Starter Story Update
Starter Story update about our high end escortservice
On October 5th 2020, Starter Story published a case study about our high class escortservice. Starter Story is an online platform where successful entrepreneurs are interviewed and share the stories behind their business. Well over a year later, Starter Story asked us to provide an update on our high end escortservice. The interview can be found on the website of Starter Story and be read below. Make sure to subscribe to this platform, it is full of interesting interviews!
Hello again! Remind us who you are and what business you started
My name is Marike van der Velden and a little over 15 years ago I started a high-end escortservice called Society Service, which is now the largest high-end escortservice in the Netherlands. Contrary to a regular escortservice, a high-end escortservice does not offer a solely erotic service.
The experience we offer is called the Girlfriend Experience, which is intimate and romantic by nature and stimulates mind, body, and soul. The social aspect of a booking is at least as important as the erotic aspect is. Clients and escorts get to know each other over drinks, dinner, or any other fun activity, building a genuine connection and creating a mutually enjoyable, extraordinary, and memorable experience for both.
Tell us about what you’ve been up to! Has the business been growing?
My business is fully legal in the Netherlands and regulated by our government. This regulation included mandatory closure during most of the COVID-19 pandemic. Between March 2020 and June 2021, our business was closed for approximately 9 months as part of the COVID-19 measures our government took. However, contrary to most other businesses there was little to no (financial) support for the escorts or my business in general. Being left out is a clear example of the stigmatization this industry still has to deal with, despite being fully legal. It resulted in several protests.
Privacy and confidentiality have always been a big deal with my company but with COVID-19 this took a completely new and unexpected turn. Medical data is protected by international privacy laws. This means I, nor clients, are allowed to inquire with the escort about her health, latest STD screenings and so forward. With COVID-19 a new issue was added; can I, or a client, ask the escort if and when she has been tested for COVID? Can I share information about vaccination status? If the escort had COVID before? The answer is no. Even though the law is very clear on this matter, that’s not as clear to clients, who make frequent inquiries for this type of information. It got even more complicated when the Dutch government entered a COVID-pass, which is proof of vaccination or a negative test to enter a public space such as a restaurant… or a hotel. Needless to say, those are all locations our escorts frequently visit.
Luckily, I now have Evelyn to assist with creating the most memorable booking for my escorts and clients. Evelyn is my new CIO, which is at a high-end escort service does not stand for the traditional “Chief Information Officer” but for “Chief Indulgement Officer”.
Since being up and running again after the last lockdown, business is doing great. My accountant informed me my last quarter was the best yet so we’re catching up. Clients are all too happy we are up and running again and with the rest of the world ‘opening up’ again we see many of our clients return. A pleasant surprise was the many supportive and encouraging emails, postcards, and calls from clients in the meanwhile.
Translated from Dutch, a small note from a client “Marike, I just wanted to drop you a note to let you know my thoughts are with you. I can’t wait until I can meet one of your lovely ladies again. The lockdowns have been hard on me, working from home, no close contact with anybody and it makes me miss the company of your ladies even more. Your service is of great value and gives color to my otherwise dull and monochrome existence. Hang in there!”
I’ve taken the lockdown and mandatory closure as an opportunity to develop a new website and review our recruitment policy. Given the day and age we live in, I believe it makes sense to further diversify the escort portfolio I offer to clients. Ten years ago, an escort who had more tattoos, would be a no-go but that has changed. Nowadays I am looking into expanding our portfolio with persons who do not identify as male or female but somewhere in between and with a larger variety in sexuality. I believe the time has come to expand in that direction as well, but time will tell.
Another change I made was a completely new price structure. After consulting with the escorts I work with which type of bookings they enjoy most and fit their lifestyle best – they are all full-time employed or students after all – a new price structure was set up. Rates for shorter standard bookings did not change but longer bookings (24 hours and longer) increased in rate. These types of bookings are often difficult to schedule and require the escort to take time off from work or studies, which is not desirable. Rates for the booking type our escorts prefer, Dinner Dates and Overnights, were decreased. The new price structure has turned out to be a success. The number of Dinner Dates and Overnights increased, which is beneficial for both me and the escorts.
Part of the rate change is a new introduction rate for the newest escorts. These introduction rates are lower, but there’s a catch. Only a few clients are selected to meet the newest escorts because it requires a very specific type of personality that matches the needs of the newest escorts. After the booking, the client needs to provide extensive feedback about the new escort. That way it offers me an insight into how the new escort is performing and the client is compensated with a reduced rate for the extra time and effort involved with meeting the newest escorts.
In addition to work-related new challenges, I have also taken on a few hobbies during the lockdown that stimulate my creativity, such as a course in gemology and experimenting with epoxy-resin furniture.
What have been your biggest lessons learned in the last year?
