De Zaak about international escortservice
On October 9th 2015, Dutch magazine De Zaak published an article about international escortservice Society Service in their section "crossing borders". Owner Marike was interviewed. The original article was in Dutch but a short translation can be found here and is combined with the slightly different online version of the publication.
Crossing borders with sex
Marike van der Velden (31) has been running her own escort agency for ten years: Society Service. The phenomena "having a boss" does not work for her. The escort agency offers services outside The Netherlands but bookings with international clients are not always accepted due to legislation. How does she do that?
"My escorts fly all over the world: tropical islands, big cities like New York and Paris but also Belgium". Why Belgium? "Because many rich Dutch people live there and it's close by." The one thing her clients have in common is that they are almost all rich. Bookings are on average around 1400 euro's but a trip overseas with an escort is more expensive. On average, Marike receives around 10 to 15 percent of her bookings from overseas. Meaning; turnover from clients who book an escort for a trip abroad. In her starting years, Marike received about five international bookings per year. Now that's around three hundred. "You need to really trust a company when spending that much money on an escort, and trust must be built."
During her studies Business Administration at the Erasmus University in Rotterdam in 2006, Marike founded Society Service together with an other student. She did a buyout in 2008 and continued alone. She now works with forty escorts, manages three buildings and would prefer to double her turnover this year to 2 million. She wrote a book about her industry, the Escort Bijbel, and has her own vision on entrepreneurship in this industry. "I too am getting older and I've learned a lot from my choices. Sometimes things go well, other times they do not but I always try to learn from it. Each time I do things a little bit different and see what has the best results. That doesn't necessarily have to be more money, it can also be more job satisfaction."
Since working in this industry involves some risks, Marike has strict rules for security of her ladies. Who are not on her payroll, but working through Opting In, which is between full employment and freelance. "This is how they are always able to say "no". They are not obligated to do anything. In general they are young ladies, often students, so I want to make sure they are safe and avoid all possible risks. The lady should leave the booking when there's drugs or large amounts of alcohol involved. It makes clients unpredictable. And international bookings are only possible for repeat clients, of who an escort has provided positive feedback. That's how I know the escort will be treated well. In addition, sex is never guaranteed, but it is often an expectation, given the client makes an effort to treat the lady well and make her feel comfortable." According to Marike, sex is not the most important part of a booking. "That's intimacy. And that's something different to every body. For some it's a romantic dinner and a good conversation, to other's it's cuddling on the couch and watching a movie and to others it's sex." According to Marike it's important the escort is intelligent, she doesn't work with "dumb blondes". "My average client is a businessman in his fourties who wants companionship and a substantive conversation. Someone with qualities that interest him."
The ambition to be an international entrepreneur has always been there. "But back then there weren't many bookings outside The Netherlands just yet. After the first five year the amount of international bookings grew. Now, there are ladies who are abroad every month." Having said that, Marike often declines international bookings. To clients in Arabic countries for example. "Even though it's officially legal, it's easy to misconceive things in such countries. This results in risks that I wish to avoid. I do not send escort to countries where it's illegal for an unmarried man and woman to share the same bed."
Marike has thought about expansion abroad but decided not to do this. "For two reasons. On the one hand, my work is illegal in many countries because it's seen as exploitation or human trafficking. In The Netherlands we call my work "exploitation of an escortservice" and I just require a permit. That's a lot different in many countries. The second reasons, is this industry is not made for mass production and it's therefore difficult to control a lot of bookings. In addition, it's impossible to make good match for hundreds of escorts to clients. I am satisfied with the way things are going and would love for things to stay this way."
As an entrepreneur, Marike feels she has found a balance between work and private, even though she is often called during dinners with friends or when she is at a party. "That's part of the deal, my friends all know this. It doesn't feel like work for me. I work around fifty hours a week, but the days always vary. It comes in handy I only require a phone and laptop in order to do my work. With those I answer questions of clients and coordinate the bookings. In theory that could just as well be done from an exotic destination. Not for months, but a week. I didn't go on a holiday for the first seven years but one day I woke up and realized this could not go on any longer. Now I go on regular holidays! The company just keeps running, thanks to my office manager who takes over."
- Check legislation of the country you want to work in, preferably by a lawyer.
- Never provide your product or service before receiving payment.
- Improvement is not always "expansion". There are other ways to improve your company.