Durban - A South African businesswoman believes she has the answer to a happier nation – by hugging stress levels away.
Florence Letswalo, 34, founder and owner of Pro Cuddling South Africa, a company aimed at providing the customer with companionship and relieving them of strain and anxiety through the release of the feel-good hormone oxytocin.
The target market is people who are lonely and require companionship. Although it may seem bizarre, this kind of business has gained much popularity abroad. Letswalo, who started the business in May, said she came up with the idea after an encounter with her partner.
“It was after a long day, and I had a good cuddling session with my partner. “I thought about all the people who are lonely and stressed and who don't have someone in their lives to cuddle with.
“After much research, I started the business as there was no cuddling service available in South Africa,” she said. Letswalo said that their services were completely platonic and that they did not offer anything beyond cuddling, even if the client was willing to pay extra.
She said it was important for clients to comprehend that the business did not commercialise sex. She said that their most popular client base consisted of male clients between the ages of 35 and 50.
Clients are vetted through their identity documents, addresses and contact details, while the safety of the cuddle mates was ensured through training. Both parties are at liberty to cancel the session at any point should they feel uncomfortable.
Letswalo said that there were firm requirements for someone to join the business as a “cuddle mate”, a term referring to the employees. “We look for people who understand what a lonely person needs.
It is people who genuinely care about other people’s welfare and want to be there for them. We look for someone who is kind, wants to be around people and is naturally affectionate,” she said.
Clients are met at a suitable location, be it a home or a hotel. The minimum charge for a session is R900 for 90 minutes, while the maximum amount is R4500 for 12 hours.
The business employs 40 people, with professional cuddling services available 24/7. The services are available in KZN, Gauteng and Western Cape. They are obtainable on their website.
Letswalo is the youngest of four siblings. She was raised by both her parents in a warm and loving home. “An abundance of love is what I have been accustomed to all my life, it is part of the reason why other people's well-being matters so much to me,” she said.
She studied for a BSc in Biochemistry and Human Physiology after high school and dropped out in her final year. According to her, the idea of working in a laboratory her entire life was depressing. She then went on to work in the insurance industry for ten years, before resigning and establishing her cuddling company.
Letswalo encouraged people to take good care of themselves. “We live in a society where people pride themselves on doing everything alone and not needing anyone.
The reality is that human beings are social beings, we were never meant to exist in isolation. Touch is a basic need. It is required for you to be able to function optimally. Be kind, and take care of your mental health,” she said.