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Result of Croatian parlamentary elections

Last night parlamentary elections were held in Croatia so I'll write a little about what happened.
Croatia is a country in (very controversial regional affiliation but lets say) Southeast Europe with around 4 mil population. The biggest city is capital of Zagreb with administrative 800k population and metro area of 1.1 mil. Modern state was formed after bloody disolution of Yugoslavia and entered EU in 2013. It applied for ERM II (so called eurozone (EZ) waiting room of 2 years) this spring, passed formal requierments for Schengen (also this spring) which it hopes to enter 1st of January and is working to enter OECD.
Croatia is parlamentary republic with 151 seats in parlament up for grabs. Of those 151, 3 seats are for croatian nationals living abroad (diaspora), usualy percived as safe 3 seats for conservatives. 8 seats are secured for minorities. Finally, countury is split in 10 election districts each giving 14 seats so national lists take 140 seats. As a minority you can vote for either minority or national list.
The parties and little bit about them
1.HDZ (Croatian democratic union) - conservatives: The party of the incumbent prime minister and ruling party in last government. Party that has 2 currents within it, center right and center leaning conservatives and rightists. After defeat of their incumbent president (not party president, but state president) in Presidential elections in January they passed through inter party election in which center leaning current overwhelmingly won over rightists. Current prime minister Plenkovic is seen as charismatic, capable and influential in EU. The party itself is seen as corrupt something many hope Plankovic can purge. Their vision under Plenkovic is so called "new soverignty". Croatia strongly connected with EU, that country should enter EZ and schengen as soon as possible and are the most Europhillic party. They promised to continue tax cuts, economic liberalisation and strong pro natalist policies. At the same time it should be self sustainable when it comes up to food, energy, medical products etc.
  1. Restart coalition (center left coalition gathered around Social democratic party): 2nd biggest party seen as a lot less corrupt but incompetent to go through with their promises. The party went strong in new year after wining the presidental election. The current party president is seen as uncharismatic, maybe even too young and incompetent. They too are Europhiles but are somewhat more careful when it comes to € adoption. They campaigned on anticorruption, human rights (allowing LGBT couples to adopt children etc.), government efficiency, lower taxes and economic liberalisation.
  2. DP (Homeland movement) - nationalists: They campaigned on change of electoral system (abolishing minority lists and replacing them with quotas), tax cuts, anticorruption, mix of economic liberalisation and economic nationalism (exports good, imports bad, self suficiency good etc) and anti abortion. Led by popular singer Skoro who collected previously scattered small right and extreme right parties during his solid run for state president in January. He styled himself as a somewhat of a croatian Trump. Enterpreneur with private sector experiance coming to drain the corrupted swamp and bringing private sector efficiency to government. They are agains sdoption of € and are indifferent (maybe secretly anti) EU.
  3. Left-Green coalition (coalition gathering greens and democratic socialists): Coalition of green, grass roots urban movements that built prominance fighting corrupted mayor of capital in Zagreb and democratic socialist nostalgic for Tito and his economic policies. They are percived as uncorrupted, young urban intelectuals campaigning on anticorrption, green policies, human rights (LGBT adoption etc) worker rights, unionisation, creating more worker owned companies and bigger efficient government. They are against adoption of €, but are pro EU.
  4. Bridge party - clerical right, close to catholic church: They also campaigned on electoral law change, anti abortion, smaller and efficient government, self suficiency, tax cuts and economic protectionism. Also against € adoption and indifferent to EU.
  5. Center coalition (Croatian neoliberals): Formed 2 days before the official start of the campaign, coalition mixing local politicians, prominent anticorruption campaigner and lawyer with prominent activist. Their campaign was oriented towards cleaning up corruption, strenghtening independance of justice system, economic liberalisation, tax cuts, human rights, and battle agains climate change. Pro € adoption and EU.
Campaign:
We start of in January when parlamentary majority gathered around conservative HDZ(CDU) is beset by various corruption scandals. Presidential elections are held with center left candidate winning in 2nd round agains incumbent first female president from Conservative party who ran center right campaign. Election births a new movement, the nationalist DP gathered around popular singer Skoro who missed 2nd round by few percents, performing somewhat above expectations. 2nd round he was projected to win against center left candidate.
As Croatia claims rotating presidency of European union everything is ready for center right prime minister Plenkovic to show his strength in EU. He was featured prominently in election of Ursula VDL. At the same time strong oposition grows in his party, seeking to turn it right and stop votes from bleeding to forming DP nationalists and clerical Bridge. The intraparty bickering started on election night.
Then world changes as corona flares up in northern Italy, croatian neigbhour. Panic spreads across the world, Europe heads into lockdown and economy that was the most prominent talking point of parlamentary majority falls to shambels and it's obvious there will be nothing from grandiose EU chairmanship. Few days before lockdown conservatives hold intraparty election. Center leaning current stuns with overwhelming victory, soon lockdown is imposed.
Then 5.5 magnitude earthquake strikes the capital followed by aftershocks of up to 5.3 in magnitude. The strongest quake in almost 100 years wrecks severe damage on old city center and suburbs above epicenter. Population flees to the streets, some flee the city. Authorities implore for calm as it seems perfect concoction for large spread arises. The mayor of the capital fails in earthquake response. Siged by corruption charges, it's revealed he spent 30 million set aside for emergency situation on representation costs. Vocal local oposition of greens and lefties feature prominently.
While world watches military take the mounting dead in Bergamo and empty streets from NYC to Paris croatian daily infections start to drop. Middle of April and Denmark, Austria, Slovenia and Croatia begin to open up, rest of the world follows. Government is credited with great response to corona.
Ruling party decides to take advantage. Elections are called for 5th of July. While uncharismatic leader of center left party is broadeining his coalition, ruling conservatives are hit by another coruption scandal. Conservative prime minister says it shows how independent justice system is. The law that would guide renovation of the capital is stuck as 2 junior partners bicker (liberals and Zagreb mayors party). Left green coalition is very acrive in media and centrist coalition forms, failing to gather 2 most prominent liberal bannermen who decide for a safer option in conservative and social democeat blocks respectively.
Campaign is dominated firstly by future of economy, then abortion after one nationalist politician says that women who abort after rape are murderers. It shifts around nationalist attacks on minorities, abortion when at late June 2nd corona wave starts. Failing clerical Bridge party reinvents itself when popular philosoper, ideologue and political analyst joins them. Debates are held, pools are ran and it's expected that center left coalition would get the most votes, 55-60 but that right options would form a government. Conservstives winning around 51-56, nationalists DP around 20 and clerical party Bridge around 5. Green left coalition was projected with 3 and liberal center with 1 for Anti corruption campaigner. The matter of debate among analysts was mostly if DP coalition will hold up after election and how far right will DP steer the futture gocernment coalition.
Election day is passing with pictures of waiting lines and everyone wearing masks. At 7pm election silence end and exit polls are out. It's a shock. Soon official results are out and confirm exit polls.
Ruling conservstives win 63 seats giving them 66 with 3 diaspora seats. Center left has one of the worst results in last 30 years with 41 nationalist DP underperforms with 16, Bridge party overperforms with 8. The biggest surprise being left green coalition with 7 on the back of the results in the capital. Center coalition overperforms with 3. 2 minor liberal parties get in too with 2 seats. It's expected ruling center right conservatives will form the government with minorities and 2 minor liberal parties (66+8+2=76 76/151=50%+1). Almost the same as the last government, only conservatives are now stronger as they increased their seats from 55 to 66.
Implications for EU
It's expected this will strengthen Plenkovic's position in EU and he might get one of senior positions in the future. When new comision head was chosen, Plenkovic and Irish PM Leo Vardakar defeated Merkels plan of giving Timermans comision head and played instrumental role that ended up with UVDL at the top. Le Soire even reported Plenkovic, or then center right president Kitarovic were mentioned in opaque game of EU thrones. Ursula endorsed Plenkovic 2 days before election, a scandal since EU comission members are supposed to stay impartal.
Mainstream comentators hopee strengthened Plenkovic will now purge the corruption in ruling conservatives with strong party and parlament support. They hope he'll steer the society more liberal, europeanised. It's public secret he has very big european ambitions in the future (maybe to become comission president or council leader). They hope he'll become Croat Angela Merkel for his conservative party. They fear tho he might stumble to become a classic balkan strongman, corrupted to enrich himself or leave Croatia in hands of corrupted conservative party machinery as he looks for his position in Europe.
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The Manufacturing Of Greta Thunberg, "Extinction Rebellion" (XR) and the "Global Strike for Climate"; A Brief Timeline of a Massive PR Campaign.

Source
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Meet Karen Elle the Fashion Mogul

