World’s weirdest businesses

Meet the Hunks 4 Hire team.Most of us make a living doing pretty banal jobs. We’re cooks, cleaners, lawyers and teachers. But a lucky few have the imagination and chutzpah to embark on enterprises that boggle the mind. Here are a few of the best.

I’m a professional pervert

Cascie Wills has two unusual businesses – Hire A Hunk, which hires out male topless waiters for events and parties and Art4Play, which organises life drawing classes for hens’ nights.

“As funny as it sounds, I’m a professional pervert. In 2004 I came up with the idea of renting men after I couldn’t find a date to the races. I quickly realised there was a need in the market so I started Hire A Hunk. I hunted for hot guys everywhere – gyms, bus stops and coffee shops were my top picks, but I’d chase them down anywhere I saw them,” says Wills.

“We had a tough recruitment process and I screened every hunk. They had to be the sort of guy I would take home and introduce to my family, but with an extra sexy edge.” Ten years on, the business operates around Australia.

“I still own Hire A Hunk and now I also run Art4Play, which is a nude drawing experience for hens parties. I am lucky that I still get to do all of the hiring, every nude model and topless waiter is interviewed by me for quality control. With a team of more than 150 hunks, that’s a bigger job than it used to be,” Wills laughs.

I have a mail-order sex toy business

Amy Clark started Our Cheeky Treats in March 2013 after her love life became somewhat boring. Rather than accept all relationships end up in a bedroom routine, she had an idea to create Our Cheeky Treats.

“We are a discreet monthly delivery service to help Australian couples spice up their love life. At the start of each month we send a parcel of three surprise adult toys to enjoy,” says Clark.

She says the business is a success because many couples don’t like to go into an adult store. “People also struggle to buy adult products online as they have no idea what to order and toys are intimidating.” The business ships Australia-wide.

I’m a fashion psychologist

New York-based Dawnn Karen claims she is the first fashion psychologist in the US and one of only three in the world. The master of arts graduate from Columbia University’s counselling psychology program and former model and designer says she specialises in “styling from the inside out.”

“I bridge the gap between perception and reality and merged two distinct disciplines to form fashion psychology. My business serves clients around the world including business men and women, CEOs, politicians and entertainers to simultaneously enhance their psyche and wardrobe,” says Karen.

“A New York entrepreneur recently requested my service. Through counselling and colour and branding services, he left with a new-found confidence, a new wardrobe and the potential to increase revenue for his business. I also work with everyday people on handling first dates, job promotion and many other issues,” she explains. As they say, only in America…

I make Lego for a living

Minifig World is a small family business that sells custom minifigures (the name for Lego figures) and custom accessories for minifigures.

“The figures are created using Lego body parts and then outfitted with accessories imported from different manufacturers around the world that specialise in creating Lego compatible accessories,” says Mark Boehm, who runs Minifig World.

The business was born in 2009 after Boehm lost his my job. “I decided I wanted a change and to do something that didn’t seem like work but still made enough money to pay the bills. When I came across a manufacturer of Lego minifig compatible accessories on the internet I decided to try importing these accessories and began building and selling my own custom minifigures from a website I designed myself.”

Minifig World has become a steady, full-time business for Boehm, with young and old customers all over the world.

“We hope to expand our business by manufacturing our own accessories and developing minifigure-related board games,” he says.

I massage thoroughbred horses

Christian Langeder is an equine soft tissue therapist, specialising in soft tissue massage for thoroughbred horses. Working with Melbourne’s leading stables and trainers, Langeder helps to physically prepare equine athletes for events.

Apparently known around the stables as ‘The Muscle Guy’, Langeder started his business Thorough Performance seven years ago after he fractured his back and only soft tissue massage offered relief. Experiencing the benefits first hand, he sought certification as a soft tissue therapist for humans, so he could develop the therapy for animals.

“I began working with dressage rider Sylvia McLachlan four years ago after she had spent thousands of dollars on her mare Mayfly, only to be told by a vet that the horse would never compete again. I treated Mayfly twice and she has been competing in top-level dressage ever since, with no hiccups,” he explains.

Fatal violence occurred after G4S guards went in, PNG report finds

The violent clashes on Manus Island that left an Iranian asylum seeker dead happened after local G4S staff descended on protesting asylum-seekers, a preliminary police report has found.

