D.C. Businessman Invests In African-American Love
by Andrea Williams
There are absolutely no guarantees in the world of entrepreneurship but, according to the most basic of business strategies, filling an unmet need in any industry is as close to a guarantee of success as one could hope to get.
For OneDegreeFrom.Me founder Paul Carrick Brunson, developing a matchmaking and relationship coaching company that caters specifically to the young African American professional, a segment of the population that has been all but ignored by other firms, has placed him on the business-building fast track.
The seed for OneDegreeFrom.Me was first planted when Brunson worked with more than 100 at-risk youth at a summer camp sponsored by the L10 Project, a nonprofit organization that he founded to address academic achievement gaps through school revitalization projects in the U.S. and the Caribbean. During the camp, he noticed a disturbing commonality among the students.
“Out of those 100 kids, not one had two parents in the home,” Brunson said. “I saw how it impacted them psychologically and socially, and I went to my wife and said, ‘Let’s try to do something’.”
Fueled by a desire to help a few locals find Mr. or Mrs. Right while simultaneously addressing a major societal ill, Brunson began by hosting dinner parties/mixers in his home for single friends. After a string of successful gatherings, he decided to attend a conference that brought together hundreds of matchmakers and life coaches from around the world.
“When I decided to go to that conference, that’s when it all came into full picture for me,” Brunson said. “I was sitting at the conference, there were 250 people from around the world, and I was the only person under the age of 40. I was the only male. I was the only one that was not white or Asian. And I realized that there was a huge opportunity for me.”
Fast forward through 12 months of extensive study about all things love and relationships, including reading more than 100 books, becoming a certified life coach and serving as an apprentice under New York Times bestselling author and matchmaker extraordinaire Rachel Greenwald, and Brunson was ready for the launch of OneDegreeFrom.Me in October of 2009.
But before he could officially hang his shingle, Brunson faced staunch criticism from those close to him who couldn’t understand why he would trade in a cushy (and very well-paying) gig as an international investment banker to play cupid for a bunch of unlucky-in-love singles.
“It was definitely daunting going in,” Brunson said. “But I realized that because there was no one in the marketplace, because no one had ever been in the marketplace and because the community didn’t fully embrace or understand what matchmaking was all about, I had the opportunity to come in and set the record straight. I could basically create the market and teach the value of what we were offering.”