Through a modest beginning, Karen Elle started as a commercial print model that grew to an international fashion professional. Karen always had an eye for talent and was connecting many of them with agents and talent scouts. Until one day Karen Lee, a major agent at Elite New York told her she should develop models professionally. Karen never thought about making it a business, she decided to interview other agents and advertisement companies to see what they expected from her and models that she would recommend to them. Going directly to the source The Karen Elle Project a talent development program was created to open the doors properly to model hopefuls. As a mother agent or scout, she helped hundreds of models network get signed to agency and land many campaigns. It was very fulling to see others get to the next level. In addition to being a mother agent, Karen would still work major productions such as Victoria’s Secret and BET Rip the Runway shows, to stay connected and relevant to other industry professionals. It was always a good way to plug the models she was working with directly to industry professionals which keep The Karen Elle Project highly successful.
In 2017 the Karen Elle Project became privately shared and expanded to ten cities nationally and internationally. Now, with a major team, she was able to expand the talent division and have a creative division where she could focus on being an executive creative director. Her company employs over 200 people worldwide and worked with 1000’s of models. The fashion industry will always have Karen Elle’s heart, her spirit has always lead her to help and motivate others to be true to their talents and dreams. She always sees people's true potential and loves to inspire others through her motivational speaking engagements to starting transformational self-love retreats for young girls and teens.
Karen Elle writes her own script and in her own words “You are the director of your script you write your own story”. The chapters keep coming, stay tuned to what is next.
See her outstanding accomplishments and credentials below:
Karen Elle’s Commercial Model credits:
Baby Model – Department Store Sears Brands: Osh Kosh B Gosh and Fisher-Price toys
Teen Model – Sears Department Stores, Retail Stores 357, Charlot Russe, H&M, Limited Brands, Clinique – Beauty brand
Adult Model – Brands: Piazzi Jeans, Damage jeans, Frederick of Hollywood, Venus Swim, Hawaiian Tropics, Forever21, Express, BEBE, BCBG, Estee Lauder – Beauty Brand
Notable Industry Credits:
*20th Century Fox. Night of the Museum 3, Secret of the Tomb, NY Premiere Costume
*Warner Brothers - Great Gatsby, NY Premiere Costume Presentation
*Milena Canonero/Marie Annette Costumes, NY Presentation Persol Magnificent Obsessions exhibit
*Ferragamo Resort'2012 for Massimiliano Giornetti
* Gucci Men’s for O.C.C.
*Lemlem by Liya Kebede
*Phelan by Amanda Phelan
Shayne Oliver Hood by Air
Jason Wu for TSE
Jenny Packham
Kenzo Takada, for Humberto Leon & Carol Lim @ Opening Ceremony
NBA Legends Celebrity Golf Tournament
Nike Women 2014 Innovation Summit
Nike NFL Presentation 2012
Project Runaway (accessories All-Star Edition)
Willis and Walker Men’s for Marcraft
Alexander Wang, Diesel Black Gold, Essence Magazine, Mulberry,
Prada for OCC & Metropolitan Museum's Costume Institute
Mannequins, Photo Prep/Pinning& Styling
Alexander McQueen Truck Show for Olivier Rizzo 2009 - 2012
Mimi Plange with Manolo Blahnik 2012 - 2018
Nike NFL Display March 2012
Rachel Roy 2012
Rachel Zoe Show 2012
Worth Catalogue 2009
Collection Coordinators* & Showroom Dressers for Fittings & Special Presentations:
CHANEL 's Métiers d'Art 2014/15 Paris-Salzburg RTW NYC
Dior Cruise '15 - Raf Simons (& fashion presentation)
Helmut Lang Showroom 2006 - 2018
Hermes All About Women 2009 - 2019
Valentino by Pierpaolo Piccioli 2009 - 2018
CBS Fashion Rocks u/Barclay
Jason Wu Showroom & FW Presentation 2006 - 2018
Michael Kors FW Presentation 2009 - 2018
Isabel Toledo Retrospective/Noche de Moda
Alber Elbaz's for Lanvin 10 year anniversary @ Barneys
Sonia Rykiel showroom & presentation
Parsons MFA showroom
Zimmerman (sister’s Nicky and Simone) showroom
Kanye West – Yeezy FW Presentation 2016 -
Fenty FW Presentation 2018 to present
Backstage wardrobe Supervising & Dressing
New and Seasoned Fashion Designers for Fashion Week, Resort, Bridal Presentation
Network/Production
Victoria’s Secret Fashion Show - 2006 – 2012 CBS Network
BET Rip the Runway – 2006 – 2009 BET Network
Special Projects
Hottest Model Competition 2008 - 2012
International Discovery Retreats 2017 - present
Brunch with Karen Elle 2010 - present
Transformation Level-up Retreat for Entrepreneurs and CEO 2018 to present
Passport Photo Shoot Experience – 2006 - present
Feminine GLO Up Retreats 2017 - present
Collaborations and Affiliates
Beauty Con LA and NY
Teen Vogue Summit
Fashion Mingle
Awards, Associations, and Training
Beauty Control – Certified Image Consultant
Ground Crew NYC – Audrey Smaltz
National Women Association Award of Excellent 2008
The National Association for Female Executives
National Association of Professional Women
Association for Talent Development
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DemeRx has patents for days; Oh Ehave!; Natural Psilocybin solution; Psychedelic Exceptionalism;

Welcome to The Trip Report, a newsletter for the builders of the emerging psychedelic ecosystem on the business, policy, and impact of psychedelics.
For new readers, welcome to this quickly growing community of psychedelic stakeholders— if you have any questions, suggestions or feedback just hit respond or shoot an email to [email protected]
Please share it with your parents, children, siblings, cofounders, LPs, employees, colleagues, trip sitters, guides, shamans and dealers.
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***This Sunday we’ll have a significant announcement about the future of The Trip Report, stay tuned.**\*

DemeRX has a BOATLOAD of Ibogaine Patents

Deborah Marsh, Lawrence Friedhoff and the DemeRx team have been busy over the last 10 years. DemeRx has 79 Ibogaine related patents that include patient screening procedures, treatment of opioid addiction, nicotine addiction, nociceptive pain, methods of preparation, purification, extraction among others.
Here are a few titles:
Last week ATAI and DemeRx announced a $22 million partnership that will allow them to bring DemeRx’s Ibogaine based treatment to phase II clinical trials for opioid use disorder.
Known for its oneirophrenic and hallucinogenic properties, uncontrolled data from hundreds of patients suggest that ibogaine is effective as both an acute detoxifier and treatment for opioid addiction.
Based on the sheer number of patents, the distinct phases of treatment (withdrawal, maintenance, relapse abatement, etc.) ATAI and DemeRx could provide a top-to-bottom treatment protocol for various substance abuse disorders.
The other notable entity in the Ibogaine space is Universal Ibogaine which is hoping to start clinical trials in Canada and go public this year, though nothing in their marketing copy suggests Intellectual Property assets, I could be wrong.
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Gabor Maté Course Offering for Therapists

If I could go back to college and do it over again, I would have microdosed LSD to combat ADHD so that I got better grades so that I could have gotten into medical school so that I could be like Gabor Maté.
His books, lectures, and his whole deal have been a boon to many people struggling with addiction, depression, PTSD and ADHD- he has a beloved audience at his lectures and, from what I am told, holds exceptional Ayahuasca retreats.
For readers going down the psychedelic career path, Dr. Maté is offering a year-long Compassionate Inquiry online course.
Real talk, this is probably something we should all be doing.
The idea of compassionate inquiry has been helpful to me. I am my worst critic and capable of scolding myself with the worst fucking negative self-talk, as I am sure many of you are, too.
Rather than lambast myself repeatedly, when I remember, if I can invoke self-compassion and curiosity about the action, impulse or unskillful reaction, it proves to be far more effective.
Information on the course can be found here. This is not an affiliate link.
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OLP Therapeutics

One of the people I have enjoyed speaking with over the last few months is Jim Keim, a long time psychotherapist and foundeCEO of OLP Therapeutics.
Last week, OLP released their first press release that highlights some of the aspects that I believe will set them apart as best in class providers of natural medicines and psychedelic-therapist training.
I know many Trip Report readers are looking into therapy training, you’d be wise to look at OLP's program. Plus it looks like there’s a little surf spot out front of their training facility 🏄‍♀️.
The founding team has experience in all of the required domains of expertise: trauma-based therapy, policy/advocacy, and molecular biology. They are certainly not Crypto-bros who all of a sudden turned into emotionally vulnerable mental health advocates (an increasingly accurate caricature, amiright?)
They are partnering with local groups in Jamaica where their lab and clinical training facility is located. And they're seeking to create natural psilocybin medicine and not a GMP grade pharmaceutical.
"OLP is the first company to commercially offer laboratory-confirmed, exact dosages of natural psilocybin medicine" "OLP has formed a joint venture, Jamaica Medicinal Mushrooms, with a group of Jamaican mushroom cultivators led by Pauline Smith. Smith has a decade of experience in community empowerment and anti-poverty initiatives focused on gourmet and medicinal mushroom cultivation. This partnership ensures local Jamaican communities and farmers will benefit from the exploding international interest in psilocybin mushroom therapies."

Oh 'Ehave: Ehave buys Psytech

"Ehave, Inc. just announced plans to enter the $88 billion mental health market with a letter of intent to acquire 100% of PsychedeliTech, a division of Israel based Israel Cannabis Limited (“iCAN”). Ehave management believes PsychedeliTech could be a leader in the commercialization of research into psychedelics for the treatment of anxiety, depression, and other mental illnesses"

"With a large number of contacts in the industry, both Ehave, Inc. and PsychedeliTech intend to create an ecosystem to nurture the development of therapies using psychedelics. The ecosystem includes clinical trials, biosynthesis of psychedelic compounds, E-commerce, CPG’S, supply, dosage, delivery, data, conferences and business intelligence."
Yeah, baby, yeah!
"PsyTech is positioned to be an incubator and discovery platform to elevate psychedelic medicine, foster normalization, and accelerate innovation utilizing Ehave’s Telemetry Engine and Ehave Dash. Ehave’s Dash enables developers, clinicians, researchers, doctors, hospitals, universities and ultimately prescribers of Psychedelic therapy to monitor the effectiveness of treatment, track patient compliance and verify treatment outcomes in a reliable and objective manner through insightful data."
The flagship product suite from Ehave is MegaTeam line of programs that:
"seek to improve attention, learning, and behavior in individuals with ADHD. MegaTeam was designed and programmed with the intention of providing engagement comparable to video game play; throughout the design process, we have utilized experts in children’s digital media."
I wish they were around when I was a kid, all I got to do was run around outside with my friends, breathing fresh air, playing games, and socializing. As a kid with likely undiagnosed ADHD, I could have used a bit more screen time.
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The Problem for Psychedelics: They're Exceptional

What is fascinating about this moment is the constraints imposed by the various stakeholders in the psychedelic community. Some factions will be disappointed with the advent of psychedelic medicine.
The War on Drugs has been a huge embarrassing failure.
Portugal is over here like "come on, you can do it." and the emerging science supporting the use of psychedelics to treat, among other things, substance abuse, creates an uncomfortable situation for many psychedelic enthusiasts.

Good Drugs vs Bad Drugs

Here’s the idea, kinda.
Good Drugs come from the earth, there’s no lethal dose, they have a cultural heritage dating back thousands of years and have a utility in enhancing spirituality, consciousness, exploring one's mind, treating disease.
Bad drugs are synthetic numbing agents that have a lethal dose made cheaply, cut with dangerous chemicals and sold by marginalized populations to marginalized populations.
Good drugs are celebrated on Instagram and in bi-weekly newsletters.
The right to use bad drugs is an argument that doesn't make sense to a lot of people.
The question harm reduction advocates want to instill is “why are we championing legalization/decriminalization of psychedelics when the REAL problem is the prohibition of the “bad drugs"????
According to a Chacruna piece from 2018, this has been a long-standing...standoff.
It appears that the harm reduction movement and psychedelic renaissance are not as compatible as people would hope. At its foundation, it seems to be a matter of pragmatism vs idealism and we all know how that one tends to play out.
I hate to envoke a competition metaphor, but the showdown is happening in Oregon as dueling ballot initiatives seek to amend Oregon's laws - one seeks to de-escalate all drug use, while one seeks to empower therapists with the legal use of psilocybin in therapy.
Presidential candidates can be parsed out by there positioning on drug policy:
Pete Buttigieg has a long-standing plan to “eliminate incarceration for drug possession.” A spokeswoman for Joe Biden says that's the former vice president's position, as well. Andrew Yang has a similar position, for opioids, marijuana and psilocybin mushrooms — the latter because his campaigns cites there may be medical benefits. Bernie Sanders would eliminate criminal charges for marijuana and for buprenorphine, a less potent opioid used to treat addiction to stronger drugs. Tulsi Gabbard, Amy Klobuchar and Elisabeth Warren would all decriminalize marijuana.
Come on, Joe quit the malarkey.

More News

Quick question, what is the deal with press releases that convey no valuable information? They seem to be multiplying lately.
Is Jamaica fucked?
Codebase’s Truffle Shuffle

Psychedelic Opportunity Summit NYC in June

Looks like the recent Economics of Psychedelic Investing conference was a mere warm-up. This June, event organizers are doubling down on psychedelic interest and hosting a full-day event, with more than double the presenters and 10x the price.

Are Investors Ready To Change Their Minds About Psychedelic Drugs?

Perhaps where psychedelic drugs and cannabis most diverge is in their timeline to market. The need for robust clinical trials entails a significant outlay of time and funding. For potential investors, supporting companies to enable their clinical trials was one suggested way to get involved at this early stage of the game.