A Papua New Guinean police spokesman has told Fairfax Media that 23-year-old Reza Barati was killed by multiple blows to the head, probably from a piece of timber.

The autopsy, carried out on Monday, found that the blows caused a blood clot on the man’s brain.

The spokesman said the findings were preliminary but indicated that local G4S guards had carried out the violent suppression of the protest. PNG police and local villagers did not appear to be involved, he said.

But nobody was being ruled out, he said, as investigations continued.

Deputy police commissioner Simon Kauba told Fairfax Media: ”The investigation is ongoing. We’ve employed people in Port Moresby and Manus.”

The police had begun interviewing local G4S workers on Monday and were still carrying out the interviews, the spokesman said.

Mr Kauba said about seven or eight officers were investigating ”on the ground” and he expected the case to ”take all week”.

The police spokesman said reports had been submitted by the local police chief Alex N’Drasal on the events. ”Mobile squad” police officers were providing written statements and also being interviewed, the spokesman said. But initial reports suggested they had not been involved in the violence.

Warning shots had been fired, the police spokesman said. These had likely calmed the situation, he said. ”Otherwise, the place would have been burnt to the ground.”

There was confusion about the help being given by Australians. Mr Kauba said Australian assistance was ”not necessary” and had not been requested.

A spokeswoman for the AFP said the Royal Papua New Guinea Constabulary (RPNGC) had asked for help with ”the coronial of the deceased Iranian being conducted by the PNG authorities”. She said two Victorian Institute of Forensic Medicine officers would travel to Port Moresby to support the PNG coroner with the autopsy.

The local PNG Post Courier reported that Mr Kauba had said locals and PNG police had been ”cleared” of the investigation.

In Federal Parliament, meanwhile, the House of Representatives passed a motion admonishing opposition defence spokesman Stephen Conroy for accusing Lieutenant-General Angus Campbell, the head of the government’s Operation Sovereign Borders, of being engaged in a political cover-up following the death.

Foreign Affairs Minister Julie Bishop demanded that Labor leader Bill Shorten sack Senator Conroy, describing him as ”this dog of war”, but Mr Shorten said the senator’s withdrawal of the remark spoke for itself.

Tasmanian independent Andrew Wilkie, a former classmate of General Campbell, moved the motion, saying: ”I think a line was crossed yesterday when the opposition defence spokesperson called into question the integrity of General Campbell”.

Senator Conroy defended himself, saying: ”We’ve seen tragic circumstances arising on Manus Island as a result of the government’s actions and there needs to be a full account.

Qantas cuts drag down local shares

Local shares fell on news that Qantas Airways will slash 5000 jobs and halt spending, and fell further after official data showed new business investment is declining more than expected.

The benchmark S&P/ASX 200 Index lost 26.1 points, or 0.5 per cent, on Thursday to 5410.9, with the broader All Ordinaries Index also shedding 0.5 per cent to 5420.3. All major sectors finished in the red, with industrials the hardest hit following heavy falls in Qantas, Transfield Services and ALS Ltd.

Australian shares took a mixed lead form offshore after stockmarkets in the United States closed marginally higher while shares in the United Kingdom and Europe were mostly lower.

The local currency and stockmarket both moved lower after Australian Bureau of Statistics data showed business spending fell 5.2 per cent in the December quarter. It was a bigger decline than the market expected. More worryingly, the downturn in capital expenditure looks set to worsen with a measure of business spending intentions 17.7 per cent lower than the same period a year earlier. Forecasts for mining investment are down 25 per cent.

Qantas Airways lost 9.1 per cent to $1.16 after confirming 5000 jobs will be slashed as the struggling airline posted a $252 million underlying loss for the six months ended December 31.

Speaking generally about the trend for large companies to slash jobs and rein in spending, CIMB equity strategist Shane Lee shrugged off concerns the tactic could limit future growth.

“In the short-to-medium term cutting labour costs is an effective way to drive productivity growth. Remaining staff increase their output per hour and by the time demand growth improves to a point where the lower staffing levels are no longer sufficient firms are in a better position to afford to start hiring again,” Mr Lee said.

“The downside to the broader picture is that current corporate cost-cutting trend puts pressure on the unemployment rate.”

