The 'mancession' gets a female boost; the growing pink economy

By Kimberly Holmes – bio | email

CINCINNATI, OH (FOX19)  - There's a new term being used to describe our recent tough economic times: "mancession."

That's because since 2007, two-thirds of the eleven million jobs lost were positions held by men. However, some economists now say if those guys are lucky, they'll have women to take care of them.

While the economy continues to struggle, one local company is experiencing big gains. We're not just talking about an increase in sales, but Cincinnati-based "Pure Romance" is actually hiring a record number of people.

Leaders sum it up to that good old entrepreneurial sprit, and some ladies looking to boost their slumping sex lives.

Last month, hundreds of ladies from the Tri-state packed the Duke Energy Center, and thousands more from all over the globe simulcasted in to learn and gain support.

The products they're pushing could make a grown man blush. Especially, when his mom is in the room. That's unless you're talking about Chris Cicchinelli, the president of Pure Romance.

"Well, how I become the president of pure romance?" said Cichinelli. "It's very simple. See, Patty Brisbane is my mother so I'm really the 'COO' which is just child of owner."

You might say, Pure Romance has worked as good as the little blue pill. The company sells relationship aids, and sales have gone through the roof.

"I call it the pink collar movement," said Cicchinelli.

In 2010, company leaders said Pure Romance racked up more than $100-million in revenue. Sales soared 37-percent last year-- including: four million dollars in Cincinanti alone. Company leaders also said they've had a 42-percent jump in the number of consultants.

"We're a fortunate company," said Cicchinelli. "When you sit there and think we grew 37-percent in 2010 and in an economy that people kept saying is really bad. But you know? We're kind of like this shining light of hope for a lot of people around the United States."

How they'd do it? Founder Patty Brisben said the secret is simple: women on a mission to provide for their loved ones.

"Many of our women are able to take care of their families," said Brisben. "They're able to put their kids through school, and they're able to have quality time."

It's an idea she knows well; it's why Brisben created the company back in 1993.

"I was working 60 to 70 hours a week, and not having any quality time with my family whatsoever," said Brisben. "And so therefore, I remember those days. I remember those times. I remember what got me through is being a consultant. It gave me quality time. It gave me my family back."

That's the goal for women like Brocha Evans.

"I went from only needing about $300 a month, and now I take home almost enough to cover all of our bills," said Evans. "It is fantastic because now I get to bring home the bacon."

She's been a Pure Romance consultant for five years. Evans first learned about the opportunity after attending a party just like the ones she now throws.

Colleague Kendra Smiley has been romancing the company for six and a half years.

"Actually, I was a lover of the products, at first," Smiley said.

She's now turned that love into loot. Smiley believes the tough economy has actually helped her business.

"A lot of people, now in days, even though they don't have a lot of money to do a lot of outdoors things or go out," said Smiley. "A lot of people are staying in, and fortunately, Pure Romance helps people stay in!"

Dr. George Vredeveld is director of the Economics Center for Education & Research at the University of Cincinnati.

Vredeveld said while the business model isn't new, the players aren't. He said in tough times, more people open their own businesses, but he said that usually you see twice as many men do it than women. Vredeveld said Pure Romance's success is based on support given by employers who know exactly what their employees need.

"This is really going to be good for our economy and especially our local economy," said Vredeveld. "When you look at the employment growth and new jobs, two-thirds of those are generated by small businesses and start-up businesses, like these very small operations."

Including another female-created company, Mary Kay.

Tri-state wife and mom Whitney Stagge signed up to be a Mary Kay consultant seven months ago. The 26-year-old has been selling make-up ever since.

"Mary Kay, in the business, has a golden rule," said Stagge. "It's God first, family second, and career third. That right there really inspired me."

It inspired her enough to build her own business while still growing her family.

"You can live your own life," said Stagge. "Dream your own dreams through Mary Kay, but still, maintain other priorities. Life's priorities. Like being a mother or being a wife."

Single mom Angela Nikell said it takes work. She struggled for about a year to grow her business.

"I am my own boss," said Nickell. "I have that advantage. I don't have a 9 to 5 job that I never wanted. I was a bartender. I got tired of getting home and three a.m. every night. Getting up at eight a.m. to take care of my son."

As of December 2010, sales were up, bringing $2.5 billion. A spokesperson said the number of consultations has also increased. Meaning, there are now more women making green to one day go pink.

"Driving a pink Cadillac, I hope!" said Stagge. "And just living the dream. Life with my family and this business, and helping other women!"

While these two companies don't stock the same inventory, their women based success stories just go to prove that women will keep working to grow the pink collar economy until the blue one catches up.

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