Vermont seeks Freedom and Unity for Psychedelics and Kratom

Vermont is one of those unique places where hippie and hillbillies peacefully coexist. You will encounter equal numbers of Bernie Bros and MAGA hats. Unfortunately, it is also a state with higher than average heroin and opioid deaths.
In 2017, there were 114 drug overdose deaths involving opioids in Vermont—a rate of 20.0 deaths per 100,000 persons, compared to the national rate of 14.6 deaths per 100,000 persons. The greatest increase was among deaths involving synthetic opioids other than methadone (mainly fentanyl) with 77 deaths in 2017 (Figure 1). Heroin-involved deaths also rose from 10 deaths in 2012 to 41 deaths in 2017
But there have been some strides made with intelligent measures being put in place.
The proposed decriminalization of psychedelics and kratom would continue that trend.
Marijuana Moment writes:
Rep. Brian Cina (P/D) introduced the legislation, which would amend state law to carve out exemptions to the list of controlled substances. Psilocybin, ayahuasca, peyote and kratom would no longer be regulated under the proposal. Cina told Marijuana Moment in a phone interview that he decided to pursue the policy change based on a “belief that I share with many people around the world that plants are a gift from nature and they’re a part of the web of life that humans are connected to.”

Aussie Bloke stirs up Psychedelic Interest Down Under

‘We started talking about how Australia might prepare for the introduction of these [psychedelic] medicines as legal,’ says McDonald, a former military commander who experienced severe PTSD and depression after 15 years of service.
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$4,200/mo cuddling with people.

Hey - Pat from StarterStory.com here with another interview.
Today's interview is with Samantha Varnerin of Snuggle with Sam, a brand that sells professional therapeutic cuddling.
Some stats:

Hello! Who are you and what business did you start?

Hi there! My name is Sam Varnerin and I created Snuggle with Sam, my independent professional cuddling practice, while I was still working full-time as a construction engineer.
Professional cuddling is a one-to-one service, much like massage therapy is, that is rooted in two basic human needs: touch and connection. And touch is-- well, touchy-- in the wake of the #MeToo movement and the backlash of people trying to figure out if they crossed a touch boundary, so my service is useful because I offer my service so that there is room for people to feel emotions like love and arousal if they come up in sessions without feeling body parts to express those emotions, like the lips or the crotch. In short, I provide a place for people to come and be emotionally accepted and physically held while keeping a therapeutic cuddle instead of a sexual one.
There are many reasons that someone might not get their touch or connection needs met other than anything related to sexual assault. These include but are not limited to: dealing with a divorce or death in the family, being a single man with few (if any) deep friendships, having anxiety or depression and needing a different kind of connection than what your therapist is able to offer (I’m seeing therapists and cuddlers working together a lot more now!), and high-performing executives that are praised by their peers but also put at arm’s length physically and emotionally.
I’ve been in the business for three years and have learned and seen a lot of things change and develop in the industry including the education available for cuddlers, but we still have a long way to go. This has inspired me to connect with the cuddle community at large by helping others start and grow their professional cuddle practices responsibly as a professional cuddling teacher.
On my personal practice side, my flagship product is a 90-minute cuddle session. I usually recommend first time cuddlers do a 90-minute session so we’re not rushing through the session for a 60-minute one (the minimum amount of time I cuddle), and oftentimes people that do a 60-minute cuddle wish we had more time. 90 minutes seems to be a good amount of time to settle in and not be waiting for the clock to go off.
On the teaching side, my flagship course is “Sam’s Snuggle School,” a comprehensive course I open for enrollment for one week in June and September that gives a beginner the basics of getting started as a professional cuddler, even if just part time, with the focus on efficiency and finding the best way for you personally to get started and feel comfortable doing this work and to grow their practice. Since this is still a very new industry, most cuddlers are entrepreneurs-- I know of one practice in the US that has cuddlers on a W-2 form, so this is all still very new for most cuddlers.
2018 in particular was a big year for me between going on a Cuddle Tour across the country to six major cities (blog on that TBD), being invited to consult and contribute for the Code of Ethics for Professional Cuddling, completing a 25-hour cuddle session with a client, co-speaking a highly successful talk at CuddleXpo in Chicago called “Connecting While Cuddling: Bringing Your Authentic Self to Your Clients”, and having my highest earning month ever-- over $7k!
Here’s all of the contributors on the panel at CuddleXpo in Chicago presenting how we came up with the Code of Ethics for Professional Cuddling. Back left to right: Maryelen Reid, Madelon Guinazzo, Samantha Varnerin (me!), Samantha Hess, Jean Franzbleau, Fei Wyatt, Janet Trevino. Front left to right: Keely Shoup, Lisa Meece. Photo credit Rellian Chen Merrin

What's your backstory and how did you come up with the idea?

I stumbled upon professional cuddling by sheer accident while looking at a newsletter from Jason Zook (during my work hours in my freezing office at my day job) where he mentioned it in passing but made a point to say professional cuddlers was a real job that people get paid for.
I remember thinking, “No it’s not. I’m gonna Google this right now and it’s not going to exist because if it does I’d be so good at it.” I was living paycheck to paycheck and getting burried in student loan debt, and since I found an agency that would have me charge $80/hour, I signed up with the first agency I saw on Google and applied, asking if I can do this around my full-time job (note: I do not recommend you do what I did).
That company did a lot of things that made it a good learning experience at first, but they also didn’t do much teaching. I didn’t have a system to qualify clients, a process for checking in with a text-security service they had, a schedule to book clients, or a way to track sessions so I knew what I owed the company. I didn’t have a clue what I was doing for sessions, and since professional cuddling was only in the U.S for a couple years at this point and little regulation in the industry (there still is), I got a lot of requests from people that were looking for a session thinking this was a front for prostitution!
This was when my engineering background came in handy. After my first bad experience with a client, I started creating my own systems to make myself safe that the agency didn’t give me. I made my own email questionnaire, things to look for that might indicate if a client might be an issue, confirmation process to make sure clients knew when and where to be, and other things I felt could be automated and make my life easier for before I see a client. This got tested as the agency gave me more leads and I saw how they responded to my qualification processes, and I started tweaking how I wanted the sessions to look. As I heard the same questions over and over again, I began to come up with canned responses.
The following summer, I went to Chris Guillebeau’s World Domination Summit and I talked about what I do on the side with someone. Word started to spread about me and my side gig, and one woman that approached me asked if she could interview me for a blog. I assumed it was her personal blog and said yes. A few days after the conference, she emailed me from her work account… the blog she was talking about was the Penny Hoarder.
When it came time to get interviewed, they asked me how I’d recommend someone get started as a professional cuddler… and I didn’t have an answer. I could not recommend someone to the agency I was working under because they didn’t train me and I felt it would be irresponsible to send people there.
I quickly put together a website for them to backlink to using Squarespace with two landing pages: one to apply to be a cuddler (I decided I would have people work under me in a company, which I no longer do), and the other one was to put in a request to work with me.
About 300 people filled out the application form within a week of the article going live, and that was the starting point of what is now Snuggle with Sam, which about four months after the article went live I began to pursue full-time.

Take us through the process of designing, prototyping, and manufacturing your first product.

If my previous answers didn’t hint to it before, I like the idea of taking action quickly rather than spending too much time testing out ideas. There are definitely areas that need more calculated and planned action to be effective and profitable, but more often than not if I’m working on something new I’ll create Minimum Viable Products (MVP’s), or the cheapest, quickest way to make a product for the public.
Before Sam’s Snuggle School, I had Snuggle Safety: Personal Protocols, a $79 course that consisted of one 45-minute video with my voiceover (which is no longer for sale but is now a bonus module in Sam’s Snuggle School). I dragged my feet over making it for nearly a year.
I originally made a manual that ended up being 35 pages of very dense content that I planned to sell. I could easily have sold it for 30-40 dollars to my email list and made bank, but I highly doubted anyone would read the whole thing (I barely wanted to read it once I finished it!). I decided to convert it into an online course to make it more digestible so I’d feel better about what I was producing instead of going with an inferior product.
I used Teachery for hosting my course and OfCourseBooks to make workbooks to check for comprehension in my course, so all I needed to do was use Powerpoint to record my voice on each slide and save the powerpoint file with my voice as an mp4. From there, I uploaded the video to YouTube as an Unlisted video (which back then you could embed without making it sharable), and then it was just writing the sales copy and making a payment page for people to buy the course. Teachey automates login info and emails for students in a course when they buy, so I didn’t have to worry about that.
Me and my entrepreneurial friend were launching something for our businesses around the same time in December 2017, and she had access to a 24-hour coworking space with showers. Both of us were inspired by Nathan Barry’s 24-hour launches he used to do when he was a freelancer and digital marketer, so we finished our projects by doing our own 24-hour work period together-- 9am Friday to 9am Saturday. It was a good way to light a fire under my butt when I was procrastinating on finishing a product that I already changed a lot since I thought of the idea.
This course didn’t make me a whole lot of money; it made me a few hundred dollars max. I’m glad I made this though because having this first course was what helped position me as a thought leader in my industry and got me invited to contribute to the Standard Code of Ethics for Professional Cuddlers and get more exposure in the cuddling community.

Describe the process of launching the business.

I got very, very lucky at first when I broke out on my own for three reasons:
But there were also some key things that were not to my advantage in this process:
It wasn’t until a year after I went full-time with my business that I was getting back in the black for my efforts and not until May 2018 that I began consistently making a livable wage from cuddling, and I believe that I would have been much further along had I done a better job managing my income, presented myself as a cuddler better, and went where my clients were hanging out online from the getgo.

Since launch, what has worked to attract and retain customers?

