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In the course of running this website, I have the pleasure of interacting with a large number of BDSM professionals and get to know them a bit. Mistress Jessy Kang has been an advertiser for many years (full disclosure there) on behalf of herself, and the ladies that work with her at The Fetish Fortress- her Dungeon in NYC. At some point in our correspondence, I was struck by certain unusual aspects to her approach and thought it would make for a good first article in a series on this site about pro-Dommes, their lives, businesses and interests. Something with a bit more depth than their on-site biographies can offer.
Pandemos: So you have a small, but very reputable Dungeon in New York, with a likewise small but seemingly very loyal following. Can you tell us how that came about?
Jessy Kang: Fanatical focus on service mostly. BDSM is our passion- but if you are charging money it's also a business, and your clients should be treated not just as playmates, but as valued customers. That means applying all the usual best practices of any service business. The only way to do that is do your homework and learn what the best service businesses do, and try to emulate them. So as far as we're concerned, unhappy customers are absolutely unacceptable. Well, they can be happily unhappy in session- but they need to be happy when they leave LOL. But the end result is we're pretty psycho about customer service.
Pandemos : Meaning what?
Jessy: A lot of things, but the most basic first step we take is to focus on retention as a metric. As far as staff performance goes we only track one number- retention. I don't care how many clients they bring in- just how many come back after seeing them.
The traditional sales cycle ends with the sale- churn and burn and all that. Recently there has been a trend- one that we follow, to begin with the sale. It costs four times as much to get a new customer as to retain an old one, so our major drive is to do everything possible to make sure that after they have been to the Fortress, they can't stand to go anyplace else. That's why we won't post retouched pictures- sure it gets them in the door once, but it destroys retention numbers. Retouching is lying, and a lie by omission (outdated images, shadows/odd angles etc) is still a lie- you lie to customers, they don't come back. A customer should walk into a playroom and always be blown away by how much better the Player looks in person. Once they've experienced that, how can they go back to places that use Bait and Switch photos?
Pandemos: Okay, so you feel service is one of the main strengths of your business. If you don't mind, what do you feel are the weaknesses? What would you like to improve?
Jessy: Put me on the spot why don't you? ;-) Well… we're not a huge dungeon, just three playrooms. They are very well equipped but not theatrical. We've tried different surfaces- wood and faux finishes, and they don't stand up to the heavy disinfectants and scrubbing. We're a little OCD about clean up:-) So the equipment is mostly steel and synthetics. We don't have the old-school "dungeon" look with the stone walls and heavy wood stuff if that's someone's thing. But in my opinion, if it's not made of the same materials you find in a doctor's office, it should not be used in an environment with similar requirements. I mean- if your doctor told you to sit naked on a wooden bench in his examination room... well maybe that's just me LOL.
Pandemos: I see what you're getting at, still tradition plays a big part in BDSM. Okay I've seen this brought up in the past so I've got to ask, the "Asian thing" what's up with that, do you ONLY hire Asians?
Jessy: God no, Asian or whatever, we always offer any otherwise qualified applicant a shot. I'm not just giving the PC answer- with such a limited staff my niche is staked out and the Fortress is unlikely to ever get much larger. Trust me- it's not by choice.
The problem is most of our customers are simply only interested in Asian women. It's not that they object to other backgrounds, it's just wiring- it's a real fetish. There's no more point in being critical about it then complaining about people who like leather, or shoes, or big girls. The Fortress's initial client base came from me- they of course liked Asians. So then they were big fans of Mistress Vu when she joined me next- and so on until we were stuck in the mold. In the past, whenever we have brought on a non-Asian player, there have been no bookings for her, even otherwise gorgeous women. It's just a nut I've been unable to crack so far. The problem is, it's very hard to work at a foot-worship studio, if you lack feet:-)
It works for us, and I'm happy we've been able to carve out a comfortable niche in a competitive market. I don't usually respond to people that have an issue with our ethnic makeup because anyone who knows us, knows exactly how it came about and deliberate exclusion would make no business sense- it's a real cap on our growth. I'm not going to get my hopes up, but it's certainly something I'd like to make some progress on- be a bit more PF Chang's about it, go for an Asian theme over specifically Asian Players.
Pandemos: I've heard you don't take walk-ins, why not? I would think that costs you a lot of money.
Jessy: Partially because of security concerns, partially because of our business model. It's based on TPS- Toyota Production System. We're the only Lean dungeon in the world LOL. So rather than have "inventory"- playrooms sitting empty, Dommes sitting on the couch- with a high percentage of idle time, we use our own proprietary software package for load balancing- so we can book the rooms, and the Dommes at higher capacity. That's all kept in the cloud offshore, with no associated client data and accessed over VPN. I got the Asian Alpha-Geek Team on speed-dial LOL.
So at a regular dungeon with the ladies waiting in-house for a lineup, they might sit on the couch for eight hours, and only session for one or two. That means per-hour their earnings are quite low. With a pull based system, everyone is on-call, can live their life and do what they like so long as they can be ready for session and in the room within 90 minutes. So their ratio of time physically-at-work, to billable time is always 2-1 or better- meaning they earn double or more per hour than most Dommes and have enough free time to enjoy it.
Less hours, for more money means that we can attract a LOT better talent- ladies of the sort whom would never be willing to stand on a line-up or sit on a couch all day. So in the end, customers have to book an hour or so in advance, but they get access to really talented Players of the caliber that normally would charge a much higher rate to compensate for being on site all day.
Pandemos : Interesting, and quite unusual. It is a niche as you say. I think too many guys want to go when they want to go for this to become very common but it seems to have worked well for you. Thanks for taking the time to speak with me, and all our readers.
Jessy: Thanks! It was a pleasure to have a chance to talk about the actual business of running a Dungeon.