she would have to become the primary breadwinner for her family.

With the encouragement of her husband, and her experiences hearing about the sexual frustration and complaints of so many women patients at the doctor’s office, she decided to take a chance, and begin Surprise Parties, a unique business in a then-fledgling, pre-internet industry.

“I realized there are so many women who are frustrated,” says Rhea candidly, “and some of the products are funny, but some of the products are things we really need. And I like for people to laugh, and love to entertain and show people a good time. So it seemed like a great fit for me, and I put a program presentation together and started getting products together and having parties.”

Rhea continued to work for the doctors while she was launching the business, and in-the-meanwhile “started the company in the laundry room of my house.”

Now, it’s 2005, and women across the country are hosting lingerie and sex-toy parties in their homes, and buying scads of sexy and fun products; everything from the tame gold dust shimmery body blush powder, to the more adventurous flavored body lotions to the erotic fur-covered handcuffs, and so much more, including a “BOB” (Battery Operated Boyfriend). At each event, a trained “Surprise Lady” explains how the products are used, then partygoers buy items in private. Purchases are discretely slipped into a paper bag, for you to share with your friends or take home to your lover.

“I wanted this presented in a way everyone could relate to,” explains Rhea. “Sex is not a tawdry behind doors type of thing. We make women feel good about themselves, sensually and sexually and empower women. We have stay-at-home mommies, successful, high-power women, and we have women that have been in the workforce in a job that they absolutely abhor for 15 years. They all get into this, and love it.” / Issue 51 - September 2018
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