Like many entrepreneurs, I am conscious of the risks I am taking and the opportunities which present themselves. There are many risks I had considered when setting up a high-end escortservice, but two lengthy lockdowns due to a pandemic were not one of them. I did not see that one coming. Luckily, I had enough reserves to survive such a pandemic but that wasn’t always the same for the escorts.
You can grow in terms of turnover but you can also grow in the level of excellence.
Since sex work was forbidden during the lockdowns, there was a major shift from legal forms of sex work to illegal forms. Legal escort services, brothels, and massage parlors closed shops and followed the lockdown measures with great precision, in fear of otherwise losing their permit. The lack of government support resulted in sex workers moving from their fully legal place of work to an illegal alternative. Luckily that did not affect my company much, but I did see some of my escorts heading towards “sugardaddy” websites. I can’t blame them and contemplated if it was a serious risk for my business. But turns out it is not. Both clients and escorts desire the convenience of an experienced matchmaker like myself and don’t want to go through the trouble themselves. In addition, a well-managed company that takes care of all booking aspects is valued by clients.
Snap of me as a guest in a popular Dutch Talkshow “Pauw” where I discussed the difference between an escortservice and sugar daddy website with a well-known religious Dutch politician (not in picture);
I also learned how many people require information about setting up a company in this business. Mostly due to my previous introduction on Starter Story, I received hundreds of emails from people looking to set up a business in the same industry but in need of some coaching. I greatly underestimated this and had to decline those requests as I simply don’t have the time.
What’s in the plans for the upcoming year, and the next 5 years?
During the upcoming year, I am looking to offer more diversification amongst the escorts I work with. Hopefully with that meet requests from my current clients as well as enter a new market, as I did when first introducing the gigolos (male escorts) a few years back. With diversification, I am not just referring to different body types and skin tones but more to those not identifying as male or female or with an orientation that is not considered heteronormative.
In the next five years, I hope to republish a new and updated version of my book Escort Bible as an E-book in both Dutch and English. Perhaps that will benefit those in need of coaching, but the choice is also made based on requests from existing clients who enjoy reading a bit more about my company.
A few pictures from my book Escort Bijbel, which was published in Dutch several years ago;
Other than that, I hope to continue my work the way I do now. I have to admit the last quarter was a bit too busy for my liking. If this continues I will most likely look into either slimming down the company by limiting the opening hours further or increasing the minimum booking duration. Alternatively, I could look into increasing the number of hours my office manager assists me and outsource more tasks. Experience has taught me fluctuation is normal in this industry so I think the current workload will go down over the next few months.
On a personal level, I am resuming travel again and have gone on some European trips in the past year. My next big trip to another continent is scheduled for spring 2022 and I would love for many more to follow.
Have you read any good books in the last year?
In all honesty, I don’t read that many books. In my spare time, I enjoy a good series on Netflix and have just started the series “Startup” that I very much enjoy. I like how the team in the series handles the difficulties they experience when setting up their business and developing it further.
Advice for other entrepreneurs who might be struggling to grow their business?
When I just started my business, I wanted to be the best and the biggest. I have learned that being the biggest doesn’t mean you are the best and quite frankly, I will rather be just the best. Funny enough, the bigger my business grew, the more I started to focus on being the best. My idea of ‘the best’ does not mean meeting every request and pleasing every customer. It also means sticking to what I believe is the right way to operate in this industry and narrowing my focus to the type of bookings and type of clients I prefer to meditate for.
What I am trying to say with this is; growth comes in many forms. You can grow in terms of turnover but you can also grow in the level of excellence. If the current economic climate does not allow your business to grow in size, let it grow in level of excellence. Sometimes things that cost a little, either in effort or financially, can make a big difference. A higher level of excellence may help you obtain and keep high-level clients, which may eventually grow your business in terms of turnover as well. It just may take a little while before you see the actual results.
Something I see others do is market the term “a personalized experience”. I see this term being used in the business I operate in but also with the larger webshops. But this “personalized experience” is often at a cost. Manual labor is expensive, therefore your so-called personalized experience is often not that person at all, and mistakes are easily made. If you want to offer a personalized experience to your client, I recommend you focus on just one or two aspects of your business that are most critical and automate the rest of it. For me, the most personalized part of my business is the matchmaking process. It is the most critical part of my business that can change the booking from ‘a nice time’ to ‘a wonderful, once in a lifetime, beyond any expectations experience’ and therefore deserves more time and attention.
Are you looking to hire for certain positions right now?
Nope. Neither am I looking for a new SEO specialist, web builder, marketing coach, or a coach of any other type for that matter. My last Starter Story generated a lot of offers but I’m not in the market for such a new team member. Having said that, if you happen to be an intelligent, beautiful, and sensual man, woman, or anything in between based in the Netherlands, looking for some more excitement in your life, you are most welcome to apply as an escort at my escortservice.