I have my hands in many pots all at once, but these five are where I’m seeing the most results:
Following up with leads until they say no.
In 2018, most of my clients were from my lead list from 2017 and before that never replied to me or scheduled a session for some reason.
I try not to go overboard with follow up, but I try to follow up until I’m told no because sometimes people are just really forgetful and want to book a session but need to be reminded.
Especially in professional cuddling, I notice that many potential clients are really self-conscious if I don’t take the initiative to schedule a session or make contact with them; they think I just don’t like them!
Google Adwords.
My friend Ronnie Deaver helped me set up my first simple Google Adwords campaigns last year-- apparently no one was buying Google ads for “Professional Cuddler Boston,” so that was a really quick way to get seen.
Our ad was short and to the point since we assumed someone googling that was looking for a cuddler and already familiar with what to expect, so the ad was simple (and emphasized free parking, a hot commodity in Boston) and linked to my request form.
It cost me a lot of money though and I saw some leads turns into clients but not that many, so I ended the campaign.
Unintentional SEO.
Shortly after ending the Google Ad campaign, I started getting a curious number of leads the next few months that said I was the fifth website on the first page of Google when they searched “Professional Cuddler Boston”.
Upon talking to Ronnie, he told me that when ads perform well for certain search words, Google rewards you with higher search results. I’m sure this would improve more if I put more efforts in this direction. I also got a popular article written about me on Student Loan Herothat got picked up and linked back to me on several other websites, so that was also a factor that I didn’t plan on helping me do well in Google ranking.
If nothing else, get backlinks to your website as often as possible!
Coffee Talks.
I was getting a lot of leads submitting a form and many had told me they wanted to do this but felt weird cuddling with a stranger.
So I thought “Well, let’s not be a stranger then!” And that’s how Coffee Talks were born. Potential clients could sign up for a half hour time slot to meet me for coffee at the local Starbucks and talk about their cuddling needs. I posted the signup link on local Facebook groups to let them know I was doing that, which sparked some interest from locals and strangers.
This is a very time-consuming method and not scalable. However, the quality of the clients I got from this method were the highest of any of the methods I’ve used.
Prepaid packages for clients.
My hourly rate is $100/hour (typical for the industry is $60-$80/hour), so I like to incentivize returning clients by giving them lower rates for paying in advance.
This helps me by giving me money and cuddle hours scheduled in advance, it helps them by saving them money. Everybody wins.
I have one package that incentivizes sessions to be less than $70/hour if they pay in advance (I do allow for payment plans upon request).
As far as my cuddling teaching side of my business goes, when the GDPR law took place, I did the unthinkable: I threw away my list of 300+ subscribers for my professional cuddling business. Instead, I started it from scratch to create better reasons for people to join my email list so I had higher quality email subscribers.
So I created things like a What it Takes to be a Great Professional Snuggler Guide for the beginning cuddler, webinar signup lists (there will be more webinars in the future!), the waitlist for Sam’s Snuggle School, and One Week to More Cuddles Guide for the experienced cuddler. I write to this list every other week if not every week. This list was helpful for when I initially launched Sam’s Snuggle School this past November. Over 25% of my new list bought my course!

How are you doing today and what does the future look like?

The past few months have been me planning out big grand plans for my cuddling community now that I’ve had a bigger stage, figuratively and literally, in 2018 than I ever have before. This January I started a three-month experienced cuddler course with my friend Peter Benjamin called “Cuddle with Your Whole Self” which is surrounded around bringing deeper connection not only into your client sessions but into your entire life. We get on Zoom calls and teach and do connection exercises live together to teach our students. As of writing this we’re three classes in and I’m really happy with how the course is coming along so far. I’m already seeing a huge difference in our cuddlers’ mindsets.
Unfortunately after a wildly successful finish to my year in December and planning out how to move forward with gaining and retaining clients, I got a wrench thrown into my cuddling plans by tearing my meniscus! I currently can’t walk or cuddle like this unfortunately, but it does mean I get to work on more projects for cuddlers like I’ve wanted to. I’m really thankful I started building that email list the right way back in May now so I can continue making income even without having to cuddle right now.
For the most part I don’t track too many parts of my business even though I have the data and Google Analytics set up for it to look into heavy technical things such as keywords, average time on site, and converstion rates. That’s mostly because I want to model something doable for other cuddlers. Other cuddlers in their practice don’t want to spend a lot of time on analyzing data or building a website or learning SEO; they want to get clients and cuddle! So most of what I do is centered around what a cuddler growing their practice would want to do. I want the actions I take to be duplicatable, especially since my main start on my own was from getting a massive website to backlink to my brand new website isn’t necessarily duplicatable.
As of right now I get an average of 1-3 new subscribers a day for my Cuddlers-in-Training email list and I have 450+ total cuddle requests from individuals (I have yet to pull in data from a few new platforms so the exact number is slightly off). This past year the average cost per client was just shy of $24 per client, but when clients were coming in for a session that cost between $63-90 an hour and half of them returning for more than one session, that cost per client is well worth it for me. My next step once I’m not injured anymore will be digging into the data to see what I can do to make my conversions better moving forward-- I want to get more people in the door for a first session in coming months.
I mostly live off of the money I make from cuddling and the money I make from my courses and coaching make it so I can take bigger risks with trying new lead sources, optimizing parts of my business like getting some lifetime software through AppSumo, paying for my business coach, and funding other growth dreams I have for my business.
My big projects this year are the following: advertising and enrolling aspiring cuddlers into Sam’s Snuggle School), moving into more focused work in helping experienced cuddlers grow their practice including coaching and advanced coursework, and tying it all together with my baby by July with a dream of mine I conceived while on Tour this past year, Connection Community

Through starting the business, have you learned anything particularly helpful or advantageous?

I keep learning how much my health and wellbeing directly affects my business. The first year I was a professional cuddler was one of the roughest years of my life personally, which was the motivation to buying the URL mylifeisneverboring.com as my personal social skills blog.
The first two weeks after I quit my full-time job I slept for 14 hours a day because I was recovering from some unhealthy habits around sleep, work and coffee I had developed from working at my job. I still look at pictures the months before I left my job and am appalled at how unhealthy I looked in those pictures even. Once I was back on a healthy sleep schedule and started eating more regularly I noticed the first of many dramatic shifts in my creativity, productivity, and client base.
I always had an idea that I’d be able to make it work as an entrepreneur somehow even if I didn’t know how the numbers would look on paper. I just knew that if I ever started failing I would find a way to make it through it and thrive. Between having clients last minute decide not to renew a big package the day before rent was due and trying to figure out how to make up for that loss, shifting gears halfway through my Snuggle Tour and trying to avoid a significant loss, finding out my hotel in NYC wasn’t booked online properly when I have a client coming by in less than a half hour, releasing a course in 24 hours when I’m not entirely sure how I’m going to record it without a working microphone…
I proved myself by getting out of all those situations. My strongest affirmation was forged through these trials and tribulations: “I’ll figure it out. I always do.”

What platform/tools do you use for your business?

Some of these links are affiliate links.
Waveapps. Once I got a separate bank account for my business, I hooked up the bank account to this free accounting software. As a one-woman band that files a Schedule C, this software is easy to categorize and see my income and expenses at a glance. I like logging in and seeing that I’m making more money than I’m spending really quickly.
SquareUp. This is how I accept credit card payments via card swipe or online invoice. You can also set up recurring invoices, use their free scheduling software,
Squarespace. For the tech-challenged, this is a really easy way to set up a pretty website quickly-- or in my case since I had no design skills, an ugly website
Mailchimp. Automation is on the free plan, something I rarely see, and that’s really useful for sending my questionnaire to potential clients as soon as they fill out my form on my website. You can send email lists, make landing pages, and track opens with your list to see who’s reading your emails and who’s staying silent.
Ecwid. It’s really useful for using SquareUp on your Squarespace website and making items in your store way prettier than Squarespaces default sales pages. I use the free version because I don’t need too many items, but the paid versions allow for more than 10 different items on your store and it’s a very powerful tool to sell on social media in the paid version.
[eachery. This is a really simple course creation platform where I host my courses. They also have a sales page builder for your course with Rick Astley placeholders that are perfect.

What have been the most influential books, podcasts, or other resources?

Mornings with Mike Podcast. My friend Mike Goncalves makes a five minute daily podcast, and I’ve set up my Google Assistant so that when I turn my alarm off in the morning the latest episode of his podcast plays. He has some interesting thoughts on success, motivation, health, and a happy life. It’s a really good way for me to wake up in the morning.
Life’s Golden Ticket by Brendon Burchard. This book is his only fiction book he wrote, but it’s an amazing book about letting go and making the most of the life you have. Unlike The One Thing, I couldn’t put this book down. It reminded me to keep sight of pursuing the things that matter to me in my life.
My business coach, Stephanie Marino. I’ve worked with her on and off over the course of two years and she’s been one of the most empowering coaches I’ve ever met. She’s helped me move some big rocks like stabilizing my income for my business, shifting gears for my Tour when my first plan wasn’t working, and not being afraid to run my business differently than other people.

Advice for other entrepreneurs who want to get started or are just starting out?

Start with going on a platform or agency and give it three to six months.
I’ve met new cuddlers that want to go straight to a therapist’s office to do referrals and I’ve met cuddlers three months in that think they need to make their own website. Those are great things to do, but they’ll be more effective you’ll command more authority once you’ve gained some experience from a place where people looking for cuddling are gathering.
Take the pressure off of you to market yourself right away and let the platforms that are pouring thousands of dollars into marketing do that work for you, and pay attention to the clients that are coming in and attracted to you because that will help you understand what it is that you offer people that has them choose you as their cuddler. Then you can use that to go to other people for referrals and build a website around that idea.
Use pictures for your profile photos that reflect how you’ll show up to your sessions.
I see some women and men post really suggestive or misleading photos of themselves: women in bikinis, men shirtless, clubbing photos, using Snapchat or Instagram pictures, etc.
Those are all nice photos, but they don’t send a good message for who you want to attract to your professional cuddling practice. Take a photo of yourself while you’re wearing your cuddle attire so people can see upfront how you’ll show up for your sessions.
Don’t be afraid to talk about professional cuddling in public.
When I was on Tour and met strangers I would tell them I was a professional cuddler. More than a few times I got replies like “I’ve heard of that but I’ve never met someone that does that.” There’s way more media coverage on professional cuddling than when I first started, but people need to see that it’s in their communities as well in order to start normalizing the profession. Start talking about it like it’s a real profession because it is.
Educate yourself.
I don’t care if you’re a massage therapist, a psychologist, or a high school dropout. If you’re going to do professional cuddling, you need to be continually learning to get better and show up for your clients better. That doesn’t have to be professional cuddling specific training, but it definitely helps to see how other people are doing it.
Don’t reinvent the wheel if you don’t have to like I did, but don’t be afraid to pull skillsets from other areas if they’ll add to your practice. For example, I use Authentic Relating Games and Circling to help understand my clients better and guide the way I communicate clearly with them.

Are you looking to hire for certain positions right now?

Looking for part-time VA for 5 hours a week to start.
Mostly big projects such as converting spreadsheets of leads to a CRM program, putting social media-friendly photos from phone into an album, batch editing blog posts and newsletter emails, and able to do academic-level research for scientific sources.
Native or fluent English speakers are welcome to reach out at [email protected] and I’ll have a test task for you to see if we’re a fit.

Where can we go to learn more?

If you have any questions or comments, drop a comment below!
Liked this text interview? Check out the full interview with photos, tools, books, and other data.
Interested in sharing your own story? Send me a PM
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$4,200/mo cuddling with people.

Hey - Pat from StarterStory.com here with another interview.
Today's interview is with Samantha Varnerin of Snuggle with Sam, a brand that sells professional therapeutic cuddling.
Some stats:

Hello! Who are you and what business did you start?

