Photo courtesy of Nancy Rothner/Pinch Me Therapy Dough

Gift Shop Plus Winter 2024
Meet the Maker: Nancy Rothner of Pinch Me Therapy Dough By Carly McFadden

An entrepreneur tapped into her clinical background to create a product that targets stress naturally.

As a hypnotherapist, Nancy Rothner has dedicated her life to helping others reduce stress. One thing she noticed during her 20-year tenure? Stress was the undercurrent among everyone who walked into her office, regardless of gender or age.

“I worked with people to help give them opportunities within themselves to become more resourceful and to overcome the obstacles, stresses, fears and challenges that they were facing,” Rothner said.

Photo courtesy of Nancy Rothner/Pinch Me Therapy Dough
Pinch Me Dough is a scented, pliable compound designed to reduce stress. All photos courtesy of Nancy Rothner.

While Rothner enjoyed her one-on-one sessions with clients, observing this common theme led her to wonder how she can help those who cannot afford the cost or time associated with hypnotherapy.

“It’s somewhat of a luxury, and not many people have the time or ability to have somebody one-on-one work through those tough points in life. I kept thinking, ‘How can I find a way to create something that’s fun, feels good and is effective to help people de-stress?’” she said. “It was through all of the appointments with my clients that showed me patterns of truly what’s most effective for people to quickly be able to shift gears and unwind and decompress.”

These observations led to the founding of Pinch Me Therapy Dough, a holistic, drug-free stress-reduction product designed for use anytime and anywhere. Rothner then transitioned from her hypnotherapy career to being a full-time business owner with the experience and knowledge to meet customers where they are.

“If it wasn’t for working with my clients, I would not have seen so clearly how effective all of these components can be,” she said.


Pinch Me’s flagship product is its pliable, squishy dough. The compound comes in a variety of scents and colors designed to evoke pleasant, calming emotions. Because people are drawn to different smells based on their life experiences and personal preferences, the company offers dozens of scents.

Photo courtesy of Nancy Rothner/Pinch Me Therapy Dough“In a nutshell, when we’re stressed, what happens is things in our system tend to run a little tight. We can feel tense within our muscles, and then our breath also becomes a bit tight,” Rothner said. “But we all have a reflex that when we’re around a scent we like, the body wants to take it in. So there’s suddenly just an opening or an expansive breath that happens as a reflex in response to the scent.”

According to Rothner, the dough’s effectiveness lies in its ability to subconsciously hit several sensory aspects at once. In addition to opening the breath, it draws attention to the hand. When the brain places focus on the hands and fingers, it can act as a catalyst to become more centered, Rothner explained.

“Going further, with the kneading or squeezing action, it’s giving tension a way to be released through the fingers,” she said. “So even if it’s in another part of the body — maybe you’re holding tightness in your shoulder — by kneading and squeezing and releasing out through the fingers, that gives the body a way to let go of some of that stress.”

Rothner observes that as long as the customer finds the scent and texture to be pleasant, tension begins to release in as soon as one to two minutes.


While Pinch Me keeps its ingredients list proprietary, Rothner said all ingredients have been tested and are safe and non-toxic. Her one warning: There is a wheat component, so it isn’t the ideal product for those with celiac disease. That said, she has heard testimonials from non- celiacs who are gluten intolerant that the dough doesn’t cause a reaction for them.

“Everything is skin-safe, lab tested and non-toxic,” she said. “We use top-of-the-line oils and essences to help make that texture nice, velvety smooth.”

All products are made in-house at Pinch Me’s Delaware-based facility. According to Rothner, the process of making each dough is “labor intensive.”

“There’s going to be a very thorough, complete mixing component of ingredients,” she said. “Then, we have a very delicate, precise heating process where the temperature needs to be exact for a certain time. Once we feel the mixture has become the texture we’d like, there’s a cooling process. Then, there’s a process of putting it into containers, the process of stamping it and so on from there.”

Photo courtesy of Nancy Rothner/Pinch Me Therapy Dough

Pinch Me also offers its dough in a locket form that can clip onto purses or backpacks. In addition to dough, the fragrances are available in face and body mists, pillow sprays and stress-relief books.

Pinch Me’s suite of scents includes Bumbleberry, Refresh, Zen Beach and seasonal fragrances. Bestsellers depend on region and demographic such as age, but the two classic top-performers are Spa and Ocean.

“I really like Surf and Retro; lately, those have been probably two of my favorites,” Rothner said of her personal top picks. “But ask me on another day, and I will have a different answer.”


Using her clinical experience to propel her through her own business venture, Rothner has never lost sight of her original purpose: to present a drug-free, as-needed product to reduce stress and help center someone during anxiety.

“I live, sleep, breathe the field of stress relief and just feel compelled to share what I know,” Rothner said. “And what I know is that Pinch Me can be — and very often is — very effective. So I feel compelled to share that. The testimonials we’ve received from people just mean the world and show that it is doing what it’s designed to do.”

Carly McFadden

Carly McFadden is the managing editor for Gift Shop Plus, Stationery Trends and a variety of special issue publications, including: The Guide, Holiday Shop, Celebrations & Occasions and Waterfront Living.

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