Caroline Brealey is the founder and CEO of Mutual Attraction, a personal matchmaking service aimed at busy professionals in the City who are single and looking to meet like-minded people who want to find their life partner.
Hi Caroline, Thanks for doing this. How are you doing today?
Great thank you. Today is my only full day in the office this week so spending it with my head down catching up on paperwork. Not the most exciting job in the world but it has to be done!
Can you give us some background information about yourself?
I’m originally from Nottinghamshire and moved to London after completing my degree in child psychology. I began working for a children’s charity coordinating services for children with complex needs before moving into management within Children Centres. I really enjoyed this line of work but had always had an interest in the world or dating and relationships and was looking for ways to move into the industry in a professional manner.
How did the idea for Mutual Attraction come about?
I was with a good friend of mine who had used a very high end Introduction Agency, he paid approximately £15,000 for the service and was terribly disappointed. Not only did they not put forward any suitable matches they send through the exact opposite as to what he was looking for. I already ran an online dating site at this point but had wanted to move into a more personal service. The seed was planted and developed from there.
Tell me about the early days, what was the hardest part of starting the business?
In all my previous 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.
What is Mutual Attraction? And what are you trying to solve with it?
Mutual Attraction is a personal matchmaking service for busy professionals in the City. The service is aimed at singles looking to meet like minded people and who want to find their life partner. London is a great City to live and work and although meeting people isn’t hard in itself, meeting people who you want to date is a different ball game altogether! We are here to take the hard work and guesswork out of dating and make personal introductions.
How have you been able to fund it so far?
I was fortunate to have a small amount of money to invest in the company without which I would have had to get a bank loan. Prioritise what you really need – for us it was a good quality website and PR, the rest went on a back burner until we started to have money come in. Write a list of ‘essentials’ and ‘desirables’.
What advices would you give to entrepreneurs looking to raise funds for their startups?
Make use of all the resources around you such as friends and family. Ask them to help out using their skills where possible such as accounting, web design or just general business advice – it’s amazing what help they can be and what people are willing to do for you with the promise of a glass of wine at the end!
About the first few months, how excited were you, tell us about how those months felt, what happened?
I was definitely not excited although I portrayed that image to those around me, in fact I was petrified! I had gone from a well paid job to not knowing when I would be able to pay myself – it’s not a good feeling. I also felt huge amounts of pressure, with the company being in the dating industry I felt people might be thinking it was just a bit of fun for me and not take it, or me, seriously. The biggest moment for me was when we launched our website and then the panic of….what next?! It can be hard to get the ball rolling in a service based industry but I found that once I had had one enquiry, more were slowly tricking through and it has gradually gained pace.
How did you initially get traction?
It was tough, I made use of the network I already had and offered the service at a very minimal cost which allowed me to tweak as I went along. Interestingly enough some things I had been certain would work before I set up Mutual Attraction were scraped when I started doing them in practise.
What are the most crucial things that you have done to grow your business?
Investing in PR and building my network within the profession. We have not had one client who had stumbled across us via Goggle instead it has been through picking up a magazine or paper and reading about us. Often people haven’t even considered using a matchmaker and when they read about us a little light goes on in their brain and they make contact.
I have also worked hard to connect with people in my industry including other dating agencies and matchmaking services, date coaches, online dating websites and event companies. This has provided an invaluable source of support and joint working.
What would you say has been the highlight of your entrepreneurial journey so far?
I have 2 highlights, one was when we broke even in less than a year and the second was when our first couple got engaged – amazing!
What should we be expecting from yourself and the Mutual Attraction team for 2013?
This year is all about growing, developing and tune fining our service. We are growing in number of clients and want to really expand our network of professionals that we are attracting. We will be continuing our PR drive and making Mutual Attraction a viable alternative to online dating for London professionals.
Lastly, what three pieces of advice would you offer entrepreneurs starting out today?
1) Keep costs/overheads as low as possible – do you really need an office or that fancy printer?
2) Enjoy what you do but don’t feel you should be working 24/7 contrary to what people might say as it’s not effective. Prioritise what’s important for your business, for example I cut out hours of social media, I still do it but for one hour a week.
3) Read the 4 hour working week by Tim Ferris – it changed the way I work and thought about my company.
On Saturday 9th March we will be hosting, alongside Brightside, ‘Get Up Start Up‘ where you will be able to apply and be approved for a Startup loan of between £2,500 & £10,000 to help you get your business started!