Iron ore still falling

Transfield Services was the worst-performing stock in the ASX 200, falling 11.9 per cent to 85¢ despite showing a return to profitability in the six months ended December 31. The company unveiled plans to change its business structure, including selling its Indian operations and a minority stake in power producer Ratch Australia.

Laboratory service provider ALS Ltd (formerly Campbell Brothers) lost 10.8 per cent to $7.50 after downgrading its full year profit guidance.

The biggest miners were lower amid soft commodity prices. Resources giant BHP Billiton lost 0.5 per cent to $38.38, while main rival Rio Tinto shed 0.6 per cent to $66.60 as the spot price for iron ore, landed in China, fell to $US117.80 a tonne – its lowest price since July 1.

The big four banks were mixed. Commonwealth Bank of Australia fell 0.4 per cent to $75.20, while Westpac Banking Corporation edged down 0.1 per cent to $33.54. ANZ Banking Group added 0.2 per cent to $32.15, and National Australia Bank shed 0.1 per cent to $34.82.

Among other bluechip stocks Telstra Corporation fell 0.4 per cent to $5.07. Woolworths lost 0.3 per cent to $36.42, while Wesfarmers, owner of Coles, shed 0.4 per cent to $42.60.Analyst upgrades abound

Mining services, media and investment conglomerate Seven Group Holdings fell 2 per cent to $8.01 after underlying interim net profit sunk 44 per cent, and the company confirmed its guidance for a 30 per cent to 40 per cent fall in annual earnings. Rival media company Nine Entertainment Co rose 0.4 per cent to $2.29 as its maiden interim results as a listed company came in slightly ahead of expectations outlined in the prospectus for its December float.

Online jobs outsourcing platform Freelancer dipped 5.4 per cent to $1.40 after its interim financial results beat the estimates outlined before the company floated in November but undershot aggressive analyst expectations.

Wealth management giant Perpetual Ltd rose 2.2 per cent to $50.79 after lifting its interim dividend by 60 per cent following strong revenue and profit growth.

Investment manager Henderson Group was the best-performing stock in the ASX 200, climbing 4.9 per cent to $4.68 as brokers, including Goldman Sachs, lifted their recommendations on the stock following Wednesday’s better than expected interim profit result.

Whitehaven Coal and Virtus Health each added more than 4.5 per cent after a raft of broker upgrades following results reported on Wednesday..

Warner’s slurs rile Proteas coach

South Africa coach Russell Domingo has condemned David Warner for making ball-tampering inferences against his team, but argued the slurs will entrench the home team’s advantage for the series-deciding Test against Australia starting on Saturday.

Domingo said his team was buoyant from winning so convincingly in Port Elizabeth last week, and argued it put the Proteas in the prime position to win the third Test in Cape Town.

“A breakfast area the day after winning a cricket game and losing a cricket game are two totally different places,” he said after his team trained at Newlands on Wednesday.

“No matter how you try to not emphasise the importance of winning [after a loss], because you want to focus on processes. It is very important and we know it.

“After a win you just need to emphasise the good stuff about why you’ve been so successful. That’s the feeling I get at the moment. There’s a good energy around the side and guys know they’ve played more to their potential. Probably not at their best, but to their potential in the past Test match.”

Domingo argued the confidence derived from the 231-run win in Port Elizabeth would be complemented by a hunger to punish Australia opening batsmen Warner for casting doubt on the legitimacy of its ball-handling tactics in the field, because of the significant reverse-swing its bowlers were able to achieve.

“It’s a bit disappointing when guys throw those kind of accusations around,” the coach said.

“We’re a seriously motivated team. We’ve added 10 per cent to our motivation levels after those comments that he’s made.

“We see it as a massive form of motivation for us, to show the Australian side that we don’t need to play cricket in that way.

“We pride ourselves on playing the game as honestly and openly as possible.

“We’re very motivated by the comments he made, so it’s probably good for us.”

Domingo said he considered Warner’s comments too distasteful for he and his players to either ignore or laugh off.

“I don’t think it’s a nice comment that he’s made. That’s it,” he said. “It doesn’t sound good when sides are accusing other sides of… whatever. I don’t think it should be done.”

The South Africa coach also reckoned Australia would be somewhat burdened by having been bowled out for 47 on its past visit to Newlands, in late 2011, even though his team was dismissed for a sub-100 score in the same match.

