In 1993, Tom Stewart founded Sportsheets International, Inc. in his garage. With the help of his partner and sister Julie, his brother, brother-in-law, wife and father, Sportsheets now operates out of a 17,000 square foot building in Huntington Beach. The Orange County Business Journal named Sportsheets one of the Fastest Growing Private Companies in 2012 and 2013. Then as we celebrated our 20th anniversary in business, Sportsheets was named one of Inc 5000 fastest growing companies.
Tom’s inspiration happened years earlier while watching David Letterman in a Velcro® suit jump off of a trampoline and stick to the wall. At the time, Tom was a helicopter pilot in the Marines so he used his Marine buddies and their girlfriends as his focus group. When he asked what they thought about being restrained by Velcro®, he got a big thumbs-up, particularly from women because the restraints were easy to get out of.
Tom taught himself how to sew and with the help of his brother Bob, designed and created their first product, the Sportsheet, “Velcro®” Bondage Bedsheet. This never-before-made product propelled Sportsheets unknowingly, into the adult novelty industry explosion.
The company’s mission is, “Keeping Couples Connected®”.
As Tom reflects on the past twenty-three years, “I think the biggest breakthrough in the business was in 1994 when I asked my sister Julie to become my partner. I couldn’t pay her much at the start. I showed her this stack of bills, and a stack of receipts. The bills were about two inches high, and the stack of receipts was about a half- inch high. I was what they call upside-down. Not too long after that, we were still working out of our house, sales were steadily increasing and that stack of payables and receivables reversed — we were taking in more than we were spending. We had hope.”
Since neither Tom nor Julie had any formal business experience, Julie decided to go back to school. In 1999 she entered Pepperdine University and got her MBA in the Executive program; at the time, she was one of the youngest people to go into the Executive MBA program. To continue her personal growth, Julie joined a peer group with the Women’s Presidents Organization in 2010 and was a member until 2012. Tom and Julie also took advantage of their father’s 40+ years of business expertise. Dad, Carl, served as their business consultant and the occasional referee between brother and sister for many years.
Innovation and customer service are the foundation of Sportsheets. Julie’s focus on the business-side freed Tom to pursue the creative side of the business, allowing the brother/sister team to leverage their unique strengths for the benefit of the business. Tom, as Founder & CEO, leads the R&D and new product development areas of the company. Julie, as President, directs sales, finance & accounting, human resources, marketing, customer service and account management. Julie’s husband Ed is COO and heads up operations & production. Tom’s wife Kimberly works closely with Tom in new product development as Project Coordinator.
Over the last two decades plus, we (Tom & Julie) have continued to build the company on the fantasy bondage concept, developing more than 450 different products for curious couples. We release a limited number of unique items every year making distributors, stores, and website owners happy to see originality and quality and not just quantity. More than half of our products are made in the USA, employing more than 50 local contractors and employees.
The Sportsheets culture of innovation heavily influences our approach to marketing and customer and consumer outreach. The Sportsheets’ staff educates distributors, stores, and home parties on current sexual trends and the importance of employee education in selling couples products. Our company creates brochures to educate end-users on techniques to increase sensation in their relationships through the use of their products. Several years ago, Sportsheets developed an instructional DVD that retailers and e-tailers can use to educate their staff and those consumers who are too shy to ask for information. The success of the DVD program has shown us the importance of consumer driven marketing.
Both Tom and Julie stay abreast of the market trends through active customer outreach and participation in domestic and international tradeshows. They are both sought after as experts in the field and accept numerous speaking engagements every year.
In 2011 Sportsheets debuted the award-winning Sex & Mischief collection. It was a prescient move as the new line launched prior to the explosion of the E.L. James novel, Fifty Shades of Grey. According to Julie, “The novel opened up a conversation for women of all ages and gave them permission to have a fantasy and read about it”.
Sportsheets has been winning industry awards since 1997. A few of their most recent and significant industry awards can be seen on the Awards & Publications page of this site.
We are thankful for the contribution and loyalty of our employees. Each year we recognize our employees, individually and by name, during a celebratory event. When important milestones have been reached or benchmarks surpassed throughout the year, count on Sportsheets to celebrate with and reward their employees. Several employees have been with Sportsheets for over 17 years and serves as a testament to the family culture we have created.
Brother and sister both give back to the community and causes close to their hearts.
Since 2009, Tom has been involved with Wounded Warriors and the VA. He serves as a panel expert on sex and disabilities in an effort to help our disabled vets lead a normal sex life upon their return. In response to couples expressing interest in his help, Tom developed a sling to make sex easier for them. He is aware of at least one pregnancy as a result of his educational efforts and product design. He’s been invited back to the Wounded Warrior convention year after year.
From 2004 to 2006, Julie served on the board of the Free Speech Coalition, acting as Treasurer in 2004 and President in 2005.
Closer to home, Tom & Julie actively support the Lions Club of Huntington Beach.