We had the good fortune of connecting with Dr. Jill McDevitt and we’ve shared our conversation below.
Hi Dr. Jill, what was your thought process behind starting your own business?
I knew since I was a teenager not only that I wanted to become a sexologist, but that I wanted to do it on my own as an entrepreneur. I had visions of filling auditoriums, giving talks on human sexuality to thousands of people, writing books, and having my own TV show to help normalize these conversations. I started designing the business plan when I was 18 and even had business cards made up. But it was more of a long-term plan, and I hoped in the short-term to land a full-time job as a sex educator after undergrad. However, I graduated in 2007 which was the height of the Bush-era abstinence only education standard (meaning no jobs for sex educators fresh out of college), and the start of the recession (meaning no jobs for anyone). At this point, the thought process behind starting my own business was one of survival- I had no job prospects, and my first student loan payment was coming due so at just 21 years old I just started my own company.
Please tell us more about your career. We’d love to hear what sets you
apart from others, what you are most proud of or excited about. How did
you get to where you are today professionally. Was it easy? If not, how
did you overcome the challenges? What are the lessons you’ve learned along
the way. What do you want the world to know about you or your brand and
I love my job! First, sexuality is the most interesting subject in the world and I get to talk about it all day. Second, I change people’s lives in real, demonstrable ways, and that is profoundly rewarding. Helping others liberate themselves from painful shame about their bodies, thoughts, functions, feelings, and sexuality brings my life so much purpose. That said, it is NOT easy. And my career has faced relentless obstacles and challenges. Imagine trying to run a business, and not being able to advertise- anywhere! Imagine social media platforms actively banning and censoring your posts, and your satisfied clients didn’t tell their friends how happy they were to hire you because they’re too embarrassed. Without ads, social, and word of mouth, I somehow still have more clients than I can handle, but it has been extremely tough. Imagine if credit card companies wouldn’t process your invoices, business insurers wouldn’t give you a policy, and corporate properties wouldn’t rent you an office. It’s HARD! But one of the reasons I think I’ve been able to be so successful is because I’ve been able to communicate the message well that the shame around sexuality that leads advertisers and underwriters to shun me is the exact shame I help people overcome; the fact that we live in a world where sex can be used to sell a cheeseburger but my work having meaningful, honest conversations about sex is censored, is exactly why the world needs my work. Being consistent with my mission and messaging for that last 15 years has started to sink in society’s head, finally!
Let’s say your best friend was visiting the area and you wanted to show them the best time ever. Where would you take them? Give us a little itinerary – say it was a week long trip, where would you eat, drink, visit, hang out, etc.
Since my entire family, and many friends, still live back east, I can confirm that this is a tried and true itinerary that I’ve used many times: First, I show them around OB. I recently moved to college area, but lived in OB for 6 years, and I needed my loved ones to see why OB is home. I needed them to see the peaceful atmosphere, the bright colors, the pier, the funky walkable neighbor, the “love graffiti”, as I call it, with messages like “you are loved” spray painted on the sidewalk, and “you are enough” flyers hanging on telephone poles. So that’s first. Food at Raglan. Drinks at sunset at South Beach Bar and Grill. La Jolla Cove is a must as well. The water is beautiful aqua, and the seals and sea lions- I still can’t believe I live in a paradise like this and sharing this paradise with east coast friends is super important. Brunch at Caroline’s Seaside Café. On Day 3, I like to rent bikes and ride the length of the boardwalk from Mission Beach to Pacific Beach. Then I treat my guests to massive margaritas at Baja Beach Café. As you can see a theme is restaurants with an ocean view. That’s my standard 3 day itinerary, since that’s how long I usually have guests. On subsequent visits, we explore Balboa Park, rent boats, have a bonfire on Mission Bay, and other things I don’t remember because I haven’t seen my family or had any visitors in over a year due to the pandemic 🙁
Who else deserves some credit and recognition?
There are many! First, my Gram, if you can believe it. At age 16 or so, she was the first adult I told about my desire to become a sexologist, and she could NOT have been more excited! She’s been lovingly calling me “Dr. Jill” ever since, a decade+ before I *actually* became Dr. Jill. My parents and step-parents were also very supportive. In 2001, sexology was not a common career aspiration. There was no sexologist booth at career day. There were no undergraduate programs in human sexuality in the US at the time, and only one in all of North America. I was also a first generation college student, so I was totally lost when it came to *how* to become a sexologist, and what steps I needed to take. But my step-mom would find me articles she found in magazines in which other sexuality experts were quoted, in hopes that I could go track them down and ask for their guidance. In 2006, Gram clipped a graduation announcement out of the local newspaper for a woman who graduated with her PhD in sociology and had her own business giving talks about female sexuality- my dream! I reached out to her, and she gave me some advice. She later moved to San Diego from the Philadelphia area, and then I later did too- coincidentally. It’s been 15 years, and Dr. Jenn Gunsaullus still generously offers me mentorship and professional guidance. As a college graduation gift, my dad bought me a workbook on how to start a business and $250 in start-up capital. My mom helped me remodel and paint my business, and baked me a sex-themed cake for each business birthday. While my business has always been profitable, it took a number of years for those profits to be substantial enough to be an adequate living. My boyfriend, now husband, contributed much more than his fair share of the rent and household chores so that I could put as much money as possible back into the business, and all of my time into the business and going back to school to earn a master’s and doctorate in human sexuality along the way. And I can’t underscore enough the value of the emotional support my husband Ryan, my friends, and my family have given me. Running a small business is hard enough as it is. Add to that the fact that it’s a business related to sexuality, and all the additional hardships and roadblocks- I really could not have done it without the emotional support.
Angela Garzon of Create With Gusto