“I saw a great banner at St George’s [Park in Port Elizabeth] . . . it said ‘I know what you did last summer – 47 all-out’,” he joked. “I’m sure they’ll probably look at the highlights over the next couple of days to see what happened here last time, and there will be a little bit of anxiety I suppose – but that’s part of it. We got bowled out for 96 last time.”

Domingo said his only request to the Newlands curator had been for “just a good cricket wicket”, not a pitch with any specific characteristics.

“We have had a chat. It looks a good wicket. I think he will probably want to keep a bit more moisture in it because it looks like it’s a wicket that could be ready to play on tomorrow [Thursday]. Maybe it’s a day or two ahead of schedule. There’s a lot of heat around so I’m sure he’ll be looking to get some moisture into it in the next day or so,” he said.

Domingo also insisted the Proteas were wary of the potential of Mitchell Johnson to strike back, after he claimed only three wickets in Port Elizabeth.

“He’s a wonderful bowler, he’s been in great form for the past couple of months. If we get complacent against Mitchell Johnson I think we do it at our own peril,” he said.

“I don’t think we’ve nullified him at all. We’ve got to make sure we do the basics against him again. He’s had an impact against South Africa before and he probably will at some stage again. But we’ve also had a lot of success against him before.

“We can take a lot of confidence out of how we played him in Port Elizabeth, but there’ll always be something in the back of your mind and knowing he’s the guy who can turn a session around, can turn a match around. You’ve got to be on your guard every single time.”

Driven Clarke shuns day off to train his way out of slump

“You don’t get better from the couch.”

Such was the rationale of Australia captain Michael Clarke for why he challenged a firm directive for all members of Australia’s squad – staff as well as players – to have a full day off on Wednesday, and instead spend some of it in the nets at Newlands.

While Clarke was somewhat dismissive of criticism of his batting form in the immediate aftermath of Australia’s crushing defeat in Port Elizabeth his presence and conduct in the nets on Wednesday, in a session not flagged with the media, demonstrated he actually did take his record of not reaching 25 in his past 11 innings and nine dismissals seriously.

On Monday the captain was one of only two Australians to have played in Port Elizabeth – Alex Doolan was the other – to attend an optional training session that was intended for the five members of the squad had not played.

Clarke was seething about his dismissal in the first innings at St George’s Park, when he spooned Vernon Philander off the front foot to cover. Realising his judgement had to improve he set himself the challenge of approaching his net session in the same way – with punishment for any lapses.

“If any of you can get me out you can have my bat,” Clarke shouted to the four young net bowlers. The only caveat was that each had to set an imaginary field to him, so he knew where he could hit and where he could not.

Coach Lehmann, roped in with batting coach Michael Di Venuto from the day off, was also called to umpire by Clarke, to make sure he was complying with the fields set for him.

“Be tough on me. Anything close, I want that finger up,” Clarke demanded of Lehmann.

A footnote to the series so far has been the lack of impact with the bat from the two captains, with Clarke scoring 60 runs at an average of 20 and South Africa’s Graeme Smith scoring 37 at an average of 9.25.

For each to twice fail again in Newlands would be a significant blot in terms of the consistency achieved during their long and decorated careers. The only time in a series of at least three matches where Smith failed to reach 50 in any innings was in the 2004-05 tour of Australia. Clarke has only done so twice, both in that same season – at home to Pakistan and then away to New Zealand.

South Africa coach Russell Domingo had no inkling to critique Clarke, but was happy to laud the non-batting impact of Smith and his expectation the left-hander would respond in the series-deciding match.

“Our focus is not on Michael Clarke. It’s making sure Graeme is leading the side well,” he said.

“Graeme’s record speaks for itself. It’s very seldom that he goes through a series without making a contribution.”

“So it’s not something I’m too fazed about. He’s a quality player, his record speaks for itself and he’s playing well at the moment. He’s looking in good touch. He’s just found ways of getting out, strange-ish dismissals at the moment.”

While the 20-minute stint Clarke spent with his bat up for grabs was only a fraction of the how long he hopes to be spending in the middle in Newlands he hit the ball crisply but also responsibility.

The four net bowlers, one of whom a particularly promising right-hander, left the nets without a prized reminder of their stint bowling to Australia’s captain. They did, however, get the lingering sense that even the world’s elite players sometimes have to get back to basics before returning to their customary form.