A crazy little thing called love: From HR to matchmaking entrepreneur

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Article by Laura Smyth, Founder of Match Made in Scotland

In the beginning it might have seemed a little crazy to set out to become an entrepreneur. I’m not your ideal candidate.

I used to feel very risk-averse, had never run a business before and my self-doubt had the potential to hold me back. Plus, I absolutely hate being the centre of attention.

But I had to give myself a bit of a talking to and, when I analysed it, I realised I really did want to embark on this new and exciting venture and I actually do have the credentials. I’d been very successful in another sphere – recruitment – I loved helping people and I had already run parts of a non-profit organisation.

Factor in the pandemic and that was the push I needed to throw myself off the metaphoric cliff and just go for it. And I can now say with confidence, it has been exhilarating!

I had ten years of experience in recruitment under my belt by then, mostly in oil and gas, engineering and finance. I was an international head hunter, principal recruitment consultant and one of my employer’s top performers. In my spare time I volunteered for Girl Gone International which helps ex-pat women find friends when they move to a different city. I set up their Aberdeen chapter and I was community manager of their Edinburgh Chapter.

Then came Covid and, with that, an idea from a conversation with friends during the first lockdown. They were all successful women in their 30s who were becoming demoralised with their dating lives. Living alone, working in front of screens all day, they were then moving over to their phones and spending all evening swiping left and right. One had just come across her boss and another had gone on a socially-distanced date with someone who had lied about who he was.

The third couldn’t use apps because of her job. I suggested they use a matchmaker and, when we looked it up, there was no one offering this service in Scotland. I felt there was a real need for the service.

I’m originally from Ireland where there is quite a tradition in matchmaking and years before I had played cupid to two friends when I set them up on a blind date in Paris, that well known City of Love. As a recruitment consultant I had plenty of experience linking the right candidate to their perfect job, so it seemed a natural progression to apply this to the dating world.

As it happened, in 2020 I was put on furlough and then made redundant so I had a ready-made reason to change career path and Match Made in Scotland was the result.

It was a real leap of faith as I had never run a business or managed people but I knew I was good at helping others.  I attended a lot of business courses, through Business Enterprise, on everything from bookkeeping, marketing through to social media management and data analytics. I did everything on a shoe string, from building my own website, designing my own logo to doing my own market research. I carried out a survey on a sample of 500 single people across Scotland to find out what their issues were with online dating, so I could see how to provide a solution. I grabbed every opportunity I could, networking and speaking to other business owners, then took the plunge and launched on National Singles Day in 2020.

Match Made in Scotland offers the only 100% offline, personal introductions matchmaking service in Scotland.  It’s a bespoke, personal service rooted in honesty, integrity and empathy and my mission is to bring dating back into the real world, face to face – not via any screen.

Intuition is a big part of this game and that’s probably what helped me decide to make this career change.  I knew that I could do it, I just had to put myself out there. I said yes to every opportunity that arose. I was invited onto dating podcasts, BBC Radio Scotland, to do news articles and I would do Instagram lives on a weekly basis with other experts. I speak openly and honestly about the issues people are experiencing with dating and my personal struggles with impostor syndrome. I realised that my scarcity mindset was holding me back and that I needed to let go to let the business grow.

I have just recently been nominated for Young Entrepreneur of the Year – something, which if you had have told me two years ago would happen, I would have laughed at the idea. Even being called an entrepreneur didn’t sound like something that applied to me but I’ve now grown to love and embrace the fact that what I am doing is entrepreneurship. I’ve also been accepted onto the RBS Accelerator scheme which helps entrepreneurs take their business to the next level and I’ve been recruiting for another matchmaker to keep up with demand for our services.

Best of all, I’m getting married to a former boyfriend I re-connected with through the agency – proof the personal approach really does work.

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