For a woman to be featured on AllRedheads.com, the proof must be on her pudding. This means if her crimson locks come from a bottle, she need not apply.
"There are other redhead sites out there, but none of them really focus on us authentic redheads," says Webmistress Nina Rouge. "You can always tell who they are by checking down below; other sites just feature brunettes with lightened hair."
The site touts itself modestly as the "home to nature's most passionate women." Since April 1999, the site has served the needs of selective aficionados of sanguine-hued belles by offering streaming video footage, live strip shows, and over 10,000 photos.
"I started the site because no one else was doing it and I knew from my own experience as a red-haired woman that a lot of guys have a fetish for it. Even if it's not a full-blown fetish there's at least a curiosity," Rouge says.
She's on to something: Playboy TV's erotic variety show Sexcetera featured the site in a segment exploring the redhead mystique, which Rouge says has greatly increased her traffic during the last three months.
How did AllRedheads come about? Rouge began studying the Web in the fall of 1995 with a book called Learn HTML in 21 Days, by Laura Lemay. "Needless to say, it took me a little longer [to learn]," she says. "I feel like it took me about two years of messing stuff up to really get to a place where I can say I really know what I'm doing. I've always been self-taught - in those days they didn't have HTML classes, you learned everything from looking at other Websites and how they did their codes."
AllRedheads.com operates via a Unix box with dual P3 processors and 512 MB of RAM running Apache software. Rouge calls the shots with a 1.3 GHz Sony Vaio Pentium 4, equipped with 384 MB RAM and run by Windows XP. Dreamweaver is responsible for the site's clutter-free design.
The site receives an estimated 60,000 visitors each month, roughly 350 of whom are registered members.
The expertise Rouge gained from starting up a pair of mainstream sites helped her hone in on a marketing strategy for AllRedheads.com. "I knew in order for me to stay competitive, I needed to do something that catered to a very small niche, but didn't have much competition," she said.
"I get so many letters from users who say, 'I thank you so much, I adore redheads, I've always loved redheads, etcetera.' It means something to me, and not just [as] a sense of accomplishment. I knew the way I was going to do the site that it was going to be classy and done in a way that I was going to be happy with," she said.
Though the majority of the responses come from men, over the years Rouge has noticed a lot of feedback coming from men and women who look at the site together.
A couple of times, Rouge - who holds a bachelor's degree in psychology in her civilian life - has dispatched scathing missives to rude visitors to the site who didn't take her role as Webmistress seriously. "There are some assholes that thrive on the anonymity of the Internet both in the business side of it and on the consumer side. Every once in a while you'll get a person who just wants to use it as an opportunity to get rid of his frustration and take it out on somebody else," she says.
Two years ago, when her ISP didn't have adequate password protection on its server, Rouge knew something was awry when about 20,000 password traders raided her member site within 24 hours. "Having a site is like having a physical storefront, so, [when that happened] I honestly felt like I'd been robbed. It's just one of the things you've got to deal with in this business," she says.
To guard against Web hucksters, Rouge is careful not to oversell what the site offers. "I run a very clean site; as a result, I don't have that many chargebacks or credits. I do get them - especially from European countries - but it's just part of the business," she says.
While Rouge admits that being a Webmistress is very difficult, especially the large amount of time needed to manage the site, there is a sense of satisfaction that accompanies the workload. "I feel good because I do everything myself, stay in business, and manage to do well against other larger companies," she says. "Even though there aren't any nude pictures of me on the site, these girls represent me, my passion, and my sexuality."
To relax, Rouge says all she has to do is spend an evening with her cubicle friends. "That's all I need to realize how extremely lucky I am to work for myself and call all the shots in my life," she says.
Rouge offers some advice for aspiring Webmasters and mistresses: Work from integrity and remember to turn the computer off at least once a week and smell the roses. "Life is sweet and is much richer than any amount of money you can make online," she says.