BizBeat: Potential employees, customers misunderstand escort business

Jefferson City’s only licensed escort service is struggling to open. Not because it’s a shady operation, but because it isn’t.

That’s the message from Stacy Maresh, the owner of Lonely Hearts Companion Services. She knows that escort services often have the reputation of being synonymous with prostitution. What she didn’t anticipate is that reputation would make it hard to get both clients and employees for her planned service.

We reported in this column in January that the licensed escort service, perhaps the city’s first, was granted a city business license but might have never gotten off the ground.

But Maresh says don’t count them out — they still hope to open. The problem appears to be convincing both potential employees and clients that it’s on the up-and-up.

Maresh says she hasn’t seen a negative reaction to her business, just a misunderstanding.

“People are thinking that it’s more like a sex-type business,” she said. “That’s the kind of response we’re getting from people. That’s their first thought.”

She said women have inquired about working for the business. But after she explains that it would be to offer dates, and nothing more, they don’t show up to the interviews. Potential clients also e-mail her, apparently with the same notion.

“We had to ignore a lot of e-mails, just not reply. We’ve tried to steer clear from that, and that’s why we have the name that we do,” Maresh said.

The idea of the business, she says, is to offer a date for a business event, or provide someone to simply to go to the movies with a client.

She said she doesn’t have any prior business experience. The idea for this venture started late last year, when she and her fiancee first mentioned it as a joke.

“We were just sitting around and joking about it, and we said, this might actually work,” she said. “There are a lot of conventions and things that go on with these bigger hotels, and someone might want someone to go with them.”

She didn’t want to publicize the prices, if and when the service gets started. She had hoped to start by April.

So far, Lonely Hearts has a Facebook page, a website and a business license. They just need female employees. No offense to the guys, but she hasn’t seen any demand for male escorts. If she does, she’ll look to fill the need.

“We just really want to stay clear of people thinking we’re soliciting any type of sex at all,” Maresh said. “That is not what we’re trying to do.”

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