“ORION, oh, is that where you work? Isn’t that Beate Uhse?” – That is probably one of the most common prejudices we are confronted with here at ORION. To that end, we always do a bit of educational work of a special kind. Speaking of enlightenment – she was probably one of the most important enlighteners of all time: entrepreneur Beate Uhse. Her “Script X” about contraception in the post-war period went down in history – and so did her name. On October 25, 2019, Beate Uhse would have been 100 years old.
She is still considered a German icon for eroticism and sexuality. She devoted a large part of her life and work to the subject of sex. One more reason for us to explain at this point how things are now between Beate Uhse and ORION. Enlightenment in a different way.
From “Type X” to the “Beate Uhse” corporate empire
At that time, when the typeface X came into circulation, i.e. in the mid-1940s, ORION was actually not yet to be thought of. The famous writing was the beginning of a very successful, but often rocky path for Beate Uhse. It formed the basis of their success. The idea came to her in conversations with desperate women about contraception, because after the war unwanted pregnancies were unthinkable for many women. As the daughter of a doctor, Beate was a trustworthy contact person. Incidentally, Beate’s mother was one of the first women in Germany to be allowed to study medicine. Because so many orders for typeface X were coming in, she set up a small mail order business, the “Betu-Betrieb”, and sent out “typeface X” 32,000 times in the first year alone. When women no longer just asked for information, but also for products, their “Font X” became the first eight-page catalog for marital hygiene needs in 1949. And this is how the Beate Uhse company came into being in the early 1950s – a brand that more than 90 percent of all Germans know today.
Always by Beate’s side: Ernst-Walter Rotermund, whom she met and married in Schleswig-Holstein after fleeing the war. He is also known by his nickname Ewe.
Beate Uhse: The family business is growing
Her sons also worked with Beate: Klaus, whom she brought to Flensburg from his first marriage, Dirk, the biological son of her second husband Ewe, and Ulrich, the couple’s youngest son. So Beate and Ewe had what is now called a blended family. And everyone pitched in.
The company grew and grew, meanwhile, in addition to the Beate Uhse mail order business, there were also the Beate Uhse specialist shops with the sex cinemas, and in 1981 the successful business woman decided to split her company. She transferred the Beate Uhse mail order business with Carl Stephenson Verlag to her biological, eldest son Klaus and her stepson Dirk. Beate herself continued the Beate Uhse specialist shops and the sex cinemas with her youngest son Ulrich.
ORION Dispatch 1985
The Beate Uhse mail order business becomes ORION
Since it is strategically unwise to run two now separate companies (Beate Uhse mail order and Beate Uhse specialist shops) under the same name, Dirk Rotermund and his stepbrother Klaus decided to rename Beate Uhse mail order to ORION mail order. This was accompanied by the construction of their own company headquarters, not least because of the exorbitantly increased rents in the company headquarters, which had been shared until then – until 1984, Beate Uhse mail order and Beate Uhse specialist shops were located together on Gutenbergstrasse. Then ORION moved to Flensburger Schäferweg. Unfortunately, Klaus Uhse also died in the same year, so that Dirk Rotermund, as Beate Uhse’s stepson, has since managed the company alone, established the ORION chain of stores together with a partner and also founded ORION wholesale. In 2014 he handed over the management of ORION to his daughter Maike Rotermund.
6 facts that you may not have known about Beate Uhse
- Beate Uhse opened the world’s first sex shop.
- Beate Uhse packed the first products for her shipment on the changing table, the storage was on the balcony of her room, which she lived in – in the pastorate of the Flensburg parish of St. Marien.
- Beate Uhse loved naturism – and also met her second husband, Ernst-Walter Rotermund, on a nudist beach on Sylt.
- It cost her five pounds of butter to print “Font X”, which was the basis for Beate Uhse’s subsequent success. She sold them for 2 Reichsmarks each. For comparison: Cigarettes cost up to 7 RM at the time.
- Beate has apparently always had an affinity for high goals. At the age of nine she announced that she wanted to be a pilot. She was the only woman among 60 trainee pilots to get her pilot’s license at the age of 18. At the age of 76 she wanted to make her dream of getting a diving license come true in the Maldives. Small catch: American rules said that beginners must not be older than 70 years old. Lucky for you: The diving instructor was German and only knew the German diving rules, according to which you have to be at least 16 years old – and Beate had already reached this lower age limit in 1935.
- Beate Uhse faced a lot of opposition, especially in the first few years of its business activity. Public prosecutors and the police investigated around 2,000 criminal proceedings, among other things, because of the distribution of indecent writings. And Beate also had to overcome a few hurdles in her private life. Her life motto is all the more appropriate: “I’m not afraid of thunderstorms.”
You can find these and other exciting facts about the successful businesswoman in the book “Beate Uhse – Ein Leben gegen Taboos” by Kathrin Rönicke, recently published by Residenz Verlag. In her book, the author also spoke to Dirk Rotermund, our ORION company founder, Beate’s step-son and adopted son. And so, on just under 200 pages, there are plenty of exciting, surprising and often very entertaining stories and memories of Beate Uhse. A foretaste and an answer to the question of whether the author considers Beate Uhse to be a feminist can be found here: New book about Beate Uhse – Katrin Rönicke in conversation with Liane von Billerbeck.