Starting a Dating Service

Interview with Jasbina Ahluwalia, founder of Intersections Matchmaking

Want to start a matchmaking service? Jasbina Ahluwalia is a lawyer turned matchmaker. Learn how she used her professional skills to open Intersections Matchmaking in California.

Jasbina knew from personal experience how hard it is for a professional to find the time to date. This experience helped her open a matchmaking service in 2007.

Tell me about your current business. What are you doing exactly?

Intersections Matchmaking is a premium personalized matchmaking service designed for proactive professionals, executives and entrepreneurs who recognize that their choice of that special someone is a pivotal life decision best not left to chance alone. Our selective clients wish to invest their limited time meeting only with people who have the greatest potential to be their special someone.

We first get a clear understanding of our clients and their relationship goals, needs and wants through our personal consultation, and on that basis introduce our clients to matches with real potential.

Matches come from our exclusive "introduction plan" client base; our nationwide "pool membership"; events we attend throughout the Bay Area; the Matchmaking Institute's nationwide network; our nationwide contacts; as well as our everyday lives (including various professional, cultural, social and charitable organizations). Each match is prescreened, and a criminal background check is run, before introductions are made

What are some of the major reasons people cannot seem to find their mates?

There are a wide variety of reasons. For some, they've merely left it up to chance, with the attitude that it will just happen when it's meant to happen. But I ask you: what other major life decisions are left purely to chance?

For others, they don't take the time to truly look within themselves and identify their personal deal-breakers, distinguish between "preferences" and non-negotiable "must-haves"; and/or distinguish between their personal expectations, based on their values/priorities/experiences on the one hand, and expectations of their families or friends on the other hand. Our comprehensive personal consultation is specially designed to facilitate self-reflection at the beginning of our process as a means of enhancing our clients' chances of finding meaningful and lasting relationships.

For still others, they just haven't focused either their time or energies on finding the right relationship for them. Our service addresses these issues by making it possible for our clients to invest their limited time and energies meeting only with people who have the greatest potential to be their special someone.

How did you come up with the concept of Intersections Matchmaking?

As a practicing attorney with meaningful relationships with family and friends, I led a full life missing only a significant other with whom to share my life. I had personally experienced the challenges of juggling professional demands, maintaining relationships with family and friends, and finding men who met my high standards. Having found my life partner after trial and error, I set out to design the kind of service I would have liked for myself.

Is this your first business?

This is my first entrepreneurial venture - however, the idea of pursuing a venture aligned with my own principles and values has been compelling to me for quite a while.

What advice would you have for an emerging entrepreneur?

Before embarking on your entrepreneurial venture, have your finances in such a shape (via savings, funding, etc) that you can focus your efforts on developing a service or product of the highest quality. As an entrepreneur, you do not want financial pressures to compromise your delivery of a service or product that you can stand by. From the very beginning, it has been important to me to have the freedom to work only with clients whose lives we could truly add value to.

Who are some of your competitors, and how are your services differentiated from theirs?

We have a few categories of competition:

First, online dating sites can be considered competitors.

However, our service differs from online dating in a few ways:

  • (1) It involves a highly-personalized, consultative and feedback-centric process;
  • (2) Before a client meets any matches, I personally get to know the client's needs, wants, personality and background via a personal consultation; and
  • (3) Our service is specifically designed to take over the time-consuming task of screening so that its clients are able to strategically spend their limited time and energies focusing on matches with real potential.

That being said, the ubiquity of online dating has helped our business model considerably in two ways:

  • (1) By mainstreaming the involvement of a third party in the introduction/dating process
  • (2) The common weaknesses of online dating--its time-consuming nature, potential misrepresentations by participants, and its relatively public aspect--is addressed by our service as we save our clients valuable time by prescreening potential introductions, and do so in a confidential and discreet manner.

A second category of competition is blind dates. Dates arranged by friends may be considered non-commercial competitors.

Our introduction plans are different from blind dates because we strategically search for and prescreen matches for clients based on the personal consultation and subsequent feedback. Friends, having busy lives of their own, often tend to set up friends based merely on the fact that both people happen to be single and available at the same time.

Also, there is generally limited, if any, feedback after a blind date; whereas an integral feature of Intersections' service is the feedback we elicit from both matches.

Third and finally, dating services may be considered competitors.

Unlike dating services generally, Intersections does not limit its introduction plan clients to meeting other Intersections' clients exclusively. Rather, the idea is to exponentially expand our selective clients' universe of potential matches.

In your experience, is it important for an entrepreneur to establish a niche?

I believe that it can be extremely effective for an entrepreneur to determine (ie through market research, personal experience, etc)

(a) whether there is an untapped need in the market, and

(b) whether the entrepreneur and his/her goods and/or services are (or can be) uniquely positioned to fulfill that need.

When I founded Intersections, I believed there was an untapped need in the market for matchmakers who could first-hand relate to clients based on similar professional backgrounds and experiences. As a former practicing lawyer turned entrepreneur, I knew I could uniquely relate first-hand to the demands and challenges facing our largely professional/executive/entrepreneur clients. This distinctive understanding allows us to offer a unique value proposition for our clientele.

As a second-generation Indian-American raised in the U.S., I have a unique understanding of the successful blending of Indian and American cultures. This understanding allowed Intersections to pioneer matchmaking for Southeast Asian professionals, executives and entrepreneurs in the U.S. market.

Is it feasible for an entrepreneur to serve more than one niche?

The effectiveness of doing so depends on circumstances such as the nature of the business, the demands/needs of the different niches, and whether there is overlap in the skill sets needed to serve the different niches.

Our two market niches are:

  • Professionals/executives/entrepreneurs of all ethnicity's primarily based in the San Francisco Bay Area, and
  • Southeast Asian clientele nationwide. The geographic difference between the two niches evolved largely as a result of the differing expressed needs of the respective niches. We have found that our Southeast Asian clientele in particular have been much more interested in meeting potential matches from throughout the country than our other clientele.

From my experience, remaining attuned to the needs of clients and prospective clients is very important.

Thanks for sharing your interesting career path with us, Jasbina. Best wishes on growing your business.

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