From Humble Beginnings to Downtown High-Rise
Photography provided by Pure Romance
Growing up, Chris Cicchinelli witnessed his single mother, work minimum wage jobs to support the family. Eventually, she would realize the potential in a niche market that is paradoxically taboo but highly lucrative – adult-oriented “relationship enhancing” products. Cicchinelli watched as Brisben grew the business out of the back of a U-haul, traveling from town to town building up a strong base of customers who could discreetly purchase products that Cicchinelli says can help couples communicate better and build stronger relationships, maybe even save marriages.
Brisben realized early on that there were other women like her out there, women who could benefit from the flexible schedule and who could thrive financially if they were given the right tools for success. She developed a consultancy program that would soon serve hundreds of women around the country who held sales parties in their living room much like the classic Avon lady, but with a more risqué catalog. Customers were more than enthusiastic and Brisben soon found herself at the helm of a major corporation.
Twenty-five years later, Brisben remains a major presence at the company while Cicchinelli has stepped up as president and CEO. All along the way, Pure Romance has continued growing and empowering women through its unique consultant structure.
Today, the company supports over 23,000 consultants worldwide from its downtown Cincinnati headquarters through training programs focused on sales techniques and financial literacy, technical assistance and anything else that can help them succeed. When it came time to expand from the original Loveland location, Cicchinelli says the company had many options for their relocation, and that many people expected the company would move out of the region to cities with bigger profiles.
Ultimately, it was a bit of a challenge to secure the downtown location. The company had to work through complicated tax issues with the state of Ohio, which seemed reluctant to include Pure Romance in incentive programs aimed at jobs creation such as JobsOhio. State officials stated that Pure Romance is “not the type of industry JobsOhio typically invests in.” The city of Cincinnati came forward at the last minute to provide attractive tax benefits, and the company opened its iconic Plum Street building on Valentine’s Day in 2014.
Cicchinelli is happy it all worked out in the end, though he acknowledges there is a need for education when it comes to changing people’s perceptions of what Pure Romance is all about. “We could have run from here, but we chose to stay and to educate,” he explains. “We have hard working people here, the real people who put the time in and have worked to change people’s perceptions and allow them to learn at their own pace. It won’t always be easy, but this is our home.
“I always wanted to stay here,” he adds. “I love being here, and it’s a great opportunity for us to be a big player alongside companies like P&G.”
Cicchinelli says establishing headquarters in Cincinnati has provided other practical benefits, as well. “We can draw in major talent from all over the region with a downtown location,” he explains. “My mom always says our success is about surrounding ourselves with the best possible players, and we’ve been able to do that here.”
Those players hit the ground running every day. “This is a fast-paced business – a ‘keep up’ environment,” Cicchinelli says. “You have to understand you are going to put on your track shoes when you come to work here.” He says the concept of “changing people’s lives” is not just a slogan at Pure Romance. “We
actually do that,” he says. “We aren’t just shipping a box of products. This is so the consultants can pay their bills, pay for camp for the summer. We are doing things like teaching a woman who was a waitress but is now working a business to change her family’s outcomes. We have the ability to make that change here.”
Cicchinelli says the entire company feels privileged to work for the consultants and makes it their mission to support their hard work with their own hard work.
Cicchinelli says he expects a lot from his employees and is upfront about that fact. “Maybe I’m not the easiest person to work for,” he admits. “I tell them all upfront: I was a consultant’s child, the byproduct of watching a woman who pulled us out of a situation and gave us options and chances in life.” Cicchinelli says his mother taught him how to set goals early on, how to be financially independent and how to take risks and chances. “If I wanted to make it, I had to push myself past what I thought I could do,” he explains. “This is what I instill in people when I travel and give talks to our consultants around the world.”
Pure Romance will mark its 25th anniversary in 2018. Cicchinelli expects over 6,000 people to gather in Cincinnati for a conference in April in recognition of this milestone. “We could have gone somewhere else, but we’re doing this here, where it all started,” he says. “I want the money to stay in this community. When people come in and see us and see how great it is here – our restaurants, hotels, our people, maybe they’ll come back and vacation here. I believe the more we make this city stand out and educate people about what a great city is it, it’s best for all of us.”
In fact, Cicchinelli has a question for his fellow Cincinnati executives: “I challenge all the other companies here, from Western & Southern to Macy’s to P&G – why take your conferences out of Cincinnati? Why not make it better to be here?”
Looking forward, Cicchinelli stresses that Pure Romance is a company that never rests. “We will always be interacting,” he says. “We’re always improving, whether it’s getting the highest-grade materials, or giving our consultants new ways to interact with customers or improving our tech.” He says the company will continue expanding internationally, as well. “We won’t stop in the U.S.,” he says. “People want more information across the world. People around the world need to make supplemental income and we are coming.
“In the next 25 years, we will be able to touch more women business owners, give customers more creativity and we’ll be focusing on all people, not just women,” he says.
No matter where Pure Romance expands, Cicchinelli says one thing is assured: “We are always going to be a company that is focused on more than a slogan. We can and do change lives here, and we’re going to keep doing that for as long as we can.”
Pure Romance is headquartered at 655 Plum Street, Cincinnati, OH 45202. For more information, call 1.866.ROMANCE or visit pureromance.com