Hi there! My name is Sam Varnerin and I created Snuggle with Sam, my independent professional cuddling practice, while I was still working full-time as a construction engineer.
Professional cuddling is a one-to-one service, much like massage therapy is, that is rooted in two basic human needs: touch and connection. And touch is-- well, touchy-- in the wake of the #MeToo movement and the backlash of people trying to figure out if they crossed a touch boundary, so my service is useful because I offer my service so that there is room for people to feel emotions like love and arousal if they come up in sessions without feeling body parts to express those emotions, like the lips or the crotch. In short, I provide a place for people to come and be emotionally accepted and physically held while keeping a therapeutic cuddle instead of a sexual one.
There are many reasons that someone might not get their touch or connection needs met other than anything related to sexual assault. These include but are not limited to: dealing with a divorce or death in the family, being a single man with few (if any) deep friendships, having anxiety or depression and needing a different kind of connection than what your therapist is able to offer (I’m seeing therapists and cuddlers working together a lot more now!), and high-performing executives that are praised by their peers but also put at arm’s length physically and emotionally.
I’ve been in the business for three years and have learned and seen a lot of things change and develop in the industry including the education available for cuddlers, but we still have a long way to go. This has inspired me to connect with the cuddle community at large by helping others start and grow their professional cuddle practices responsibly as a professional cuddling teacher.
On my personal practice side, my flagship product is a 90-minute cuddle session. I usually recommend first time cuddlers do a 90-minute session so we’re not rushing through the session for a 60-minute one (the minimum amount of time I cuddle), and oftentimes people that do a 60-minute cuddle wish we had more time. 90 minutes seems to be a good amount of time to settle in and not be waiting for the clock to go off.
On the teaching side, my flagship course is “Sam’s Snuggle School,” a comprehensive course I open for enrollment for one week in June and September that gives a beginner the basics of getting started as a professional cuddler, even if just part time, with the focus on efficiency and finding the best way for you personally to get started and feel comfortable doing this work and to grow their practice. Since this is still a very new industry, most cuddlers are entrepreneurs-- I know of one practice in the US that has cuddlers on a W-2 form, so this is all still very new for most cuddlers.
2018 in particular was a big year for me between going on a Cuddle Tour across the country to six major cities (blog on that TBD), being invited to consult and contribute for the Code of Ethics for Professional Cuddling, completing a 25-hour cuddle session with a client, co-speaking a highly successful talk at CuddleXpo in Chicago called “Connecting While Cuddling: Bringing Your Authentic Self to Your Clients”, and having my highest earning month ever-- over $7k!
Here’s all of the contributors on the panel at CuddleXpo in Chicago presenting how we came up with the Code of Ethics for Professional Cuddling. Back left to right: Maryelen Reid, Madelon Guinazzo, Samantha Varnerin (me!), Samantha Hess, Jean Franzbleau, Fei Wyatt, Janet Trevino. Front left to right: Keely Shoup, Lisa Meece. Photo credit Rellian Chen Merrin

What's your backstory and how did you come up with the idea?

I stumbled upon professional cuddling by sheer accident while looking at a newsletter from Jason Zook (during my work hours in my freezing office at my day job) where he mentioned it in passing but made a point to say professional cuddlers was a real job that people get paid for.
I remember thinking, “No it’s not. I’m gonna Google this right now and it’s not going to exist because if it does I’d be so good at it.” I was living paycheck to paycheck and getting burried in student loan debt, and since I found an agency that would have me charge $80/hour, I signed up with the first agency I saw on Google and applied, asking if I can do this around my full-time job (note: I do not recommend you do what I did).
That company did a lot of things that made it a good learning experience at first, but they also didn’t do much teaching. I didn’t have a system to qualify clients, a process for checking in with a text-security service they had, a schedule to book clients, or a way to track sessions so I knew what I owed the company. I didn’t have a clue what I was doing for sessions, and since professional cuddling was only in the U.S for a couple years at this point and little regulation in the industry (there still is), I got a lot of requests from people that were looking for a session thinking this was a front for prostitution!
This was when my engineering background came in handy. After my first bad experience with a client, I started creating my own systems to make myself safe that the agency didn’t give me. I made my own email questionnaire, things to look for that might indicate if a client might be an issue, confirmation process to make sure clients knew when and where to be, and other things I felt could be automated and make my life easier for before I see a client. This got tested as the agency gave me more leads and I saw how they responded to my qualification processes, and I started tweaking how I wanted the sessions to look. As I heard the same questions over and over again, I began to come up with canned responses.
The following summer, I went to Chris Guillebeau’s World Domination Summit and I talked about what I do on the side with someone. Word started to spread about me and my side gig, and one woman that approached me asked if she could interview me for a blog. I assumed it was her personal blog and said yes. A few days after the conference, she emailed me from her work account… the blog she was talking about was the Penny Hoarder.
When it came time to get interviewed, they asked me how I’d recommend someone get started as a professional cuddler… and I didn’t have an answer. I could not recommend someone to the agency I was working under because they didn’t train me and I felt it would be irresponsible to send people there.
I quickly put together a website for them to backlink to using Squarespace with two landing pages: one to apply to be a cuddler (I decided I would have people work under me in a company, which I no longer do), and the other one was to put in a request to work with me.
About 300 people filled out the application form within a week of the article going live, and that was the starting point of what is now Snuggle with Sam, which about four months after the article went live I began to pursue full-time.

Take us through the process of designing, prototyping, and manufacturing your first product.

If my previous answers didn’t hint to it before, I like the idea of taking action quickly rather than spending too much time testing out ideas. There are definitely areas that need more calculated and planned action to be effective and profitable, but more often than not if I’m working on something new I’ll create Minimum Viable Products (MVP’s), or the cheapest, quickest way to make a product for the public.
Before Sam’s Snuggle School, I had Snuggle Safety: Personal Protocols, a $79 course that consisted of one 45-minute video with my voiceover (which is no longer for sale but is now a bonus module in Sam’s Snuggle School). I dragged my feet over making it for nearly a year.
I originally made a manual that ended up being 35 pages of very dense content that I planned to sell. I could easily have sold it for 30-40 dollars to my email list and made bank, but I highly doubted anyone would read the whole thing (I barely wanted to read it once I finished it!). I decided to convert it into an online course to make it more digestible so I’d feel better about what I was producing instead of going with an inferior product.
I used Teachery for hosting my course and OfCourseBooks to make workbooks to check for comprehension in my course, so all I needed to do was use Powerpoint to record my voice on each slide and save the powerpoint file with my voice as an mp4. From there, I uploaded the video to YouTube as an Unlisted video (which back then you could embed without making it sharable), and then it was just writing the sales copy and making a payment page for people to buy the course. Teachey automates login info and emails for students in a course when they buy, so I didn’t have to worry about that.
Me and my entrepreneurial friend were launching something for our businesses around the same time in December 2017, and she had access to a 24-hour coworking space with showers. Both of us were inspired by Nathan Barry’s 24-hour launches he used to do when he was a freelancer and digital marketer, so we finished our projects by doing our own 24-hour work period together-- 9am Friday to 9am Saturday. It was a good way to light a fire under my butt when I was procrastinating on finishing a product that I already changed a lot since I thought of the idea.
This course didn’t make me a whole lot of money; it made me a few hundred dollars max. I’m glad I made this though because having this first course was what helped position me as a thought leader in my industry and got me invited to contribute to the Standard Code of Ethics for Professional Cuddlers and get more exposure in the cuddling community.

Describe the process of launching the business.

I got very, very lucky at first when I broke out on my own for three reasons:
But there were also some key things that were not to my advantage in this process:
It wasn’t until a year after I went full-time with my business that I was getting back in the black for my efforts and not until May 2018 that I began consistently making a livable wage from cuddling, and I believe that I would have been much further along had I done a better job managing my income, presented myself as a cuddler better, and went where my clients were hanging out online from the getgo.

Since launch, what has worked to attract and retain customers?

I have my hands in many pots all at once, but these five are where I’m seeing the most results:
Following up with leads until they say no.
In 2018, most of my clients were from my lead list from 2017 and before that never replied to me or scheduled a session for some reason.
I try not to go overboard with follow up, but I try to follow up until I’m told no because sometimes people are just really forgetful and want to book a session but need to be reminded.
Especially in professional cuddling, I notice that many potential clients are really self-conscious if I don’t take the initiative to schedule a session or make contact with them; they think I just don’t like them!
Google Adwords.
My friend Ronnie Deaver helped me set up my first simple Google Adwords campaigns last year-- apparently no one was buying Google ads for “Professional Cuddler Boston,” so that was a really quick way to get seen.
Our ad was short and to the point since we assumed someone googling that was looking for a cuddler and already familiar with what to expect, so the ad was simple (and emphasized free parking, a hot commodity in Boston) and linked to my request form.
It cost me a lot of money though and I saw some leads turns into clients but not that many, so I ended the campaign.
Unintentional SEO.
Shortly after ending the Google Ad campaign, I started getting a curious number of leads the next few months that said I was the fifth website on the first page of Google when they searched “Professional Cuddler Boston”.
Upon talking to Ronnie, he told me that when ads perform well for certain search words, Google rewards you with higher search results. I’m sure this would improve more if I put more efforts in this direction. I also got a popular article written about me on Student Loan Herothat got picked up and linked back to me on several other websites, so that was also a factor that I didn’t plan on helping me do well in Google ranking.
If nothing else, get backlinks to your website as often as possible!
Coffee Talks.
I was getting a lot of leads submitting a form and many had told me they wanted to do this but felt weird cuddling with a stranger.
So I thought “Well, let’s not be a stranger then!” And that’s how Coffee Talks were born. Potential clients could sign up for a half hour time slot to meet me for coffee at the local Starbucks and talk about their cuddling needs. I posted the signup link on local Facebook groups to let them know I was doing that, which sparked some interest from locals and strangers.
This is a very time-consuming method and not scalable. However, the quality of the clients I got from this method were the highest of any of the methods I’ve used.
Prepaid packages for clients.
My hourly rate is $100/hour (typical for the industry is $60-$80/hour), so I like to incentivize returning clients by giving them lower rates for paying in advance.
This helps me by giving me money and cuddle hours scheduled in advance, it helps them by saving them money. Everybody wins.
I have one package that incentivizes sessions to be less than $70/hour if they pay in advance (I do allow for payment plans upon request).
As far as my cuddling teaching side of my business goes, when the GDPR law took place, I did the unthinkable: I threw away my list of 300+ subscribers for my professional cuddling business. Instead, I started it from scratch to create better reasons for people to join my email list so I had higher quality email subscribers.
So I created things like a What it Takes to be a Great Professional Snuggler Guide for the beginning cuddler, webinar signup lists (there will be more webinars in the future!), the waitlist for Sam’s Snuggle School, and One Week to More Cuddles Guide for the experienced cuddler. I write to this list every other week if not every week. This list was helpful for when I initially launched Sam’s Snuggle School this past November. Over 25% of my new list bought my course!

How are you doing today and what does the future look like?

