The Dating Game

Love For Sale

While most Internet dating services, such as Zipple.Com, offer free personals and generate their income through advertising, e-commerce and Web hosting, more traditional dating services usually ask for an upfront membership fee.

Social Circles, for instance, originally charged clients for each activity. "It quickly became apparent the service was worth far more than $10 per activity," says McAden, who now sells memberships at $650 for six months and $800 for one year. "There are people who will pay significant sums in order to augment their social lives."

Prices also serve a gatekeeping function. "Once we got our prices up over the $150 mark, we started to attract a good, steady, consistent type of person," said McAden. His clients come to Social Circles from all types of professions--some are accountants; on is even a Rockette.

As with any new business, getting the word out about your matchmaking service is paramount. Rozner visited every Jewish Web site she could find, from newspapers to synagogues, and e-mailed every Webmaster--about 6,500 people--to tell them about her site. The owners of Social Circles, which now has almost 700 members, say 40 percent of their new customers come from word-of-mouth. Besides using conventional means of advertising such as direct mail, they've had good luck with fliers--especially at the business's launch. "We would drive around on Saturday morning at the crack of dawn in Jose's beat-up Honda and leave fliers on every [ATM] in Manhattan," McAden recalls.

Matchmaking clearly lends itself well to entrepreneurship, since clients like personal attention and want to know the individual who ultimately hooks them up with a potential love match. "I think it's important for people not to see us just as businesspeople, but as real people who have real emotions and go out and participate in these things for the same reasons they do," says de Lasa. "That creates a kind of community effect, and people appreciate that."

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This article was originally published in the February 2000 print edition of Entrepreneur with the headline: The Dating Game.

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