According to a recent study by U.S. scientists at the University of Rochester, online dating has become the second most common way for couples to meet in the U.S. Only meeting through mutual friends is more popular. FT Magazine reported that 75 million people and counting have used Match.com since it was founded and in July 2011, this site alone had 1.78 million paid subscribers. These staggering statistics show a shift in the world of romantic relationships; this is a new trend that is here to stay and one that many people are more inclined to try. However, how can singles navigate their way through the unchartered territory of online dating that is so different from traditional dating without a guide? This is where Laurie Davis, founder of eFlirt Expert, comes in.
eFlirt Expert is an online dating consultancy launched by Davis in 2009, during a time when people didn’t even know these types of services were available. Since the company’s inception, Davis has used her marketing expertise and her skills in the world of technological interactions to help singles find love electronically. Davis, along with her “certified eFlirters,” offers one-on-one services including guidance in online profile writing, tips on electronic flirting, help with how to utilize new technology and even assistance with interactions outside of the tech world.
I had the opportunity to talk to Davis about her company’s startup story, her tips for entrepreneurs just getting started and even a few hints for online daters. Here is what she had to say:
Renegade Chicks (Khloe Westmore): Let’s start from the beginning. In reading your feature in YFS Magazine it looks you started your career at a very young age. It sounds like you left college to start your career in marketing. How did that come about?
eFlirt Expert (Laurie Davis): I went to Berklee College of Music and studied psychology with a minor in music, but I just could never find what I thought was the right fit to spend 4 years studying towards. How do you know before you actually work in the field if you love it? So I decided why not just start working. I always had great business experience very young. When I was 18, I was the director of operations for a startup company, and then I was an event planner for weddings. I was doing a lot of different things very young. Once I stopped going to school, I got a position in marketing where I was an associate producer at a digital marketing firm. I worked with Fortune 500 companies and some smaller companies doing marketing campaigns.
Khloe: Take us from your marketing career to your position as entrepreneur and founder of your own company, eFlirt Expert. How did you get to where you are today?
Laurie: During the recession, I was a contractor and I had started working with some of my own clients. My biggest client at the time was invested with Bernie Madoff. I lost that contract, and I knew that I would lose others too. So I started brainstorming other things I could do with all the marketing experience I had. I was running out of time and money when one of my friends called me to tell me that he was moving in with his girlfriend. Then I realized that I had helped him meet her on match.com and that I helped another friend meet her boyfriend on eHarmony. I had even helped yet another friend get laid on Plenty of Fish. [laughs] I was also an early adopter of online dating back in 2000, and I developed my own set of rules and structure because that was before there were laws about what to do and what not to do. I was just helping my friends do the same thing and thought that other people might need help as well. I noticed that online dating was a lot like marketing. All of the skills that I had been building in my previous jobs really applied to this concept. So that is when I decided on the idea for my company. I started the business with $50, a Twitter account, and a couple of testimonials, we got our first few clients, and two months later, we were in the Washington Post, and the Boston Globe. Now we’ve been in over 200 international media outlets, and I have a small staff of certified e-Flirters that also help people one-on-one with their dating lives.
Khloe: You just mentioned that you started your company with only $50 and a Twitter account in a relatively short period of time. What were some of the initial steps you took during those 48 hours when you decided to turn your idea into a business?
Laurie: I first sat down and started brainstorming. I came up with the idea of helping people with their profiles and a few names for the business, including eFlirtExpert. Then I went home and wrote copy for the website. I went on GoDaddy, got a template website, designed and priced the packages, and when I was done, I made the website live. Next, I joined Twitter and Facebook as a brand page and started putting the brand out. I tweeted a new tip each day, and I figured if people could receive tangible advice in 140 characters, then they could understand where I was coming from and that the experience I had was sound. I really started to develop a community and a rapport. I also got a few interns to run around New York City with flyers, and put them in coffee shops, post them on the subway and all kinds of true guerilla marketing. We even posted ads on Craigslist which is how we got our first few clients and how the Washington Post found us.
Khloe: What is the best part about owning your own business? The most challenging?
Laurie: The best part about owning your own business is the freedom. I can determine a challenge for online daters and I can solve it by launching a product the very next day. The most challenging thing for me in my personal journey has been that I don’t have a cofounder; I am the sole founder of eFlirtExpert. Even though that’s very exciting because every success is my own, every failure is my own as well. Sometimes you can feel a little lonely and making decisions when you only have the support of yourself can be challenging. You can certainly experience fear, as I have in many circumstances. However, whenever you get through the challenge that you’re having, it’s that much more gratifying, when you know that you did it.
Khloe: What recommendations do you have for women that want to be entrepreneurs?
Laurie: Don’t be afraid to jump. I don’t have a degree. I didn’t have a lot of money. I just did it. Taking action is the most important part of being an entrepreneur. You also need to be passionate. One of my very good friends, Laura Fitton, who is the Inbound Marketing Evangelist for Hubspot, recently posted a video on Mashable, where she says that her biggest tip to a female entrepreneur is to quit your startup. I think that’s the best advice I’ve ever heard because if you’re not passionate about your idea and you can quit it, then it probably is not what you are meant to do. Being an entrepreneur is very emotional. You have to make sure it’s worth it.
True to her brand’s name, Laurie Davis is an “eFlirt Expert,” and a knowledgeable entrepreneur. Her book, Love @ First Click: The Ultimate Guide to Online Dating is being released in February by Atria Books/ Simon & Schuster. Anyone even thinking of dabbling with online dating should preorder this must-have guide. Additionally, Davis stars on a YouTube channel, She’s the CEO, where alongside 4 other successful entrepreneurs, she offers guidance, encouragement and motivation to anyone on the path to “business stardom.” Three years ago, she had a unique idea, fifty dollars, and a Twitter account, and now she has built a mini empire, making her our Renegade Chick of the Week.
Stay tuned for next week’s article, “Navigate Dating in the Digital World: Tips and Tricks,” to learn more tips from Laurie Davis on profile writing, mistakes to avoid, and more!