For International Dominatrix Mistress Eva Oh, Business Is Booming
You’ll have to excuse Mistress Eva Oh if she sounds a bit sleepy. It’s 4 a.m. in Australia, where she’s connecting via Skype Audio. “I entirely messed up the timing,” she concedes in a rich delivery that could best be described as Zsa Zsa Gabor-chic. The professional dominatrix, podcast host and sex educator grew up across Asia, Europe and the land Down Under, which helps explain both her incomparable accent and way of relating to clients all over the globe.
Oh’s early entrepreneurial pursuits were more conventional — she once owned a sustainable design company — but at the age of 26, she pivoted into her current occupation and never looked back. She was forward-thinking from the start, launching a virtual business called YouWillPleaseMe.com three years ago that allows enrollees to undergo basic training in the dynamics of dominance and submissiveness, all without ever meeting Oh face-to-face. Basically, it’s like earning a (very expensive) merit badge in kink.
Oh, who still travels frequently throughout countries including Singapore and China, foresaw the creep of COVID-19 much quicker than the Western world. “Everything happened in Asia, where I’m based for the most part, in December,” she recounts. “I saw a shift then, but more in my personal sphere.”
Still, she couldn’t anticipate the number of quarantined Americans and others from one continent to the next who would suddenly be flocking to her site, searching for ways to stay busy and stimulated. But thanks to an innovative business model — her client interactions are not only remote but automated — she’s been able to keep up with demand. As unorthodox as her venture might be, her experience offers insight into how any small business can compete with trends and copycats while steeling itself for utterly unforeseeable shocks.
How did engagement with your site change once the coronavirus outbreak started to spread?
Definitely in the first week of the news in the UK and America, daily signups went up about 75 percent. It was pretty immediate. It’s leveled off a little bit now, but it’s still about 25 percent more than normal. I’m not sure what about the initial stay-at-home kicked people into gear about it.
You didn’t predict the spike in interest as more countries went into lockdown?
I didn’t expect it, but I guess it is to be expected. I’d already had coronavirus in my mind for three or four months, so I didn’t foresee the issues you would have to the point where there would be lockdowns and this kind of attention focused inward.
How did you handle the sudden exponential increase in demand?
When I first started about 10 years ago, I was getting a lot more hits. Maybe the market was less saturated. But I still get a lot, and I wanted to be able to capture those people without having to expend my energy, so the whole platform is entirely automated. There’s a points system, and I don’t actually have to do anything. I get notified if people perform exceptionally, but otherwise they are interacting with a formerly set-up self. And in terms of bandwidth capacity, it’s just talking to my server and getting them to up [capacity].
Is there a lesson in there for any business about the importance of adapting to new tech?
Yeah, that’s the thing — this isn’t the first thing that I did, and it might not be the last thing that I’ve done. I’m not sure what it is about my personality or maybe my generation, but I think diversification of my portfolio is what will save me from many things. I lived in China, and when I first moved there maybe 15, 20 years ago, I was aware they can turn the internet off any time they want to, and there’s a whole revenue stream gone. My resilience is probably what saves me; my personal understanding that things have potential for an ending and preparing for that. People can take away sex work at any time, so it taught me that diversification of interests is going to save you from societal stigma, but also from financial worry, so that’s why I keep a lot of different things on the go.
What happens if, once the current crisis eases, you have more competition in your niche?
To survive this industry, you have to remain competitive, and people are very agile and ready to innovate to survive and make money. I knew from the get-go when I would launch this that people would try and copy it. There’s no point where I think I’m going to be the only thing like me. So, I guess I don’t have an attachment to the things I do because of that, but also, it keeps me on my toes. I try to use my personality as much as I can and speak as much as I can, because I know that’s the thing people can’t totally rip off. That’s my differentiating factor.
Essentially, you’re building a brand.
This is such an emotionally driven exchange, even the website. Basically, it’s courseware, and I’m talking to them each step of the way. I’m very focused on the language I use and how I communicate it through video, so these things stay with you. Sex workers have [historically] been living under [challenged] conditions, and that makes us ready to be adaptable and ready for conditions of strife. Maybe, in a sense, some of our business models are better prepared because of that.
What can more traditional businesses learn from the way you’ve weathered this crisis?
I think the emotional awareness is huge. The thing that has saved me the most is empathy. It’s understanding the needs of those who I want to appeal to or those who are around me in general. I started You Will Please Me to capture people, but I’m able to capture them because I understand that they’re seeking connection, and I wanted to make that process more accessible and speak to them. But I had to understand that was where their heart was. If you try to understand people and what they need, you can create things for that and they naturally gravitate toward it. Empathy is a beautiful thing to keep open in times of prosperity or strife, and maybe it’s easier in prosperity, so it’s better to design things then. But it’s entirely possible now, and especially when needs are so acute.