12 February 2015
Spotlight on... Caroline Brealey, Matchmaker
Valentine’s Day is a busy time for some businesses, particularly if you’re a chocolatier, a card designer or indeed a matchmaker like Caroline Brealey. Caroline is an award winning dating expert. She heads up London based matchmaking company, Mutual Attraction, and she was selected to participate in our Innovating for Growth programme. The programme works with small business owners who already have a clear idea of how to expand, but need some help with the next steps.
When you meet Caroline you realise she is not only the brains behind a successful business but the heart and soul of it too. This is the reason why so many people look to Caroline to help them meet their true love. Having had such success with a business idea, Caroline is now ready to take the next steps to expand. In the run up to Valentine’s Day, we asked her some questions about her achievements and her hopes for the future.
I often joke that there’s no university degree that qualifies you to become a matchmaker and it’s not something that is on most people’s radar. I didn’t dream of playing cupid, in fact, I always thought I would forge a career in children’s services. After graduating from University, I took up a post working for a charity coordinating services for children with complex needs before moving on to managing Children’s Centres for local authorities. It was here that I decided I needed a change, the problem was that I had no idea what that change looked like.
What inspired you to start Mutual Attraction?
I always had a keen interest in relationships, and dating and a throw away comment by a friend made a light bulb switch on. Yes it was one of ‘those’ moments! My friend experienced a really bad service with a matchmaker so I decided to do a bit of research. After realising a gap in the market existed I decided to go for it and have never looked back.
What makes Mutual Attraction so unique?
Mutual Attraction is the only UK matchmaking service to win the two top awards in the industry. I believe this is because we deliver our matchmaking service in just three months, compared to typical dating agencies whose membership lasts one year. Clients want to meet someone special now, not in one year’s time and the intensity of the service means we really get to know our client and they get in the dating ‘zone’.
Our clients treat us as really good friends who just so happen to have a network of fantastic single people and this leads to building a solid really solid relationship between those looking for love and their matchmaker.
What hurdles have you had to overcome in your journey so far?
In my previous job roles I had worked as part of a team; suddenly I was working on my own and I found it difficult. You don’t have anyone to bounce ideas off, to keep you motivated when you’re having an ‘off day’, or even just someone to have a chat to over a coffee before cracking on. In the early days I found it incredibly difficult, if I made a decision I wanted someone to tell me it was the right decision and to back me up. I have now learnt that I make the final decision, it’s not always easy but you really just have to go for it and trust what you think is right at the time.
How did you first hear about the Innovating for Growth Programme?
I met members of the business team from the British Library at the Great British Entrepreneur Awards who told me about the Innovating for Growth programme. It couldn’t have come at a better time – just as I felt I was hitting a brick wall at how to take my business to the next level. A few days later I was filling out my application form!
How are you hoping your business will benefit from participating in the programme?
The chance to sit down and have a one-to-one conversation about my business with someone objective is a completely new situation for me, and one I’m really looking forward to. I’m also preparing for the fact that I have got used to a set way of working, and that the outcome of my sessions may mean making changes, including some big ones! I’m trying to go into the programme with an open mind, and be open to all new ideas. I know I will benefit from the intellectual property session and I am really looking forward to the PR session.
After years of running my business I feel like a need a bit of a refresh. I’m so head down in the day to day business that I can’t always strategically plan where we are going next. I’m hoping the programme will inspire me, and help me develop new ideas, as well as provide me with the opportunity to network and meet other entrepreneurs and business owners.
What are your hopes for your business in the next year?
It’s a really exciting time for Mutual Attraction as we are bringing on board a new full time employee who has lots of drive, ambition and passion. This year we will continue to keep matchmaking at the core and heart of what we do but we hope to be able to expand the age group of clients we work with so we can help more people find love.
What tips would you give someone thinking about applying for the Innovating for Growth programme?
- Really embrace the experience
- Don’t just turn up to the session and then forget about it - schedule time in your calendar to reflect on what you discussed and what you have learnt, and be open to new suggestions and ideas
- When your business is like your baby it can be difficult to take on board advice and constructive feedback because you feel like you know best, but the advisers are really here to help you and your business so take full advantage.
- Go for it!
Finally, as Valentine’s Day is approaching, can you give us some tips on organising a romantic Valentines date?
First off, if she says she doesn’t want anything for Valentine's day, don’t believe her! Take the risk and you may not live to see February 15th! You don’t have to spend a lot to make a Valentine’s Day date special; when it comes to love it really is the thought that counts. Why not recreate your first date, or surprise your partner with an evening of pampering – dinner, bath and bubbles. What more could you want?
Diane Kelly on behalf of the Business & IP Centre