OPW INTERVIEW -- July 11, 2007 -- Table For Six is expanding to Orange County and Sacramento after ten years of operation in Northern California. The model is simple. Tables of six people, dinner, that’s it. Simple on the surface at least. There’s a lot more going on underneath. I interviewed the founder, Julie Paiva. - Mark Brooks
What will Table for Six do for people?
First of all, we combine being the only full spectrum dating service in the country with a social networking club. To make our members feel comfortable, we create a social community. I believe, when people feel at ease, they appear the most attractive to others. In their comfort zone, their true self emerges, allowing them to meet like-minded people, which leads to longer relationships.
So all of our members are involved in all three departments.
The first is our 3 Men/3 Women dining. Here, we put together three men and three women who are carefully matched. We match according to interest, life style and physical characteristics. Each of our five clubs sits more than 15 tables a week.
Secondly, we provide our members an adventure department. These groups go out and enjoy sporting events, wine tasting, hiking, white river rafting trips, even trips to Vegas. Cooking classes are popular. In another arena, we work with volunteer activities. For example, more than 60 of our members built a Habitat for Humanity house. Community activities score with our members because they meet other like-minded members who give their time and talent. We offer three of these activities each week for each club.
Thirdly, there’s our Just for Two department, our one on one matching. Each member gets 12 matches per membership year. Our staff is out there in the field with our members before we match them for one on one, so we really get to know them. We learn about their sense of humor, what they do for fun, and what their values are. By the time we match them, we’re more likely to have a successful match.
By creating this community for members, the average member is meeting about 50 new singles every month. More importantly, they’re able to really get to know them by seeing them in real life. Almost as important as matching, they make friends. And friends make happy lives and happy lives make happy relationships.
What’s the founding story? How did you start the company Julie?
I was the West Coast Director of Barbizon, a modeling school and agency. And I was also a dating and relationship coach. Once I helped them get rid of the barriers keeping them from connecting with others, then I wanted to refer them somewhere where they could start meeting people. So I went out and I visited personally, posing as a prospect to companies like Great Expectations, for example. I didn’t feel comfortable referring my members to these agencies. I was looking for something that would help them learn to get past the first superficial image of an individual. The concept of Table for Six resonated for me.
So I gave up a six figure income and risked everything to start Table for Six. I had a 5-year-old daughter at the time and a husband who thought I was crazy. But I just felt a compelling need. There was nothing that could stop me. So we find we’re able to serve and solve all of our member’s social needs from finding someone to fall in love with, to helping them make great friendships to leading them to community. So we’re dealing with the entire person.
What does it cost to join the Table for Six community?
It depends on the different locations. Our prices range from $2,495 to $2,995 for a one year membership.
Did the matchmaking industry go through a slight slump in the last several years?
We never personally experienced a slump because we always were a very social activities, social community based company. People were attracted to the whole Table for Six concept.
So how has business been in the last year for the industry and for Table for Six?
For Table for Six, we’ve seen an enormous increase in memberships. I think that’s because people are disenchanted with Internet dating sites and that they’re look for an opportunity to meet real people. I believe loneliness is the number one disease in America. One of my driving forces is we’re helping people have real connections. People develop a lot of social self-confidence. Often, they are successful in their business life, however, in their personal lives they need coaching and direction. All of our members have at least three membership directors for them to work with per club.
How has business been overall, the actual industry?
I think the industry has picked up because people are getting a little bit bored perhaps with Internet dating sites. They want to meet people who are who they say they are. I think, especially for women, there’s definitely more safety in an on the ground dating service then there is on the Internet.
What do you think of Internet dating?
I think that Internet dating will always have a place. I think that they’re very attractive to men because they’re able to scroll through and look at all of these pictures of women. Men are very visual. For women, it could become a fun hobby to just scroll through. It’s so inexpensive and I think for a lot of people its just sheer entertainment value. But I think people are turning to on- the-ground dating services because they want to have more one on one contact. Often, they need coaching and direction and they want to meet more quality people.
How do you currently work with Internet dating sites?
How would you like to? How do you think the industry could?
Certainly we’ve been contacted by a couple of different Internet dating sites. They wanted us to do their events program and possibly their dining program. We have talked with several of them. They could have an opportunity to be unique within their own industry and offer something specialized. So that can be a really nice marriage for us as well as, of course, it’s an opportunity to develop another lead source for us through their database.