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I started a controversial business amid the coronavirus. This is what I learnt. 

Posted by Elitely Group on

Monotonous. Trapped. Putting in those overtime hours and yet possibly going nowhere. Those were the thoughts that plagued me every day during the Covid partial lockdown, where I had less conscious distraction from social activities, and more alone time for unconscious self-reflection. Like many other corporate slaves, I was jaded by my desk job. I worked a 9-6 in a role that was intellectually demanding, and left me drained of energy and time for little else. There was also the looming dread of possibly losing my job due to the pandemic. Frustrated, I sought a distraction and respite by putting into action a business idea that was brewing in my mind for some time -- a paid dating platform called Elitely.

 

Paid dating?? 

Like an escort agency? 

Is there even a market for that in Singapore? 

Which girl would even want to be recruited as a paid date???

 

Those were the initial responses I got from my peers when I first shared my idea. None of them believed it would work. I knew it would, though. And for good reason. I was working as a paid date not too long ago, for a local start-up selling the same concept. From my experience, I knew there was a market for it. It is very small, and very niche, but it consists of men who are able to afford the premium price tag, and that makes up for the lack of volume. Finding the girls would be easier, at least theoretically. Singapore is conservative, but not that conservative. Naturally, there would be girls willing to sell their time and companionship for money. And it is good money for most students, freelancers, and early career working adults. Rates average between $100-150/2h, and the job is simple: just be present, be on time, be attractive, and don’t be unattractive. Most of the activities were meals anyway, and would fit right into any schedule. Imagine getting paid to have dinner!

 

Actually putting the plan into action was the hardest part. 

 1. Girls will stand you up

 

...and then accuse you of wasting their time. There was a girl who asked so many questions, whom I went out of the way for to create a mock-up just to address her queries. We didn’t receive a sign up from her in the end. I told myself it didn’t matter. I was mildly annoyed by her unnecessary actions, however, when she posted an Instagram story about “wasting time” with my company. “Why did I even bother with these people? Time = money”. Another lesson to me that there will be self-centered individuals who don’t consider the time put in by others, and worse still – lack the courtesy to use kinder words.

 

 2. Girls who go -- “dOnt THinK yOu caN OBjectIFY ME !!”

When we did our first round of outreach for recruitment, most girls who were not interested were polite enough to kindly reject our offer, or at least ignore our message. However, there were also girls who were offended by our call for recruitment. We soon found angry, indignant “hate mail” in our inbox, slamming our business for “objectifying women”. In a lack of hindsight I’ve deleted the conversations so I have no receipts to show. I do remember one particular reply which spanned a lengthy paragraph, something about “I find it ridiculous how you guys can objectify women enough to put a price tag on them”. My first reaction was to roll my eyes and laugh. My second reaction was an involuntary shudder

 

3. Girls who troll

 

4. Being accused of Identity Theft 

One fine afternoon, I opened my Instagram inbox to a shocking mention on a girl’s IG story, accusing my company of being a SCAM. To explain the screenshot, the mention came from a girl whom we had previously tried to recruit as a paid date. She didn’t go through with the application in the end, but she had made some enquiries – which of course she deleted before blasting our conversation on IG story.

Puzzled, I replied to her message. It turned out that the issue wasn’t about her, but her friend who had joined us as a member. Long story short, a girl (let’s just call her ‘A’) who signed up with us lied that she had not, when this friend of hers spotted her profile on our website. Her friend, aka Miss Public Vigilante, then proceeded to accuse us of “using others’ photos without their knowledge and consent”, and called us out for “identity fraud”

 

In times like this, I’m glad we took the time to type out a seven page contract. Just look at the scary lies people will weave to avoid being judged for signing up as a paid date. I was and still am shocked at how the conversations below could have taken place back to back. Once again, I shudder

5. Horny men who DON’T read FAQs

 

 

6. Threats and sabotage from competing businesses

This is where the real drama begins. It started with a message from an unknown number, warning me not to be “too hasty”, claiming that our business and website are “clones” of a competing business who will “not hesitate to sue” if their business gets affected. To be honest, I wasn’t very sure if this was really coming from a guy who was truly Mr Public Vigilante. I was particularly doubtful because most people would know that this is a free market, the competing business is not patented, and that ideas, systems, and methods cannot be patented anyway. It’s a bit like saying KOI can sue all the other bubble tea businesses in Singapore for making, selling, and marketing bubble tea. Silly, really.

What came next though, was even more shocking. One of our successful recruits had been contacted by an unknown number impersonating our Elitely Staff. The message was clear -- someone was trying to poach our girls and sabotage our business, using coercion and threat to scare girls from potentially joining us. I was unable to prove who the person behind this was, but it doesn’t take a genius to narrow down the suspects based on motives and experience. We have since resolved the issue, and the girl in question is now a full-fledged member with us.

 

Am I frustrated? Absolutely. Do I give up? Absolutely not. 

 

And so. This is an open recruitment to all the girls out there who are not just open to the idea of paid dating, but also: know their worth, are confident of their looks and social skills, and are not afraid of getting judged. If you are such a person, we hope you will consider signing with us.

 

Paid dating is not a new idea, and neither is it shady or taboo. It is exactly what we paint it as -- being paid for your time socialising with those who can afford it. We have some sign-ups backing out last-minute as well, reason being that they felt that paying for dates “isn’t very realistic” in Singapore. Trust me, when you are working crazy hours each day and making more than enough to spare, paying for quality time with a person guaranteed to make your time worthwhile will not sound so far-fetched anymore. Outside of this demographic, we also have clients who engage our services simply for the novelty of it. Hiring a date for your friend who is a bit of a catch but perpetually single? Check. Renting a couple of ladies as plus-ones for an event to meet the gender ratio? Check. Hire a verified stranger to hang out with just to get your mind off things, when you’re too lazy to swipe on apps? Check.

 

At the end of the day, paid dating platforms such as ours are trying to achieve what regular dating apps like Tinder cannot -- to meet and befriend a verified person of your choice, minus the fuss, and at your own convenience. We want to carve out a niche, where clients book dates for many reasons: from finding a stranger who can lend a listening ear; singles reliving the romanticism of dating; busy professionals who want to snag an attractive date sans the effort; snagging a date with that girl you know who is way too hot for you (*wink*); getting a plus-one to an event; getting one or more girls to a gathering to even the gender ratio and liven up the mood… the list goes on.

 

The challenge now and in the foreseeable future is the stigma against both women who want to sign up as paid dates, and men who pay for dates. Most of our followers on social media are in fact not our clients or personalities for the very reason that they are afraid that others will view them negatively. Wait a minute… you’re telling me that the same girls who are open to posting sexually suggestive photos on Instagram (let’s admit it, half of Instagram has turned into a festival for “Digital Creators”) are judging other girls for being on a paid dating website? You’re telling me the same guys who check out highly sexualised images of women on Instagram are judging the women on paid dating platforms?

 

This sort of perception has got to go. We want to normalise the whole idea of renting a date or a friend. We want to cover what sugar dating platforms (come on, S**king A**angement and S**arbook…) have always failed to achieve – compensated dating that is actually clean and platonic. So we try, starting with this rally in prose.

 

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