One of the things that has stood between me and my career to date is a lack of patience. I think this is very much symptomatic of our generation; we are ambitious and not afraid of hard work, but we want our successes to come quickly. However with Social Concierge, I worked slowly on the idea for two years, transforming it from a blog into a profitable business before I committed to it full time. This means that once I did hand in my notice, I had the confidence – and market experience- to know that the risk was worth taking.
In contrast to the relatively quick funding and growth models of tech start-ups, my journey from marketing girl to dating agency Director shows how slow organic growth over time is still a legitimate way to grow a business.
Having an idea
After a year living in New York, working for a corporate organisation that swamped every creative bone in my body, I started getting more into blogging, specifically about eating out and dating – nothing original there. One blog, Nylonbites, was a look at where to go in the city for nights out. The other, I Love Your Accent, was a blog devoted to setting up Americans with English expats.
Neither really took off but kept me amused. However, when I returned to London I stumbled across an article about a new dating site called I Love Your Accent that had taken off in the states. I looked on in horror at a site that was more sugar daddy focused than anything else, but, outraged that someone else had done the same thing, decided to formalize the next idea I had. My over amorous nature and the New York dating scene had taught how to date frequently and very well, and I wanted to bring this open-minded and fun approach to young professional dating to London.
From Blog to Business
Social Concierge started off as a blog, telling readers where to date in London and how to play the game. It was about opening people up to a form of ‘experiential’ dating – not just about who you date, but where- putting the joy back into dating in a city where there’s so much going on.
Soon readers and friends started suggesting I matchmake people and put on events. A couple of months later I registered Social Concierge as a limited company and threw a party in a bar for single friends, 60 of us; it was a great night. I charged for tickets and made some cash from it, plus spotted a couple of kisses, so considered it a success.
From that point onwards I started throwing the odd party or dinner and setting up friends with friend of friends. I’d go out to parties and ‘scout’ anyone single who I thought was similar to my friends – ambitious, passionate, sociable – and force them to join the club. After about a year, more people were requesting blind dates and parties, and I was balancing a full time job in publishing with the blog. The money already made went towards turning the blog into a website with member applications – everyone has to be vetted – and pushing the dating club to the forefront. I also spent money on facebook ads which drove new member interest.
Finally, two years after I first registered the company, I was sick of my day job and had the savings (and loan) to give Social Concierge a shot full time. With more time, more drive and way more pressure to succeed, I have already managed to book more events and meet more new members in the past few weeks than I did in months.
Early Days as an Entrepreneur
I can already see the flux of being an entrepreneur, veering between inflated confidence one second and blind panic the next, but it’s suited to my mercurial character and I couldn’t have cut it in a less creative environment.
What Amanda Le Roux said at a recent Eyedea event, about being fearless, is of course true. A lot of entrepreneurs I’ve met have few ties– no kids, no partners- and I think that makes it easier. I’m not lost to the ironies of a single matchmaker!
The reception to Social Concierge has been excellent and the plan is to grow it to an all encompassing dating lifestyle brand to services members with great dates, whether singles, couples, gay or straight.
After pleas from friends I am launching the SC Couples arm this year, to create personalised date night itineraries for couples. I’m also piloting some gay events, launching the lesbian arm end of SC, Social Concierge Hera, in Jan in partnership with dating app Dattch. I like to keep an eye on what is going on with the online dating world and don’t write off adding some online aspects to the service. With the growth of Grouper and Smeeters, our original SC Crew Dates will continue to offer 3 a side dating but may borrow some online tips for efficiencies sake.
The best lesson I’ve learnt so far is pilot everything and see if it works, before I commit. I’ve dating ferociously and tried it all, so if it’s good fun, my clients will hear about it.
Watch this space.