Outlook 2023: Love brokers in Schenectady cater to ‘micropolitan’ romantics

Two women standing in front of a wall with kiss lip designs
Becky Daniels, left, and Gabby Fisher, cofounders of Metropolitan Matchmakers, pose for a photo in their Schenectady office
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SCHENECTADY – Two Capital Region entrepreneurs have found their match.

A matchmaking match, that is.

Becky Daniels and Gabby Fisher set out to fill a void in the Capital Region’s romance scene when they launched their Capital Heart Connection service two years ago. But it didn’t happen all at once.

“We weren’t super close until we really started the business,” said Daniels, who met Fisher through networking. “And that actually gave us a little bit of space to really have very good and deep and in-depth discussions on how we want to do this without feeling like we had to tiptoe around each other.”

The business has since been rebranded as Micropolitan Matchmakers to reflect their long-term ambitions outside the region. It incorporates events, personally tailored dates and a romance-themed podcast geared toward local audiences struggling with singlehood.

The two are working with 12 paid clients and roughly 20 business partners for free singles events. More than 70 people attended the first event at Wolf Hollow Brewing Company in Glenville two years ago, and “hundreds” more have since shown interest.

“As business owners we have an authentic internet personality that I think gets a very clear message sent through our social media and our website messaging,” said Fisher. “I think we’ve created this community that kind of sets the tone before people even come to a singles event.”

Entering the love industry (yes, that’s a real thing in 2023) was a first for marketing professionals Daniels, 36, and Fisher, 30, who have separately worked for a number of entities including Discover Schenectady and the Upstate Alliance for the Creative Economy.

Fisher operates her own consulting firm and a travel-marketing startup, while Daniels serves as a full-time community outreach director for Broadview Federal Credit Union. They both live in the Schenectady.

Stepping out of her professional realm, Daniels recalled feeling embarrassed after divulging personal details about her dating life to a local newspaper at one of the group’s first events.

“I was like, ‘What are people gonna think of me?’ ” said the group’s self-titled chief romance officer. “No, this is actually what we’re doing and why there’s a market for our business, because it’s something that not a lot of people are talking about. And folks are craving that connection.”

Both Daniels and Fisher are single, a status they believe helps them relate to customers. Additionally, focusing on the business has limited their free time.

Clients are sometimes skeptical of the bachelorettes.

“We’re looking for that really special, wonderful, connected relationship,” said Daniels. “We’re not just looking to get off the dating apps, and that’s really how we want our clients to approach this, too.”

“It’s not necessarily that we’ve been single on purpose,” said Fisher. “I think we’ve just been so focused on building this business and our mission of making dating a fun thing to do again after so many people are so burned out from the apps and feel like they’re dating in the same circles.”

More than half of all 20-plus-year-old Americans across the nation’s 100 largest cities are single — a slight majority being women, according to the U.S. Census Bureau. What’s more, the average age of first marriage has been consistently inching up each decade since 1970.

Researchers have tied the phenomenon to breaches in tradition, economic factors and opportunities, and the increasing appeal of nonromantic interests such as pets and travel. At the same time, a 2021 study from the University at Albany and Rutgers University found that adults between the ages of 18 and 23 are having less casual sex.

It’s complicated, but there’s still a demand for dating. As of January last year, online dating application Bumble reported a three-year increase of 96% usership, while Hinge saw a spike of 344%.

“I do feel like I’ve made some decent connections that way, but … especially in the pandemic of solely using dating apps to meet people, I was just so ready to be thrown into a social environment,” said Fisher. “Our events are so well curated to help that person feeling that dating-app fatigue to kind of put themselves out there, step outside of their comfort zone and start meeting singles in real life.”

Social gatherings vary in focus, location and venues, ranging from cafes to bars to comedy shows. Singles can for love or just make new pals, Fisher said.

Daniels often sees “super successful” people treat dating the way they do their careers: Use as many dating apps and try to have as many dates as possible. Many past clients are thinking about long-term commitments such as marriage before they even go on a date.

That’s a mistake, she says.

“We all know that there’s a little more magic in dating than that,” said Daniels. “That approach to dating has left people super exhausted from it, because they’re putting all of this energy in and then not really showing up as their whole true selves on a date.”

The love gurus first consult clients one on one, find at least five connections through their 200-plus-user database, then narrow a background-backed top match before setting up a date. If all goes well, mission success — and if not, they’ll have more choices in the pipeline.

What’s the price of love? Packages start as low as $1,500.

Daniels said the concept has some similarities to the international It’s Just Lunch dating service, a 32-year-old matchmaking service for busy professionals. She considers competitors “not quite as curated and personal as we are,” and assesses clients’ negative experiences elsewhere as a jumping-off point for growth.

The New York City-based Global Love Institute members (yes, that’s also real) launched the personal service last year after completing a course in matchmaking. Clients at the time asked them to start the service after about a year of hosting events, virtual dating initiatives and offering “singles of the week” promotions on social media.

Micropolitan Matchmakers opened consulting services out of the woman-centered Palette Community cafe and coworking space on State Street in Schenectady.

“We’ve been having meetings with our clients in coffee shops and trying to meet folks where they are,” Daniels said. “But really the privacy of a space to really feel comfortable, so that we can dig in and ask those harder questions to make sure we’re getting a deep good look at what our clients are looking for, what their dating history is” will be a step forward for the business, she said.

Gabby Fisher
COMPANY: Micropolitan Matchmakers
TITLE: Cofounder and chief hype officer
EDUCATION: University of Vermont
BEST LESSON IN BUSINESS: “You have to be willing to accept that risk and realize that if you do things for the right reasons, lift others up along the way, and stay true to who you are, the risk is going to reap a reward.”
WORDS TO LIVE BY: “Bite off more than you can chew, then figure out how to chew later.” — Unknown

Becky Daniels
COMPANY: Micropolitan Matchmakers
TITLE: Cofounder and chief romance officer
EDUCATION: Syracuse University
BEST LESSON IN BUSINESS: “Don’t be afraid to fail or change course. Our business has evolved so much in the last two years and, in order to grow, we’re going to need to continue that evolution.”
WORDS TO LIVE BY: “It’s important to be willing to make mistakes. The worst thing that can happen is you become memorable.” — Sara Blakely, founder of Spanx

More Outlook 2023: Looking Ahead – Our annual report on Capital Region business

Categories: Life and Arts, Life and Arts, Outlook 2023

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