By Andrea McGinty
At a young age, without even understanding the word entrepreneurial, I must have been born with a gene directing me to a unique career. As a Girl Scout, I sold the most cookies in my area. As a Catholic grade school student, the push for fundraising by selling Christmas cards was a biggie. I won that one too! Why? No idea—except it was fun and I liked going door to door excitedly talking about thin mint cookies and holiday wrapping paper.
Armed with an accounting degree in the late 80’s, my level of boredom after a few months in this field was off the charts. Then the aha moment. My fiancée called off our wedding 5 weeks prior, and after tears and many fix-ups by well-meaning friends, I had an idea.
ACT 1: A dating site begins:
A wonderful, efficient idea, I thought. Hence, in 1991 It’s Just Lunch was founded by me with a simple premise: If there could be executive recruiters for my professional life, why not a headhunter for my suffering love life? Obstacles? Oh, yes. My friends and family thought me crazy—why leave the safe, professional world of business to forge a new concept? And, it’s 1991—no Match, no Google, no internet dating, and the stigma of a “dating service” was tremendous. Oh, those poor singles who needed this. What must be wrong with them?
I wrote a business plan and with my meager savings of $3,000 launched It’s Just Lunch in Chicago with great excitement, sure the singles in the Windy City would come running to me. I ignored naysayers and forged on. When my first marriage occurred within 6 months, I must say it was one of the happiest days and to me, proved this could work.
Fast forward. I quickly began opening offices across the US…then internationally. Private equity took meetings with me and I imagine rolled their eyes once I exited the room! Expanding quickly, each day I was on the brink of bankruptcy. One banker took a chance on me with a small loan…and the dating ball was rolling. Over the next 10 years, we opened 110 locations worldwide. During these years, Google and online dating sites were born and prospered until suddenly, no more stigma! It became an accepted way to look for dates, relationships, and love.
In the early 2010’s, I saw the writing on the wall. While I still loved what I did, no longer was I in the tumultuous and nerve-wracking start-up stage—and I missed the day-to-day contact with clients. My 500+ employees took care of that. Plus, I had to sit in many meetings—and Board Meetings. Bored once more. While IJL was prosperous, online dating with millions of people was exploding. Oddly, the same week, Match and a private equity firm approached me with offers too good to pass on. I sold out to the PE firm.
ACT 2: Really? A vegan Restaurant Chain!
Now the weird transition to my next professional step. While dining at my favorite vegan restaurant (Note: I am not vegan; just loved the food there!) in Palm Springs, CA, the chef approached me. She was trying to expand and needed capital and business advice. Soon I found myself as the co-founder and over a few years we expanded to 30 locations. Here’s the thing: Do what you love, the money will come. Yes, the money came—but I felt no real passion nor love for this industry. The day of reckoning came one day as I was sitting in our West LA restaurant and Beyonce, Jay-Z and their entourage walked in to dine. Our social media blew up. In a bad way. A few customers had snapped their photos and posted them online and the hard-core vegan comments were horrendous—how dare we allow Beyonce in her leather leggings eat at a vegan restaurant? Decision made. I was done! I sold my interest to PE once again.
Act 3: Married, Divorced…expert at Online Dating
So, now my friends and I are in our 50’s. Most had met and married their spouses from college or grad school—and the divorces were beginning. One of the first was my brother—after trying online dating, he was disenchanted. After he gave me his site credentials, I immediately saw his issues. Sure, he’s a brilliant CFO—but writing an online dating profile, photos, site selection—not his wheelhouse. I immediately changed everything on the site for him and good dates came his way. Another aha! People need help. I love to help and this is my thing—dating. After all, I had over 4200 marriages to my credit (myself) and 33000Dates.com was born. Now, I’m back to what I love—helping others write their dating profile, choose the correct dating site for their demographic (there’s 1400 dating apps/sites out there!), teaching them how to “work” the sites’ algorithms smartly, effectively and efficiently. Weekly coaching calls. Over 60% of my clients are now in relationships—and I’m the happiest dating coach around!
Passion, a word terribly overused, is a necessity to build a flourishing, prosperous business. Beside 33000Dates.com, now I also work with “kids” in their 20’s on start-up ideas and help some of them bring their dreams to fruition. I wake up excited about my day and love the flexibility working for myself!