Samantha Hess is a 30-year-old entrepreneur who just opened up an interesting business. It’s called “Cuddle Up To Me” and it’s basically a service where customers can walk in and cuddle with someone for $60 an hour.
By now you probably have a gazillion thoughts in your mind. These thoughts could range from “Who would use this?” to “Is it a front for sexual services?” Well, according to Hess, she had 10,000 email inquires the first week, and because of the demand, she’s had to hire three girls under her to manage. Hess stresses that her business is not “adult-oriented” and everything that happens is purely platonic. Every single session is recorded to ensure the safety of the therapist.
We recently got the chance to catch up with Samantha Hess over email. Here, we discuss how she got into the business, her process of training new therapists, and how she overcame the challenges of getting people to take her business seriously.
How did you get into this business? Can you elaborate on how you thought this would be a viable business idea when you first started independently?
“The long and short of it is this: I was recently divorced from my high school sweetheart. I was struggling with a huge rejection issue I obtained through my marriage, but also just out of a 13-year relationship. There was no way I was ready for a romantic situation, but as a touch-driven world, I needed more than anything the loving acceptance that comes from a platonic embrace. I was online and came across an article about a guy giving free hugs at a Saturday market. He got punked by a guy who was selling “deluxe hugs” for $2. Lightbulb moment for me when I read that was that this guy got more hugs than the free guy. When you put a dollar value on something, we inherently trust it more. Think about it: If you are on the street and someone offers you a home-baked cookie, are you going to eat the cookie or are you going to question why they are giving you this treat? What’s in it? What is the true cost of this free cookie? I read that and thought how nice it would be to pay a man to just hold me and make me feel like I was OK for a moment without all of the complications of wondering what else he wanted from me. Why can’t this be a safe and comfortable service to reach out for, I thought, and since then I have done hundreds of sessions, been featured on “Anderson Cooper 360,” cuddled up to Mo Rocca on “CBS Sunday Morning,” taken interviews from all over the world, published a book, opened a retail space, hired employees, and next we will begin a certification program to teach anyone interested in how to do what I do. I’m exhausted just thinking about my life!”
How has business been since you’ve launched?
“Amazing! I could never have even dreamed it would go this well. My book is doing great, the retail space is huge — 3500 square feet! Just about anyone who tries it becomes a regular, and my plan to take over the world is now on step 27.”
Due to your success, you’ve brought on more people into the business and are doing training. Can you share some of the lessons you teach during training?
“The training program is 40-hours long. Cuddling? Who knew?! There really is a lot to cover though when we are generally a client’s first introduction to platonic touch. We cover verbal and nonverbal communication, redirection, training intuition, how to determine if a client will be appropriate for the service, safety/security, guidelines for session tone/progress, how to handle social media personally and professionally, self-care and so much more! The certification program will also include what people will need to learn to start their own business.”
Do you ever get any flack from friends and family for being in the business you are in?
“At first, certainly, but now people see how it’s taken off due to the efforts I put into it. My friends are proud of me. They like to brag about knowing “The Cuddler.” I really am genuine about my desire to make the world a better place for all of us, and people get that.”
How have you overcome challenges of skepticism and people who either don’t want to be associated with your business or don’t take it seriously?
“I love getting a chance to overcome objections. At first I get a lot of “Professional what?” but when I talk to people, when they look me in the eye, they know I come at this from the right place. People think this is something it’s not or that I’ve got a price, but honestly it’s just not true. The goal of my service is to make people feel respected, accepted and worthy for exactly who they are, not for the person they hope to be. I don’t know about you, but I can’t even count all the moments in my life where I doubted myself, felt invisible or unimportant. When those moments come, having someone who can look me in the eye, hold me tight and make the world melt away makes all the difference in the world. Why shouldn’t that be something everyone has access to?”
Have you had any horror stories of clients who had ulterior motives?
“Sure. I’ve received emails of people offering to add me to their harem, buy me cars and take me on expensive trips all over the world. I’ve also had people who have asked for simple things like $500 to make out with me on their couch. I have had people tell me their deepest desires and ask me to do disturbing things to them. None of these are part of my life, service or open for discussion. I offer simple, platonic touch, the kind you would picture a mother giving to her child. Intention is the most important part of my service, and those who are looking for something I do not offer are asked to find the right professional.”
What types of people come in to use your services?
“We have a very broad spectrum of clients. It runs from luxury to trauma and everything in between. I have clients ranging from 20 to mid-70s , men, women, others somewhere in that spectrum, gay, straight, unemployed to CEOs, those who are recently out of a relationship, or have been alone for an extended period of time, and others who are very happy but use our service as self-care.”
What’s your ultimate goal with your business? Do you see yourself doing this for a long time?
“For me this is not a novelty, a job or even a career. This is my life’s work. My goal is to create a self-perpetuating cycle of positivity … essentially my version of “pay it forward.” I want cuddle shops to be as common as coffee shops, or to not need to exist at all. Really, I aim to ensure that everyone knows they are not alone, and that someone will be there whenever another human is in need. I want us to learn to take care of each other, and my work will not be done until people understand each other, how to communicate their wants and needs, and have the tools to find fulfillment.”