The past few months have been me planning out big grand plans for my cuddling community now that I’ve had a bigger stage, figuratively and literally, in 2018 than I ever have before. This January I started a three-month experienced cuddler course with my friend Peter Benjamin called “Cuddle with Your Whole Self” which is surrounded around bringing deeper connection not only into your client sessions but into your entire life. We get on Zoom calls and teach and do connection exercises live together to teach our students. As of writing this we’re three classes in and I’m really happy with how the course is coming along so far. I’m already seeing a huge difference in our cuddlers’ mindsets.
Unfortunately after a wildly successful finish to my year in December and planning out how to move forward with gaining and retaining clients, I got a wrench thrown into my cuddling plans by tearing my meniscus! I currently can’t walk or cuddle like this unfortunately, but it does mean I get to work on more projects for cuddlers like I’ve wanted to. I’m really thankful I started building that email list the right way back in May now so I can continue making income even without having to cuddle right now.
For the most part I don’t track too many parts of my business even though I have the data and Google Analytics set up for it to look into heavy technical things such as keywords, average time on site, and converstion rates. That’s mostly because I want to model something doable for other cuddlers. Other cuddlers in their practice don’t want to spend a lot of time on analyzing data or building a website or learning SEO; they want to get clients and cuddle! So most of what I do is centered around what a cuddler growing their practice would want to do. I want the actions I take to be duplicatable, especially since my main start on my own was from getting a massive website to backlink to my brand new website isn’t necessarily duplicatable.
As of right now I get an average of 1-3 new subscribers a day for my Cuddlers-in-Training email list and I have 450+ total cuddle requests from individuals (I have yet to pull in data from a few new platforms so the exact number is slightly off). This past year the average cost per client was just shy of $24 per client, but when clients were coming in for a session that cost between $63-90 an hour and half of them returning for more than one session, that cost per client is well worth it for me. My next step once I’m not injured anymore will be digging into the data to see what I can do to make my conversions better moving forward-- I want to get more people in the door for a first session in coming months.
I mostly live off of the money I make from cuddling and the money I make from my courses and coaching make it so I can take bigger risks with trying new lead sources, optimizing parts of my business like getting some lifetime software through AppSumo, paying for my business coach, and funding other growth dreams I have for my business.
My big projects this year are the following: advertising and enrolling aspiring cuddlers into Sam’s Snuggle School), moving into more focused work in helping experienced cuddlers grow their practice including coaching and advanced coursework, and tying it all together with my baby by July with a dream of mine I conceived while on Tour this past year, Connection Community

Through starting the business, have you learned anything particularly helpful or advantageous?

I keep learning how much my health and wellbeing directly affects my business. The first year I was a professional cuddler was one of the roughest years of my life personally, which was the motivation to buying the URL mylifeisneverboring.com as my personal social skills blog.
The first two weeks after I quit my full-time job I slept for 14 hours a day because I was recovering from some unhealthy habits around sleep, work and coffee I had developed from working at my job. I still look at pictures the months before I left my job and am appalled at how unhealthy I looked in those pictures even. Once I was back on a healthy sleep schedule and started eating more regularly I noticed the first of many dramatic shifts in my creativity, productivity, and client base.
I always had an idea that I’d be able to make it work as an entrepreneur somehow even if I didn’t know how the numbers would look on paper. I just knew that if I ever started failing I would find a way to make it through it and thrive. Between having clients last minute decide not to renew a big package the day before rent was due and trying to figure out how to make up for that loss, shifting gears halfway through my Snuggle Tour and trying to avoid a significant loss, finding out my hotel in NYC wasn’t booked online properly when I have a client coming by in less than a half hour, releasing a course in 24 hours when I’m not entirely sure how I’m going to record it without a working microphone…
I proved myself by getting out of all those situations. My strongest affirmation was forged through these trials and tribulations: “I’ll figure it out. I always do.”

What platform/tools do you use for your business?

Some of these links are affiliate links.
Waveapps. Once I got a separate bank account for my business, I hooked up the bank account to this free accounting software. As a one-woman band that files a Schedule C, this software is easy to categorize and see my income and expenses at a glance. I like logging in and seeing that I’m making more money than I’m spending really quickly.
SquareUp. This is how I accept credit card payments via card swipe or online invoice. You can also set up recurring invoices, use their free scheduling software,
Squarespace. For the tech-challenged, this is a really easy way to set up a pretty website quickly-- or in my case since I had no design skills, an ugly website
Mailchimp. Automation is on the free plan, something I rarely see, and that’s really useful for sending my questionnaire to potential clients as soon as they fill out my form on my website. You can send email lists, make landing pages, and track opens with your list to see who’s reading your emails and who’s staying silent.
Ecwid. It’s really useful for using SquareUp on your Squarespace website and making items in your store way prettier than Squarespaces default sales pages. I use the free version because I don’t need too many items, but the paid versions allow for more than 10 different items on your store and it’s a very powerful tool to sell on social media in the paid version.
[eachery. This is a really simple course creation platform where I host my courses. They also have a sales page builder for your course with Rick Astley placeholders that are perfect.

What have been the most influential books, podcasts, or other resources?

Mornings with Mike Podcast. My friend Mike Goncalves makes a five minute daily podcast, and I’ve set up my Google Assistant so that when I turn my alarm off in the morning the latest episode of his podcast plays. He has some interesting thoughts on success, motivation, health, and a happy life. It’s a really good way for me to wake up in the morning.
Life’s Golden Ticket by Brendon Burchard. This book is his only fiction book he wrote, but it’s an amazing book about letting go and making the most of the life you have. Unlike The One Thing, I couldn’t put this book down. It reminded me to keep sight of pursuing the things that matter to me in my life.
My business coach, Stephanie Marino. I’ve worked with her on and off over the course of two years and she’s been one of the most empowering coaches I’ve ever met. She’s helped me move some big rocks like stabilizing my income for my business, shifting gears for my Tour when my first plan wasn’t working, and not being afraid to run my business differently than other people.

Advice for other entrepreneurs who want to get started or are just starting out?

Start with going on a platform or agency and give it three to six months.
I’ve met new cuddlers that want to go straight to a therapist’s office to do referrals and I’ve met cuddlers three months in that think they need to make their own website. Those are great things to do, but they’ll be more effective you’ll command more authority once you’ve gained some experience from a place where people looking for cuddling are gathering.
Take the pressure off of you to market yourself right away and let the platforms that are pouring thousands of dollars into marketing do that work for you, and pay attention to the clients that are coming in and attracted to you because that will help you understand what it is that you offer people that has them choose you as their cuddler. Then you can use that to go to other people for referrals and build a website around that idea.
Use pictures for your profile photos that reflect how you’ll show up to your sessions.
I see some women and men post really suggestive or misleading photos of themselves: women in bikinis, men shirtless, clubbing photos, using Snapchat or Instagram pictures, etc.
Those are all nice photos, but they don’t send a good message for who you want to attract to your professional cuddling practice. Take a photo of yourself while you’re wearing your cuddle attire so people can see upfront how you’ll show up for your sessions.
Don’t be afraid to talk about professional cuddling in public.
When I was on Tour and met strangers I would tell them I was a professional cuddler. More than a few times I got replies like “I’ve heard of that but I’ve never met someone that does that.” There’s way more media coverage on professional cuddling than when I first started, but people need to see that it’s in their communities as well in order to start normalizing the profession. Start talking about it like it’s a real profession because it is.
Educate yourself.
I don’t care if you’re a massage therapist, a psychologist, or a high school dropout. If you’re going to do professional cuddling, you need to be continually learning to get better and show up for your clients better. That doesn’t have to be professional cuddling specific training, but it definitely helps to see how other people are doing it.
Don’t reinvent the wheel if you don’t have to like I did, but don’t be afraid to pull skillsets from other areas if they’ll add to your practice. For example, I use Authentic Relating Games and Circling to help understand my clients better and guide the way I communicate clearly with them.

Are you looking to hire for certain positions right now?

Looking for part-time VA for 5 hours a week to start.
Mostly big projects such as converting spreadsheets of leads to a CRM program, putting social media-friendly photos from phone into an album, batch editing blog posts and newsletter emails, and able to do academic-level research for scientific sources.
Native or fluent English speakers are welcome to reach out at [email protected] and I’ll have a test task for you to see if we’re a fit.

Where can we go to learn more?

If you have any questions or comments, drop a comment below!
Liked this text interview? Check out the full interview with photos, tools, books, and other data.
Interested in sharing your own story? Send me a PM
submitted by youngrichntasteless to Entrepreneur [link] [comments]

Fifty Days in The Divison

Ten Days
Twenty Days
Thirty Days
Forty Days
I think I’ve hit my peak Commendation score. Every time I was working on them, it felt like a chore. I wasn’t doing things I wanted to do or having fun, just mindlessly completing tasks to check a box. I basically closed out everything but the PvP stuff (including Last Stand and Skirmish), the secret mission, Destructive Appetite, and weak points. I might still back into the last one, because I still aim for weak points when they’re available. I also haven’t checked to see if weak point hits in Survival count.
I did try to spend more time in the DZ. I tuned Predator, Nomad, and Banshee builds specifically for the purpose of mixing it up. It didn’t take long for me to get tired of fighting either 4v20 or 20v4. I got my rogue kill count up to 43, but it was mostly lame, and I’ve completely moved on. I could blame it on a lot of things, but the bottom line is that it isn’t fun, regardless of how it got here. I did cut a few ropes, but nowhere near enough for the Commendation, I’d guess 5-10 total. I felt really bad the first time I did it, but I just committed to it and ran away after.
I’ve been knocking out the Shields as they become active, but It’s kind of disappointing that they didn’t switch the order around enough to give us old timers something to do. It’s nice to login and auto-cap 500 Div Tech (which I don’t really need any more, I’ve maxed everything), but I’d rather work for it. If the datamine stays accurate, November was the last time I had to do something to work for a shield, and that’s a bummer.
Survival is still my jam! I’ve always played PvE, and have been starting to do more PvP. The reason I’m making the switch is that I’ve done pretty much everything that can be done on the PvE side, so I’d like more challenge, or at least more opportunity for random encounters. Before giving up on PvE, I was making up my own challenges, borrowing some from Kodie Collings’ Twitch VODs, and also the thread here. So far I have completed:
I fell just short on a solo run on the LZ and DZ Landmarks in a single session. I had seven Landmarks left and died in the DZ Construction Site. It was going to be a tight race to finish them, kill a hunter and get on the chopper, as my timer was ticking down and meds weren’t doing much. Made a careless mistake and down I went. Oh well, I’ll try again someday. I also want to do a run where you spawn and extract. Craft your masks and the flare gun, and that’s it, everything else is starter gear. I also want to do a total pacifist run, this time in PvE, where you don’t fire a single bullet. Kind of at the mercy of the competence of the people you’re in a session with to catch a ride on their chopper, but could be fun.
I wish I had something to report about TD2 and my excitement about it, but unfortunately we’re not getting any information worth talking about. The dev blog about skills was great, but that’s pretty much the only bone they’ve thrown us. Maybe the big streamer summit will produce more to salivate over. I have faith that after 1200 hours of playing this game, I’ll still like the second installment, and that’s enough for me.
Speaking of streamers, I’ve had a little bit of success doing that in the meantime as well. Finally made Affiliate status, which is super easy for some people, but was a long and winding road for me. But I’ve stuck to it, focused on quality, and really committed to doing my best, and it’s been paying off. Thanks to everyone that’s hung out with me along the way, I sincerely appreciate your time, and literally couldn’t have achieved this without you.
I’m assuming this is going to be the end of my little updates for The Division 1. I play about 12 hours a week, and we’re about 13 weeks away, so another 156 hours of gameplay give or take. This has been the most I’ve played a game that kept track of your time, and I would guess only the Tekken or Street Fighter franchises have taken up more of my life. It hasn’t always been perfect, but I always wanted to play more, and have thoroughly enjoyed my time in NYC. Huge thanks to the people behind this game for the weeks of entertainment I’ve gotten. According to my math, it’s cost me about $0.08/hour.
submitted by Grandpa_Games to thedivision [link] [comments]

The Industry Hates Us All(And How To Grow Despite It)

Just The Tips!


