Set yourself free of expectations and focus instead on what motivates you and what you feel passionate about.
Rebekka Mikkola is the founder of Nordic Cuddle, a cuddle therapy company based in London. The company prides itself on providing ‘connection through touch’, and has expanded into massage therapy, which offers many of the same benefits as professional cuddling. Both therapies have helped people manage stress, anxiety and loneliness, with clients coming from a wide range of backgrounds. Her empathic nature combined with her entrepreneurial flair have helped grow Nordic Cuddle into a recognised name, with features in major outlets including BBC Radio 4, Business Insider, Elite Daily, Bustle, ARD and ARTE.
Rebekka was born in Finland, and the Nordic values she grew up with have helped shape the business. Shortly after moving to London, she realised there was a noticeable lack of platonic touch in everyday interactions and she started exploring the science behind the importance of touch. She came to understand that it’s an essential part of what makes us human, as we’re a social species who thrive on connection with others. She is now a certified massage therapist and an experienced touch practitioner, with hundreds of hours of sessions behind her. She is driven to help shape the future of the emerging cuddle therapy industry to ensure that it becomes a safe and trusted space for clients and practitioners alike.
Where did the idea for Nordic Cuddle come from?
I was going through a stage in my life that involved a number of personal and professional challenges. It was at this point I heard about professional cuddling and how it was booming in the US. I was intrigued and began researching the power of touch and came to realise that in western countries like the US and the UK, we are very touch deprived. This lack of touch has a noticeable impact on our wellbeing, and I knew I could help make a difference in this area. The name for the company is a reflection of my roots, and represents the values we seek to operate by; authenticity, transparency, simplicity and providing the highest possible quality of service to our clients.
What does your typical day look like and how do you make it productive?
A typical day involves a mixture of cuddle therapy sessions and working on growing the organisation as a whole. That being said as a start-up in an emerging industry, no two days are ever the same and I enjoy tackling the challenges this brings. In order to be as productive as possible, I create a ‘to do’ list. This helps me take our overall company goals and break them down into smaller tasks for implementation. I find that I’m considerably more productive in the mornings, so this is when I tend to focus on management responsibilities and strategic planning.
How do you bring ideas to life?
I am fortunate in that I get to meet a wide range of people with a diverse background and skillset. So ideas constantly present themselves through this networking. When an idea arises that I’m really passionate about, I’ll discuss it with friends, advisors and business partners to gain their thoughts. However, when an idea clicks for me, I find that the best way of seeing whether it has potential or not, is to implement it.
What’s one trend that excites you?
Without trying to sound cliché, I’m excited to see how open-minded people are becoming towards cuddle therapy. Other touch-based therapies such as massage have been around for a long time and have become an accepted part of the wellness industry. But we’re increasingly seeing more people who are swapping massage for cuddle therapy, because it offers a nurturing and caring element. In our sessions, people can also speak openly about issues that are on their minds and I respect their bravery and vulnerability in doing so. I also believe that cuddling combined with talking therapy enables people to reconnect with their emotions and allows them to prioritise themselves, which is something we often forget to do in our fast paced modern lives.
What is one habit of yours that makes you more productive as an entrepreneur?
I take a five minute break every hour or so. During this time I do some stretches and exercises to get the blood flowing again; which in effect is like pressing a reset button. Afterwards I feel refreshed and sharp and am able to approach my tasks with renewed energy.
What advice would you give your younger self?
If I could go back in time, I would tell my younger self to stop worrying about what others think. Do your own thing and make sure you have fun while doing it. Set yourself free of expectations and focus instead on what motivates you and what you feel passionate about.
Tell us something that’s true that almost nobody agrees with you on.
In our industry we hear one common statement over and over again – that is must be scary or weird cuddling with a stranger. But this simply isn’t the case for various reasons. Firstly, we have a robust vetting procedure, which ensures that we’ve liaised with a potential client ahead of a session and explained what cuddle therapy involves and answered any queries they have. During the vetting procedure, the practitioner and client can get a sense about whether they would feel comfortable arranging a session with one and other.
During a cuddle session, there is also a bond that develops because of the intimate nature of the experience, and also as a result of hormones such as oxytocin which are released when people hug. Oxytocin is known as the bonding hormone, and is linked to helping form the bond between a mother and a newborn infant. People can’t believe that such a strong bond and feelings of trust can form in such a short space of time, but I can attest that this is exactly what happens when you have a session with a trained and experienced practitioner.
As an entrepreneur, what is the one thing you do over and over and recommend everyone else do?
Aside from putting in consistently hard work, it’s essential to have a business plan in place. This gives you an understanding of where you are and also where you want to go. I tend to schedule daily, weekly and monthly revisits to certain parts of our business plan. This allows me to work out the next steps we need to take and also forms the basis for short, medium and long-term planning.
What is one strategy that has helped you grow your business?
When you’re a service provider, it’s essential to ensure you deliver the best possible sessions to clients. Providing a great service not only results in repeat custom, but it also leads to more recommendations from friends and families of existing clients. In addition, it creates a positive perception of the brand overall.
What is one failure you had as an entrepreneur, and how did you overcome it?
One thing that probably held me back initially was overthinking things, which prevented me from taking action and growing the organisation. However, with time I’ve become more decisive and am able to avoid falling into the procrastination trap and instead take the actions that need to be done.
What is one business idea that you’re willing to give away to our readers?
There are several sites that list freelancers who provide a range of services to businesses. But there are well-known issues with these sites, such as not paying freelancers a fair wage, and also attracting talent which is not up to scratch. I believe that a platform which vets the quality of their freelancers and pays them a fair wage, without piling the burden of fees on them, could rival any of the existing platforms. Businesses all require services, and finding experts to provide them at a fair price for both the freelancer and the business client, could do well in the current marketplace.
What is the best $100 you recently spent? What and why?
We organise team days, which help keep staff morale up. Growing a start-up involves working every day of the week. Team days are a great way to recalibrate and ensure that we all have some down time, so that we’re functioning at our best when we get back to work.
What is one piece of software or a web service that helps you be productive? How do you use it?
Google Drive is a versatile suite of programmes, which allows our staff to find what they need. We also collaborate on various projects, and the ability to edit a document together in real time has proved invaluable.
What is the one book that you recommend our community should read and why?
Mindset: Changing The Way You think To Fulfil Your Potential by Carol Dweck. This book explains how each of us has the ability to achieve success in our respective fields by rewiring the way we think about things. It shows that it’s not just talent that allows people to reach their goals, and also helps you understand the power of your mind and the thoughts you have.
What is your favorite quote?
When life gets blurry, adjust your focus.
• Challenges also present opportunities that we can shape to our advantage.
• Making time for your own wellbeing can increase productivity and efficiency.
• Don’t let other people’s opinions define your decisions. Trust your gut and follow your own path in life.
• Provide the best possible quality of service to ensure you retain customers and grow your business.
• A strong team can help a company succeed. Take care of your team and they’ll help take care of the business.
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