The dating industry has been transformed in recent years, with a multitude of apps, platforms and matchmaking agencies offering a variety of ways to find romance and a growing presence of female founders. In the run-up to Valentine’s Day, here are three female-run matchmaking businesses.
Barbie Adler took her experience as a successful executive recruiter, helping executive talent find jobs at Fortune 500 companies, and applied the same methodology to launch executive matchmaking firm Selective Search, which works with some of the top athletes, celebrities and business executives across North America.
Her mother was a family and relationship psychiatrist, and from a young age, she always had a strong interest in romance and interpersonal relationships. “After college, I enjoyed a successful career in executive search, but my real desire was to use those skills in a more personal realm that could potentially be more meaningful, helping people find love,” she says.
In 2000, although online dating was becoming more mainstream and losing its early stigma, Adler spotted a gap in the dating market for a high-end solution for people who’d built a quality life but hadn’t found the right person to share it with. She launched subscription-based Selective Search, which has a team of dedicated matchmakers who use over 225 personal, professional, and societal indicators to curate every introduction with the goal of a committed relationship.
The business has played a pivotal role in matching up around 4,000 couples, leading to nearly 2,000 marriages and hundreds of families started. A third (34%) of clients met their match on the very first introduction, and Adler herself found love through her firm.
She says: “Our clients view our services as an investment, not an expense, a philosophy we see now more than ever, as dating disappointment and app fatigue become more common. We are seeing trends toward more premium services, benefits that are typically included with a luxury matchmaking service, as more people realize the value of working with experts to preserve their time and privacy as they search for their true love.”
Love in the countryside
Having grown up on a farm, sisters Lucy Reeves and Emma Royall were all too familiar with the challenges of meeting people in a rural setting. In 2006, over a drink in a pub, they devised their dating business Muddy Matches. “There were dating sites, but most were aimed at people living in towns and cities,” says Reeves. “There wasn’t an equivalent for country-minded people, so we decided to create our own.”
Initially, they faced problems finding enough people to sign up, so they turned to their single friends to get the ball rolling. They also ran competitions with prizes for joining. By 2007, when the platform went live, they had around 1,000 profiles.
Another challenge was marketing the new site. With a widely dispersed rural audience, they hit the road to get their message out at the grassroots level. Reeves says: “We bought a second-hand motorhome, dressed it up to look like a country cottage with a thatched roof, and set off on a nine-week tour of the U.K., which we dubbed our Muddy Marathon, organizing events in pubs and visiting lots of farm diversification projects.
Their efforts paid off. Muddy Matches now has 330,000 active members and attracts over 5,000 new monthly registrations. “Our best advert is that it does work,” says Reeves. “We’ve had matches that have ended in marriage, and it’s amazing to think that some of their kids, ‘mudlings,’ will be adults in a few years.”
Going local and getting personal
Ignite Dating was launched in 2020 after its founder Michelle Begy, who’d previously been working with one of the U.K.’s largest introduction agencies, spotted a gap in the market where successful, time-poor people were looking for a different way to date. “They were tired of labor-intensive apps and wanted to be more prescriptive regarding what they wanted in a partner. By paying close attention to my clients’ needs, Ignite Dating was born.”
Clients have a dedicated matchmaker to guide them through every step of their dating journey, which means they aren’t left navigating a search for love alone. Hand-selected introductions are made using a unique blend of personality profiling, experience, and intuition.
“They prefer the discretion that comes with professional matchmaking, as it means there is no need for them to have an online presence,” says Begy. “They often sign up to introduction agencies to move away from the labor-intensive ‘swipe right’ lottery in favor of a more traditional approach of quality introductions over quantity.”
Currently, 75% of clients are moving towards a committed relationship by match number four. Begy has opted for a franchise model to scale the business throughout the U.K., with plans to expand the current two franchises to 12 by 2025. Entry to the franchise opportunity is £35,000, with a six-figure salary achievable by year three. Master franchisors are also being sought in Australia and European countries.
“We aim to provide a more localized and personal service, as our franchisees will understand where the client lives and the types of people within that locality,” says Begy. “Dating in a rural setting differs from finding a partner in London so franchisees can offer the best advice and introductions based on their local knowledge.”