MN: You mentioned working in entertainment. What did you bring from that industry to your matchmaking venture?
JD: Before I completely left the industry and went into matchmaking, I was doing marketing for two record industry organizations. The biggest thing that I took over to matchmaking was my marketing experience; how to brand, how to market and how to make a name for the business I was trying to build. I worked for two different companies: The National Association of Record Industry Professionals and the Georgia Entertainment Association. I assisted in taking one of their chapters in Atlanta and branding it.
When I thought about making a mark on the industry with an African-American agency, I thought of what I did to brand the chapters with those organizations. Having a name that was unique and interesting was one thing that I wanted to keep in mind. Also, being niche specific because at the time there weren’t really matchmaking agencies catering to this group. Some of my clients come from the industry; a couple celebrities, actresses and models, so I’m still involved in the business.
MN: Was there difficulty coming up with concrete branding strategies for this type of business? How do convince people that matchmaking is legit?
JD: That’s actually always an uphill battle and I think it will be until people really see — maybe on television — African Americans doing this and true representations of what this business is about. It’s a new industry I guess for African-Americans whereas our Jewish counterparts have been dealing with this [industry for a century]. When I first started, I had to offer my services for free. Even then you have to explain to people the difference between online dating and matchmaking and the benefits you have working with a matchmaker. Those are things I still deal with.
I’ve had people watch the show Millionaire Matchmaker. That’s one of the shows that’s comparable. I don’t think there will ever be a moment where people are completely comfortable with this. There’s trust involved, there’s money involved and people want to know why they’re spending money to do what they can do.
MN: How long did it take before you were officially operating and branching out to other cities?
JD: It took about six months to get my first really big client, who was actually European. It started the journey for working with people in other areas which wasn’t something I initially set out to do. Six to 12 months is what it took for us to become well known.
In 2010 we were moving in a great direction. We started to notice people were learning more. Now matchmaking is in the forefront and it’s something that’s being talked about a lot more. It took a while for us to get some traction. Even today we’re still not at the level we’re supposed to be, but we’re getting there.