Thursday, November 26th, 2020

Matchmaking: the business of Romance

By Cathy Watters on Feb 01 2010 • Filed under Business

Linda Miller, Misty River Introductions, Inc., decided to start her first matchmaking business as a part-time job and within a year she had over 700 clients in Manitoba, Saskatchewan and Alberta. Her total start-up costs: $832 for advertising. 

“I was a good matchmaker before I ever did it as a business,” Linda says. “I matched up all my friends and family. I’d go out with someone and think to myself, there’s good news and bad news. I don’t like you, but I know someone who would.” 

While she made lots of successful matches in college, it never occurred to her to turn it into a business. Instead, she spent eight years working in the hotel industry before realizing she wanted a career change. She signed up for classes at the University of Manitoba and while she took classes in psychology, sociology and religion, her oldest son attended the university’s daycare. 

Then one night she dreamt she was a professional matchmaker. She told her twin sister, who encouraged Linda to go ahead and do it. At first she was a little worried what her parents would think. She lived in a small farming community and the idea of being a matchmaker seemed a “bit out there,” she says. But her parents thought it was a great idea, and even lent her the start-up money.

This was 1993, before the internet was popular, so she ran the business by mail, and spent a lot of time reading application letters to figure out the best matches.

In addition to going to university and running her business, which was growing, she was a full-time mom to two pre-school children and she kept a herd of cattle to supplement the family income. 

“Keep in mind that you don’t make any money the first two or three years,” she says, adding, she was only charging $150 per person at that point. With matchmaking, “you’re doing it because you love it.” 

Children, cattle, business, and university: something had to give. She realized she had could continue with university, or continue with the business, but not both. She chose the business.

“It did very well,” she says. In fact, it had just started to turn a profit when her husband, who was also in the hotel business, was transferred to Ottawa. Linda sold her business, Camelot Introductions, to a former client, and the family moved to Carlton Place, population 9000, just outside of Ottawa.  

When her youngest child entered Jr. Kindergarten Linda started Misty River Introductions, Inc. One benefit to running her own business was that she was able to be a stay-at-home mom.  

This time around she decided to do things differently. She’d provide a more personalized (and more expensive) service that would include meeting clients in person, interviewing them, and using photographs to help introduce people to each other.  

“It was still a good two or three years before it really started to pay off and do well,” she says.  

Linda realized early on that she couldn’t do everything. She’s great at sales and matching, but not administration, so she hired people to help her. 

“They have the strengths I don’t have,” she says. 

At one point, she had eight staff working out of her living room and “the house was being swallowed up by the business.” So she built a new, bigger house with a separate office space.  

Linda’s husband was supportive of the business and proud of her success, but their relationship had problems, and they split up about a year after they moved to Carleton Place. Even though her family was in Manitoba, Linda decided to stay put: she had signed a non-competition agreement when she sold her first business, so would not have been able to run a matchmaking business if she returned home.  

One thing that makes her business different than the free online services is that she screens people before you meet them. 

“I do the things you’d like to do on a first date,” she says. “I ask to see two pieces of I.D., one of which must have their address on it. I make sure they are who they say they are.” 

Running the business can be stressful. She does her best to only take on people she believes she can find a match for, but sometimes she gets clients who are more difficult than she thought.  

“Chemistry and timing play a big part,” says Linda, noting that it could actually take a year or more before you find someone you really like. 

Because she cares about her clients, she finds she spends a lot of time thinking about different possible matches, to the point where she sometimes lays awake at night worrying. She’s also had to deal with some clients who are used to “managing through intimidation,” she says, and these types of things cause stress. 

She deals with it by socializing with family and friends, and taking time out to participate in her favourite sport, curling. She’s also created a schedule that works for her: she spends some time travelling out of town each month for business, but whenever she’s home, she generally works 9-to-5. 

When it comes to income, she says she makes good sales but has high overhead, so she’s not “making money hand over fist.” However, she is making a fairly good living that she’s happy with. 

“I’d never be making the money I’m making now if I worked for someone else,” she adds. 

MARKETING: 

Linda does “tonnes” of advertising in newspapers and online; she has a website, has been interviewed by various newspapers over the years, and was once featured on CBC-TV. However, she finds her most successful advertising is from word-of-mouth. 

“A lot of the people we get have heard about us from people who have used our services,” she says. 

TIPS:

1. Know when to say “no.” Linda was a approached a few years ago by a company that wanted to franchise her business. It would require travel, and she’d be away from her kids for weeks at a time. She decided her business was big enough and said “no.”

2. Have a good relationship with your bank. Talk to your bank manager on a regular basis. You never know when you might need to borrow money.  

3. If you owe people money, talk to them. Let them know what’s going on.

4. Hire good people. You want to have people around who like their job.

5. Have love in your life. A good job is nice, but you don’t see “she was a great manager” on headstones. Surround yourself with friends and family, because you need life balance to stay healthy.


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