Hey guys, MKUltraKill here. Below is some helpful tips that I think a lot of new streamers are missing of confused about.



Guys, I cannot stress enough these "Follow for Follow" Campaigns are quite literally the worst thing you could ever do to yourself. Follows bring you 0 recognition, 0 guarantees. OK so now you have 50 followers and can get affiliate. What now? What did that do for you?



You still have no community, No cash-flow, spent no time improving stream quality, made no new friends that might host you and help out. You got nothing, but a bunch of hollow follows. You have the ability to get subs and bits and guess what? You probably are getting minimal if any profits. The follow for follow campaign is where absolute brand new people try their best to grow without having a direction, AND FAIL. Is that initial WOOT moment worth the taint you put on it by begging? You're only going to be depressed again when no one is watching. Better to work on your personality first, and let the follows come in naturally. Avg concurrent viewership, and subscriber count are what matter to sponsors. Your interaction and personality are what matter to the viewers. Let me help you as best I can. This will be long but anyone who reads through it all and implements my notes, will probably grow.



Here is some tried and true methods of obtaining your first 5-10avg:
-Love everyone that comes in like a sibling. Your first 5-10 will stay with you forever. I've had one guy stay with me since I tried streaming 4 years ago. I stopped for over 2. He's still here. Because I made that kind of impression with him.



Some cool "Jazz em up" tips:


-Fiverr has lots of great stuff, including voiceovers. I paid $10 and got like 8 voiceovers I use in my streams. Makes it all professional.

-Come up with catchphrases. "What's Goin On, Brohan(s)!?" is one of mine. It makes the stream more put together. Try to come up with one for Greeting, Your Followers, Your (eventual)(?) Subcribers, and your regulars.


-Use streamelements(streamlabs may have something similar) to get a cool follow effect. I took my logo, removed "MKULTRAKILL" from the center, put the follow text(xxx has followed) in that now empty center, and the entire thing slides down from the top, then slides back up. It looks like something Shroud would have, and it took me 2 minutes.


-There's a thing in streamelements/streamlabs to play a slideshow for sponsorships. Use it for your social media. It makes a little box on the side that just runs through pictures but you can put twitter, discord etc. Its a good reminder for those lurking who don't read chat :)


-Want ad revenue? Use loots.com; It's based off concurrent viewership but I get like $20/month extra from it.


That's all I got guys. if you need any help my twitch is my username. DM me
submitted by MKUltraKill to Twitch [link] [comments]

$4,200/mo cuddling with people.

Hey - Pat from StarterStory.com here with another interview.
Today's interview is with Samantha Varnerin of Snuggle with Sam, a brand that sells professional therapeutic cuddling.
Some stats:

Hello! Who are you and what business did you start?

Hi there! My name is Sam Varnerin and I created Snuggle with Sam, my independent professional cuddling practice, while I was still working full-time as a construction engineer.
Professional cuddling is a one-to-one service, much like massage therapy is, that is rooted in two basic human needs: touch and connection. And touch is-- well, touchy-- in the wake of the #MeToo movement and the backlash of people trying to figure out if they crossed a touch boundary, so my service is useful because I offer my service so that there is room for people to feel emotions like love and arousal if they come up in sessions without feeling body parts to express those emotions, like the lips or the crotch. In short, I provide a place for people to come and be emotionally accepted and physically held while keeping a therapeutic cuddle instead of a sexual one.
There are many reasons that someone might not get their touch or connection needs met other than anything related to sexual assault. These include but are not limited to: dealing with a divorce or death in the family, being a single man with few (if any) deep friendships, having anxiety or depression and needing a different kind of connection than what your therapist is able to offer (I’m seeing therapists and cuddlers working together a lot more now!), and high-performing executives that are praised by their peers but also put at arm’s length physically and emotionally.
I’ve been in the business for three years and have learned and seen a lot of things change and develop in the industry including the education available for cuddlers, but we still have a long way to go. This has inspired me to connect with the cuddle community at large by helping others start and grow their professional cuddle practices responsibly as a professional cuddling teacher.
On my personal practice side, my flagship product is a 90-minute cuddle session. I usually recommend first time cuddlers do a 90-minute session so we’re not rushing through the session for a 60-minute one (the minimum amount of time I cuddle), and oftentimes people that do a 60-minute cuddle wish we had more time. 90 minutes seems to be a good amount of time to settle in and not be waiting for the clock to go off.
On the teaching side, my flagship course is “Sam’s Snuggle School,” a comprehensive course I open for enrollment for one week in June and September that gives a beginner the basics of getting started as a professional cuddler, even if just part time, with the focus on efficiency and finding the best way for you personally to get started and feel comfortable doing this work and to grow their practice. Since this is still a very new industry, most cuddlers are entrepreneurs-- I know of one practice in the US that has cuddlers on a W-2 form, so this is all still very new for most cuddlers.
2018 in particular was a big year for me between going on a Cuddle Tour across the country to six major cities (blog on that TBD), being invited to consult and contribute for the Code of Ethics for Professional Cuddling, completing a 25-hour cuddle session with a client, co-speaking a highly successful talk at CuddleXpo in Chicago called “Connecting While Cuddling: Bringing Your Authentic Self to Your Clients”, and having my highest earning month ever-- over $7k!
Here’s all of the contributors on the panel at CuddleXpo in Chicago presenting how we came up with the Code of Ethics for Professional Cuddling. Back left to right: Maryelen Reid, Madelon Guinazzo, Samantha Varnerin (me!), Samantha Hess, Jean Franzbleau, Fei Wyatt, Janet Trevino. Front left to right: Keely Shoup, Lisa Meece. Photo credit Rellian Chen Merrin

What's your backstory and how did you come up with the idea?

I stumbled upon professional cuddling by sheer accident while looking at a newsletter from Jason Zook (during my work hours in my freezing office at my day job) where he mentioned it in passing but made a point to say professional cuddlers was a real job that people get paid for.
I remember thinking, “No it’s not. I’m gonna Google this right now and it’s not going to exist because if it does I’d be so good at it.” I was living paycheck to paycheck and getting burried in student loan debt, and since I found an agency that would have me charge $80/hour, I signed up with the first agency I saw on Google and applied, asking if I can do this around my full-time job (note: I do not recommend you do what I did).
That company did a lot of things that made it a good learning experience at first, but they also didn’t do much teaching. I didn’t have a system to qualify clients, a process for checking in with a text-security service they had, a schedule to book clients, or a way to track sessions so I knew what I owed the company. I didn’t have a clue what I was doing for sessions, and since professional cuddling was only in the U.S for a couple years at this point and little regulation in the industry (there still is), I got a lot of requests from people that were looking for a session thinking this was a front for prostitution!
This was when my engineering background came in handy. After my first bad experience with a client, I started creating my own systems to make myself safe that the agency didn’t give me. I made my own email questionnaire, things to look for that might indicate if a client might be an issue, confirmation process to make sure clients knew when and where to be, and other things I felt could be automated and make my life easier for before I see a client. This got tested as the agency gave me more leads and I saw how they responded to my qualification processes, and I started tweaking how I wanted the sessions to look. As I heard the same questions over and over again, I began to come up with canned responses.
The following summer, I went to Chris Guillebeau’s World Domination Summit and I talked about what I do on the side with someone. Word started to spread about me and my side gig, and one woman that approached me asked if she could interview me for a blog. I assumed it was her personal blog and said yes. A few days after the conference, she emailed me from her work account… the blog she was talking about was the Penny Hoarder.
When it came time to get interviewed, they asked me how I’d recommend someone get started as a professional cuddler… and I didn’t have an answer. I could not recommend someone to the agency I was working under because they didn’t train me and I felt it would be irresponsible to send people there.
I quickly put together a website for them to backlink to using Squarespace with two landing pages: one to apply to be a cuddler (I decided I would have people work under me in a company, which I no longer do), and the other one was to put in a request to work with me.
About 300 people filled out the application form within a week of the article going live, and that was the starting point of what is now Snuggle with Sam, which about four months after the article went live I began to pursue full-time.

Take us through the process of designing, prototyping, and manufacturing your first product.

If my previous answers didn’t hint to it before, I like the idea of taking action quickly rather than spending too much time testing out ideas. There are definitely areas that need more calculated and planned action to be effective and profitable, but more often than not if I’m working on something new I’ll create Minimum Viable Products (MVP’s), or the cheapest, quickest way to make a product for the public.
Before Sam’s Snuggle School, I had Snuggle Safety: Personal Protocols, a $79 course that consisted of one 45-minute video with my voiceover (which is no longer for sale but is now a bonus module in Sam’s Snuggle School). I dragged my feet over making it for nearly a year.
I originally made a manual that ended up being 35 pages of very dense content that I planned to sell. I could easily have sold it for 30-40 dollars to my email list and made bank, but I highly doubted anyone would read the whole thing (I barely wanted to read it once I finished it!). I decided to convert it into an online course to make it more digestible so I’d feel better about what I was producing instead of going with an inferior product.
I used Teachery for hosting my course and OfCourseBooks to make workbooks to check for comprehension in my course, so all I needed to do was use Powerpoint to record my voice on each slide and save the powerpoint file with my voice as an mp4. From there, I uploaded the video to YouTube as an Unlisted video (which back then you could embed without making it sharable), and then it was just writing the sales copy and making a payment page for people to buy the course. Teachey automates login info and emails for students in a course when they buy, so I didn’t have to worry about that.
Me and my entrepreneurial friend were launching something for our businesses around the same time in December 2017, and she had access to a 24-hour coworking space with showers. Both of us were inspired by Nathan Barry’s 24-hour launches he used to do when he was a freelancer and digital marketer, so we finished our projects by doing our own 24-hour work period together-- 9am Friday to 9am Saturday. It was a good way to light a fire under my butt when I was procrastinating on finishing a product that I already changed a lot since I thought of the idea.
This course didn’t make me a whole lot of money; it made me a few hundred dollars max. I’m glad I made this though because having this first course was what helped position me as a thought leader in my industry and got me invited to contribute to the Standard Code of Ethics for Professional Cuddlers and get more exposure in the cuddling community.

Describe the process of launching the business.

I got very, very lucky at first when I broke out on my own for three reasons:
But there were also some key things that were not to my advantage in this process:
It wasn’t until a year after I went full-time with my business that I was getting back in the black for my efforts and not until May 2018 that I began consistently making a livable wage from cuddling, and I believe that I would have been much further along had I done a better job managing my income, presented myself as a cuddler better, and went where my clients were hanging out online from the getgo.

Since launch, what has worked to attract and retain customers?

