BY DAY, Fiona McMillan works an ordinary nine to five office job as a marketing manager.
But by night, the Scottish 27-year-old runs a sex toy company set to make her £100,000 this financial year – and her parents are involved too.
Fiona, from Glasgow, launched Gal Pal just four months ago – after spotting a gap in the market for a female focused sex toy company – and she’s already creating a buzz.
She spoke exclusively to Fabulous Digital for #BOSSINGIT, our series about ordinary women who have launched incredible businesses.
Fiona told us: “I moved back in with my parents to get the business up and running and all my stock was in their dining room for months.
“My mum was a bit awkward about that at the start, but my parents have seen what I’m trying to do and they’ve been really supportive – minus the odd panic when their friends popped by.
“My dad’s an accountant so he looks after all my finances, which has been amazing.”
Fiona graduated from Glasgow Caledonian University in summer 2013 and joined the grad scheme at a packaging company – where she still works – the following January.
She said: “Sometimes it’s a bit frustrating because I want to be working on Gal Pal during the day but I know I can’t.
“I’ve had a lot of late nights but it’s definitely been worth it.
“I run the social media in the evening, because that’s when my audience are online, but some nights I’m up until 4am trying to get stuff done.”
Fiona says, as well as being a place to buy products Gal Pal also offers women a platform to talk about all things sex – and is surprised her how honest some are.
“Last week I asked my followers how many orgasms they’d had in one day and got loads of responses, one said she’d had 20, which was impressive,” she says.
“That’s what Gal Pal is all about – breaking the taboo. I want to create a platform where women can talk about masturbation and female pleasure openly and not worry about being judged.”
Fiona now has plans to quit her job within six months and make sex toys her full-time career.
She said: “I definitely want to go full-time, I have big plans for Gal Pal.
“I’m quite a creative person, I always have business ideas in my head and I really believe in my company. I saw a real gap in the market.
“I’ve been very lucky with the experience I’ve had with my job, working directly with retailers like eBay and Amazon.
“But I’ve been there for four or five years and I think it’s time to take everything I’ve learned and put it into something I’m really passionate about.”
Fiona launched in December 2018, some 18 months after having her initial idea, thanks to a £15,000 loan from Virgin Start Up.
She said: “I’d always wanted to start a business – something which was female focused and centred on empowerment, education and inclusiveness.
“I knew the leading sex toy companies didn’t have a branding that resonated with me, and a lot of my friends felt the same.
“So I thought there was a real opportunity for Gal Pal to come along and do things a bit differently.
I moved back in with my parents to get the business up and running and all my stock was in their dining room for months. They had the odd panic when their friends popped by.
Fiona McMillan, 27, Glasgow
“Our real USP is the branding, I do most of the marketing on Instagram – we get great engagement on polls and stuff like that.
“We made our first sale on launch night which was really exciting, for one of our most expensive products.
“The night the website went live, I had so many messages from complete strangers wishing me luck with it.
“To get those responses and such a positive support has been really humbling.”
Fiona bought her stock from existing companies all over the world and currently sells 20 products – although she plans to expand this soon.
They range in price from £10 to £140 – with products including kegel balls, vibrators and strap-on harnesses.
She said: “I spent a lot of time making sure the quality was what I wanted and that they actually do what they say on the tin.
“Some of our competitors have such a big range, it’s confusing for customers, and I think ours is a good mix.”
Why I support #BOSSINGIT
Sun on Sunday columnist Karren Brady says:
“I am a passionate supporter of encouraging women to learn new skills to help give them the confidence to reach out and achieve their ambitions.
“This brand new series will help share different stories which I hope will act as inspiration and show just what can be achieved with grit and determination.”
Fiona’s now now moved the business out of her parents’ dining room – which we’re sure her mum’s relieved about.
She pays an independent company to keep hold of her stock and ship it to customers, as well as working with a local designer and freelance sex writer.
She said: “I’ve not had any major hiccups, I’ve been quite lucky, but I definitely could have set it all up a bit faster.
“It took me ages to write my business plan, sometimes I’d come home from work and not be super motivated.
“But I think you don’t see how far you’ve come until you take a step back and appreciate the little things.”
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Virgin provide personal loans of between £500 and £25,000 for entrepreneurs looking to start or scale up a business – as well as expert guidance and mentoring support. You can apply for a loan here.