A Decade ON: handing over Other Nature

By Sara Rodenhizer, owner & co-founder of Other Nature: alternativer Sexladen, Berlin

Other Nature will celebrate its 10th anniversary this October, less than a year after I turned 40. The timing of these two birthdays means that I’ve spent my entire 30s focused on running and developing and holding together this little alternative sex shop in Berlin. I have loved watching this shop grow over the last ten years, but everything has its time – and now is the time to hand Other Nature over to someone else (or – spoiler alert – a group of people) with some fresh energy to guide the shop through its (hopefully!) next decade.

More tax forms than titillation

A lot of people wonder what it’s like owning a sex shop, and often imagine it being all glamour and excitement. The reality is, of course, a lot more complex, and the day to day is filled more with order forms, tax conundrums, and dildo dusting than any glamorous fantasy might suggest.

The illustrious Dildo Wall: So many dildos. So much dusting.

Having worked at an awesome feminist sex shop in Canada for years before opening Other Nature, I was never under any illusion that running my own shop would be easy. And it hasn’t been. But neither was the decision to leave it, especially given my deep desire for the shop’s continued existence as a queer, feminist, and sex-positive space. 

But handing over Other Nature has been made easier by the fact that I have an incredible team here; four of whom would like to buy the business from me, and are currently looking for financing to make this happen.

Maja & Geza, two of the new Other Nature ownership-collective

What’s kept me going 

Even with the incessant admin and silicone dust-magnets, I adore doing this kind of sex education, and – having co-founded Other Nature back in October 2011, and been sole owner since the end of 2013 – what has kept me going day after day (even during the pandemic!) is knowing how much what we do at Other Nature actually matters to people.

“Positive Vibes” drawing credit: Ben Cameron, #ben_cameron

Whether I’m having an in-depth consultation with someone looking for their very first sex toy or just a quick conversation about lube, working at this store is a constant reminder of just how impactful it is to have a welcoming, non-judgmental space in which people can talk openly about sex and sexuality. The scope of what we do extends far beyond buying and selling, and it’s what makes this work so difficult to leave, and so essential to carry on.

Running a business on the rocky intersection of education and commerce, of a social mission and a business, of feminism and capitalism, has required intense reflection, assessment, and constant re-assessment. And while it can be pretty stressful to operate at the junction of these often contradictory and incompatible dimensions, I believe that it’s extremely valuable work, particularly in an industry that is overwhelmingly problematic. 

photo credit: Valeria Sambale, @sambaleri

Unlike soulless platforms and sex stores that either couldn’t care less about inclusive sex education or that strategically use the language of feminism and sex positivity in their marketing only to turn a profit, Other Nature exists because we genuinely care that people get good, sex-positive sex education, and we know that feminist sex shops provide easier access and more perspective to this kind of information than most other avenues.

A thousand thanks 

Other Nature would not exist today were it not for the care, generosity, skills and commitment of so many people. From the very beginning, friends gathered together in what was then a gutted 79m² space to help sand the doors, lay the floors, and paint the walls (those walls and their mysterious composition prone to crumbling into piles of sand! Something we discovered during the first painting-session). Some cooked while others drilled, some ran errands, and still others designed flyers for the opening party that was just a few short weeks away. Like the decade that followed, it was really hard work, but it was also a whole lot of fun. Plus, there were lots of cupcakes.

To all the shop’s customers and fans – and to my friends, family, and all those I’ve worked with in some capacity or other over the years – please know how very grateful I am for your support and collaboration and for all that you’ve done to help me realize my Other Nature dreams (and deal with all the many little hiccups along the way!).

Going forward 

For the next few weeks, I’ll continue to manage the shop until we fully transition to the new ownership, and will stick around to help the management team settle into their new roles. I’m so excited to see how this future shop-owner collective will continue to grow this business. They’re a talented group of people deeply committed to Other Nature’s mission, and I know they’ll do great things. 

(As mentioned earlier, in order to buy the shop they are looking for supplementary small – or large! – loans from anyone who might be in a position to help.)

photo credit: Valeria Sambale, @sambaleri

I know that I will miss my work at Other Nature fiercely. And I also know that when it’s time, it’s time. I’m looking forward to what’s next.