I have my hands in many pots all at once, but these five are where I’m seeing the most results:
Following up with leads until they say no.
In 2018, most of my clients were from my lead list from 2017 and before that never replied to me or scheduled a session for some reason.
I try not to go overboard with follow up, but I try to follow up until I’m told no because sometimes people are just really forgetful and want to book a session but need to be reminded.
Especially in professional cuddling, I notice that many potential clients are really self-conscious if I don’t take the initiative to schedule a session or make contact with them; they think I just don’t like them!
Google Adwords.
My friend Ronnie Deaver helped me set up my first simple Google Adwords campaigns last year-- apparently no one was buying Google ads for “Professional Cuddler Boston,” so that was a really quick way to get seen.
Our ad was short and to the point since we assumed someone googling that was looking for a cuddler and already familiar with what to expect, so the ad was simple (and emphasized free parking, a hot commodity in Boston) and linked to my request form.
It cost me a lot of money though and I saw some leads turns into clients but not that many, so I ended the campaign.
Unintentional SEO.
Shortly after ending the Google Ad campaign, I started getting a curious number of leads the next few months that said I was the fifth website on the first page of Google when they searched “Professional Cuddler Boston”.
Upon talking to Ronnie, he told me that when ads perform well for certain search words, Google rewards you with higher search results. I’m sure this would improve more if I put more efforts in this direction. I also got a popular article written about me on Student Loan Herothat got picked up and linked back to me on several other websites, so that was also a factor that I didn’t plan on helping me do well in Google ranking.
If nothing else, get backlinks to your website as often as possible!
Coffee Talks.
I was getting a lot of leads submitting a form and many had told me they wanted to do this but felt weird cuddling with a stranger.
So I thought “Well, let’s not be a stranger then!” And that’s how Coffee Talks were born. Potential clients could sign up for a half hour time slot to meet me for coffee at the local Starbucks and talk about their cuddling needs. I posted the signup link on local Facebook groups to let them know I was doing that, which sparked some interest from locals and strangers.
This is a very time-consuming method and not scalable. However, the quality of the clients I got from this method were the highest of any of the methods I’ve used.
Prepaid packages for clients.
My hourly rate is $100/hour (typical for the industry is $60-$80/hour), so I like to incentivize returning clients by giving them lower rates for paying in advance.
This helps me by giving me money and cuddle hours scheduled in advance, it helps them by saving them money. Everybody wins.
I have one package that incentivizes sessions to be less than $70/hour if they pay in advance (I do allow for payment plans upon request).
As far as my cuddling teaching side of my business goes, when the GDPR law took place, I did the unthinkable: I threw away my list of 300+ subscribers for my professional cuddling business. Instead, I started it from scratch to create better reasons for people to join my email list so I had higher quality email subscribers.
So I created things like a What it Takes to be a Great Professional Snuggler Guide for the beginning cuddler, webinar signup lists (there will be more webinars in the future!), the waitlist for Sam’s Snuggle School, and One Week to More Cuddles Guide for the experienced cuddler. I write to this list every other week if not every week. This list was helpful for when I initially launched Sam’s Snuggle School this past November. Over 25% of my new list bought my course!

How are you doing today and what does the future look like?

The past few months have been me planning out big grand plans for my cuddling community now that I’ve had a bigger stage, figuratively and literally, in 2018 than I ever have before. This January I started a three-month experienced cuddler course with my friend Peter Benjamin called “Cuddle with Your Whole Self” which is surrounded around bringing deeper connection not only into your client sessions but into your entire life. We get on Zoom calls and teach and do connection exercises live together to teach our students. As of writing this we’re three classes in and I’m really happy with how the course is coming along so far. I’m already seeing a huge difference in our cuddlers’ mindsets.
Unfortunately after a wildly successful finish to my year in December and planning out how to move forward with gaining and retaining clients, I got a wrench thrown into my cuddling plans by tearing my meniscus! I currently can’t walk or cuddle like this unfortunately, but it does mean I get to work on more projects for cuddlers like I’ve wanted to. I’m really thankful I started building that email list the right way back in May now so I can continue making income even without having to cuddle right now.
For the most part I don’t track too many parts of my business even though I have the data and Google Analytics set up for it to look into heavy technical things such as keywords, average time on site, and converstion rates. That’s mostly because I want to model something doable for other cuddlers. Other cuddlers in their practice don’t want to spend a lot of time on analyzing data or building a website or learning SEO; they want to get clients and cuddle! So most of what I do is centered around what a cuddler growing their practice would want to do. I want the actions I take to be duplicatable, especially since my main start on my own was from getting a massive website to backlink to my brand new website isn’t necessarily duplicatable.
As of right now I get an average of 1-3 new subscribers a day for my Cuddlers-in-Training email list and I have 450+ total cuddle requests from individuals (I have yet to pull in data from a few new platforms so the exact number is slightly off). This past year the average cost per client was just shy of $24 per client, but when clients were coming in for a session that cost between $63-90 an hour and half of them returning for more than one session, that cost per client is well worth it for me. My next step once I’m not injured anymore will be digging into the data to see what I can do to make my conversions better moving forward-- I want to get more people in the door for a first session in coming months.
I mostly live off of the money I make from cuddling and the money I make from my courses and coaching make it so I can take bigger risks with trying new lead sources, optimizing parts of my business like getting some lifetime software through AppSumo, paying for my business coach, and funding other growth dreams I have for my business.
My big projects this year are the following: advertising and enrolling aspiring cuddlers into Sam’s Snuggle School), moving into more focused work in helping experienced cuddlers grow their practice including coaching and advanced coursework, and tying it all together with my baby by July with a dream of mine I conceived while on Tour this past year, Connection Community

Through starting the business, have you learned anything particularly helpful or advantageous?

I keep learning how much my health and wellbeing directly affects my business. The first year I was a professional cuddler was one of the roughest years of my life personally, which was the motivation to buying the URL mylifeisneverboring.com as my personal social skills blog.
The first two weeks after I quit my full-time job I slept for 14 hours a day because I was recovering from some unhealthy habits around sleep, work and coffee I had developed from working at my job. I still look at pictures the months before I left my job and am appalled at how unhealthy I looked in those pictures even. Once I was back on a healthy sleep schedule and started eating more regularly I noticed the first of many dramatic shifts in my creativity, productivity, and client base.
I always had an idea that I’d be able to make it work as an entrepreneur somehow even if I didn’t know how the numbers would look on paper. I just knew that if I ever started failing I would find a way to make it through it and thrive. Between having clients last minute decide not to renew a big package the day before rent was due and trying to figure out how to make up for that loss, shifting gears halfway through my Snuggle Tour and trying to avoid a significant loss, finding out my hotel in NYC wasn’t booked online properly when I have a client coming by in less than a half hour, releasing a course in 24 hours when I’m not entirely sure how I’m going to record it without a working microphone…
I proved myself by getting out of all those situations. My strongest affirmation was forged through these trials and tribulations: “I’ll figure it out. I always do.”

What platform/tools do you use for your business?

Some of these links are affiliate links.
Waveapps. Once I got a separate bank account for my business, I hooked up the bank account to this free accounting software. As a one-woman band that files a Schedule C, this software is easy to categorize and see my income and expenses at a glance. I like logging in and seeing that I’m making more money than I’m spending really quickly.
SquareUp. This is how I accept credit card payments via card swipe or online invoice. You can also set up recurring invoices, use their free scheduling software,
Squarespace. For the tech-challenged, this is a really easy way to set up a pretty website quickly-- or in my case since I had no design skills, an ugly website
Mailchimp. Automation is on the free plan, something I rarely see, and that’s really useful for sending my questionnaire to potential clients as soon as they fill out my form on my website. You can send email lists, make landing pages, and track opens with your list to see who’s reading your emails and who’s staying silent.
Ecwid. It’s really useful for using SquareUp on your Squarespace website and making items in your store way prettier than Squarespaces default sales pages. I use the free version because I don’t need too many items, but the paid versions allow for more than 10 different items on your store and it’s a very powerful tool to sell on social media in the paid version.
[eachery. This is a really simple course creation platform where I host my courses. They also have a sales page builder for your course with Rick Astley placeholders that are perfect.

What have been the most influential books, podcasts, or other resources?

Mornings with Mike Podcast. My friend Mike Goncalves makes a five minute daily podcast, and I’ve set up my Google Assistant so that when I turn my alarm off in the morning the latest episode of his podcast plays. He has some interesting thoughts on success, motivation, health, and a happy life. It’s a really good way for me to wake up in the morning.
Life’s Golden Ticket by Brendon Burchard. This book is his only fiction book he wrote, but it’s an amazing book about letting go and making the most of the life you have. Unlike The One Thing, I couldn’t put this book down. It reminded me to keep sight of pursuing the things that matter to me in my life.
My business coach, Stephanie Marino. I’ve worked with her on and off over the course of two years and she’s been one of the most empowering coaches I’ve ever met. She’s helped me move some big rocks like stabilizing my income for my business, shifting gears for my Tour when my first plan wasn’t working, and not being afraid to run my business differently than other people.

Advice for other entrepreneurs who want to get started or are just starting out?

Start with going on a platform or agency and give it three to six months.
I’ve met new cuddlers that want to go straight to a therapist’s office to do referrals and I’ve met cuddlers three months in that think they need to make their own website. Those are great things to do, but they’ll be more effective you’ll command more authority once you’ve gained some experience from a place where people looking for cuddling are gathering.
Take the pressure off of you to market yourself right away and let the platforms that are pouring thousands of dollars into marketing do that work for you, and pay attention to the clients that are coming in and attracted to you because that will help you understand what it is that you offer people that has them choose you as their cuddler. Then you can use that to go to other people for referrals and build a website around that idea.
Use pictures for your profile photos that reflect how you’ll show up to your sessions.
I see some women and men post really suggestive or misleading photos of themselves: women in bikinis, men shirtless, clubbing photos, using Snapchat or Instagram pictures, etc.
Those are all nice photos, but they don’t send a good message for who you want to attract to your professional cuddling practice. Take a photo of yourself while you’re wearing your cuddle attire so people can see upfront how you’ll show up for your sessions.
Don’t be afraid to talk about professional cuddling in public.
When I was on Tour and met strangers I would tell them I was a professional cuddler. More than a few times I got replies like “I’ve heard of that but I’ve never met someone that does that.” There’s way more media coverage on professional cuddling than when I first started, but people need to see that it’s in their communities as well in order to start normalizing the profession. Start talking about it like it’s a real profession because it is.
Educate yourself.
I don’t care if you’re a massage therapist, a psychologist, or a high school dropout. If you’re going to do professional cuddling, you need to be continually learning to get better and show up for your clients better. That doesn’t have to be professional cuddling specific training, but it definitely helps to see how other people are doing it.
Don’t reinvent the wheel if you don’t have to like I did, but don’t be afraid to pull skillsets from other areas if they’ll add to your practice. For example, I use Authentic Relating Games and Circling to help understand my clients better and guide the way I communicate clearly with them.

Are you looking to hire for certain positions right now?

Looking for part-time VA for 5 hours a week to start.
Mostly big projects such as converting spreadsheets of leads to a CRM program, putting social media-friendly photos from phone into an album, batch editing blog posts and newsletter emails, and able to do academic-level research for scientific sources.
Native or fluent English speakers are welcome to reach out at [email protected] and I’ll have a test task for you to see if we’re a fit.

Where can we go to learn more?

If you have any questions or comments, drop a comment below!
Liked this text interview? Check out the full interview with photos, tools, books, and other data.
Interested in sharing your own story? Send me a PM
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