Every day is Valentine's Day for matchmaking services

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Matchmaker, matchmaker, make me a match; find me a find; catch me a catch. &

- Fiddler on the Roof

Almost every unattached person experiences it. Almost every couple remembers it. And some couples are together today because of it. Matchmaking has been as much of an American tradition as baseball and apple pie.

As portrayed in the movie, “Fiddler on the Roof,” matchmaking is customary in some cultures. However, for most, matchmaking is a sideline, seemingly reserved for married couples eager to fix up their spouseless counterparts. Do married folks want their unwed pals to experience the same state of matrimonial bliss? Or does misery love company?

Whateverthe case, smart and savvy entrepreneurs have seized the business of matchmaking with the same kind of passion their clients desire. Everyday is Valentine’s Day in the matchmaking business.

According to a recent study conducted by Marketdata Enterprises, Inc., that analyzed and reported on dating services in general, the matchmaking business is a $917-million market.

From ma and pa hometown dating services to corporate matchmaking franchises, the loving cup is flowing over. Single people of all ages are weary of the bar circuit, and most realize that leaving the love connection to fate is as much of a risk as playing the lottery. Unless a person finds his or her soul mate at school, work or church, the love nest may best be built through the intuitive skills of the matchmaker.

Donna Shugrue, founder and owner of Colorado Springs-based Perfectly Matched, which is the only area personal dating service with a physical office, is a born matchmaker.

When a divorce forced Shugrue to seek a job outside of the home, she decided to pursue a career that would be fun and provide a competitive salary. Despite raised eyebrows from family members, Shugrue started working for a national dating service, eventually mastering the business side of matchmaking.

Thirteen years ago, Shugrue shunned what she refers to as the “hard-sell corporate dating service” to set up an entrepreneurial match of her own. Today, Shugrue has fueled 250 marriages, and, per year, she counsels the exact same number of singles in matters of the heart.

Shugrue screens her clients’ personalities, likes and dislikes through an industry-standard test she has utilized for more than 15 years. “The test is based on six areas of compatibility: temperament, sociability, conformity, affection, religion and finance, and individuals are rated on a scale of zero to 10,” says Shugrue. She swears by the test’s accuracy, and complements the tests with matches also based on her instincts.

Shugrue’s clients are normally between the ages of 30 and 55. They pay per match, usually starting with 10 matches. However, the number of matches depends on preferences, compatibility and availability.

The divorce rate in the Springs, says Shugrue, is more than 60 percent, and many newly-created singles, once they are ready to get back on the saddle, are turning to Internet-based dating services. A current Google search generates over 27,000 Internet dating services.

Shugrue says there has been a decrease in her business due to online competition, but many who tried the Internet have switched to personal dating services. Internet dating is time consuming, and clients are vulnerable to a lack of confidentiality, says Shugrue. Those seeking romance may recognize the efficiency of the “broker-matchmaker,” who intercepts, interviews and screens prior to any love connection.

Traditional offline dating services and franchises with physical offices are referred to as the bricks and mortars of the matchmaking industry. Paul Falzone, founder and chief executive officer of the largest national bricks-and-mortar dating service, The Right One and Together Dating, and author of “A Singles Guide to Finding the Right One,” says the Internet is a “small-price point to get one’s toe in the water.” He concurs with Shugrue that Internet dating services are time prohibitive unless people have hours to spend in chat rooms.

However, Falzone sees a new match brewing as he realizes the potential value to a joint effort between the matchmaking bricks and mortars and the Internet-based dating services. Both types of dating services could benefit from the infrastructure already set up by the bricks and mortars, says Falzone.

For example, a local personal dating service might agree to bring Match.com clients into its physical office for online photos, testing and/or profiling. And Internet-based dating services could provide leads at a minimum cost to the local personal matchmakers. “If we converted just 6 percent of their leads,” says Falzone, “it would be behemoth to our market.”

The increased popularity of the Internet dating business has also reduced the stigma attached to outsourced matchmaking. Thus, Falzone says the individual spillover to personal dating services could be widespread once the Internet client has tired of the tedious online mating dance. “Personal services are easier barriers of entry,” adds Falzone.

Falzone, a former social worker, stockbroker and radio personality, has been in the business since 1989 when he was recruited by one of the original corporate matchmakers, Together Dating Service, which started in 1974. Falzone bought a Together Dating Service franchise in 1990, and soon owned 14 locations, which he later flipped over to The Right One when he left Together Dating Service.

In 1997, a Together Dating Service franchisee took over as company president and, in 1999, Falcone’s company, The Right One, and Together Dating Service merged. Today, according to a recent press release, “Together Dating is celebrating 30 years as the world’s largest introduction service, with a total of 60 locations and affiliations (including The Right One) throughout North America.” Together Dating and The Right One boast more than 125,000 members, employ more than 500 people and grossed more than $45 million last year.

“If only I could package the chemistry that makes two people come together,” says Falcone. But chemistry does not guarantee a match made in heaven, nor does the matchmaker. But the business of matchmaking guarantees money in the pocket for many professional Cupids. It is a couples’ world. Valentine’s Day is Christmas in February for retailers and restaurant owners.

Matchmaker, matchmaker & find me a franchise!

- Editorial@csbj.com