The unity and support of a community can make a huge difference to mental wellbeing. By being part of a supportive network, women can find themselves surrounded by experts who can support them with all aspects of their business and help ease the loneliness that they would otherwise feel. I talk to Samantha Rowland-Jones and Shelley Lawlor, Matchmakers at Ignite Dating, about the importance of community, how brands should empower women and support modern sisterhood in business.
The dating sector is a very female-heavy industry. What are the key features of the dating sector when it comes to women?
Matchmaking is one of those careers that attract the attention of women worldwide. Thanks in no small part to films and television programmes, it is often seen as glamourous, quick to achieve success in and relatively simple to do – but that could not be further from the truth.
To be a successful matchmaker you need to have strong emotional intelligence and a sixth sense when it comes to people – a skill that you are usually born with and not something that can be taught or learnt. Matchmakers can use this intuition to quickly decide if two people are likely to work well together, saving their clients time, effort and awkward dates with people who simply are not right for them.
Why do you think sisterhood and community are so important now?
Working in a very female-heavy industry, sisterhood and community are key when it comes to building a business in the dating sector. Throughout her years working in the industry, our Managing Director and Founder, Michelle Begy, has formed fundamental relationships and a close-knit community that supports each other with all aspects of growing a business in the dating industry, from collaboration on the services offered to swapping skillsets to support one another.
This sense of community is something that we strive for across all areas of the Ignite Dating brand and the reason why we work so hard to give women an opportunity that leaves them feeling empowered and confident to make big decisions in their personal and professional lives.
In terms of mental health, why do you think it is so important to be part of a supportive community?
Usually, people do not just finish their education and start a business straight away, instead they may have a career where they are surrounded by colleagues and mentors before they make the decision to go it alone. However, this shift in gears can result in a very isolating experience for new business owners. After all, they may have been used to a 9-5 job where they were surrounded by colleagues every day and soon find themselves with no set working hours and nobody to bounce ideas around with.
This is where the unity and support of a community can make a huge difference to their mental wellbeing. By being part of a supportive network, they will often find themselves surrounded by experts who can support them with all aspects of their business and help ease the loneliness that they would otherwise feel. We all know that when we feel better about ourselves in our personal lives that we shine in our professional lives, by building each other up we are giving everybody the best chance of success in their new ventures.
Does your brand empower women? How?
At Ignite Dating, we empower women in their professional life through our franchisee network as one of our Ignite Dating Angels. We offer women a business venture that is truly their own, allowing them to fit work seamlessly around their personal life to give them time to focus on their children or give them a more balanced work and social life – something that can prove quite difficult when employed. We offer flexibility and support for our franchisees, helping them to build up their business with expertise, knowledge and support every step of the way.
We also empower women in their personal life by supporting them in their dating journey and working with them to truly understand what they are looking for in order to introduce them to potential introductions and create a dating journey that leaves them feeling confident, energised and safe.
Who are Ignite Dating Angels? Can you describe how you see that person?
Ignite Dating Angels are the Ignite Dating franchise matchmakers, like ourselves, that help busy professionals across the UK find their life partner. While we are all different people with different backgrounds and life experiences, due to the nature of the job the opportunity does attract a certain type of person.
Our matchmakers are naturally warm and engaging and have a real desire to make a difference to people’s lives and help them find success in love. To be a successful matchmaker, you need to be empathetic and have strong emotional intelligence and intuition when it comes to people and a strong appetite to succeed.
Matchmaking is not quite how it appears in the media. It is a very labour-intensive and emotional career but also one that is very rewarding. You are helping people with one of the most personal aspects of their lives and their future happiness is in your hands – that is a very big responsibility to have.
Can you please share some of your achievements from your franchisee network experience?
Starting a franchise with Ignite Dating has given us the flexibility to build a successful business around our families and other commitments. We no longer need to compromise our time and miss out on things but instead enjoy a healthier work-life balance that fits in with our lives.
With informative training and a forum to share ideas and experiences, we have been able to learn new skills and grow our business, despite the ongoing restrictions in place due to the pandemic. Over the last year, we have taken on a huge influx of new clients and helped them achieve love at a time when most people believed that the traditional dating scene was over – that in itself is a huge achievement and something that we are continuing to build on.
What do you recommend to other businesses to create a sense of community among women?
Not every day, or even week, in the office is going to be a good one but with a great leader, innovative strategies and a strong sense of community, team morale can be boosted; keeping employees connected, focused and healthy – no matter what life throws at them.
If you lead with compassion, have a strong team environment, encourage interaction outside the office and promote a healthy work-life balance you will build strong foundations for success. Not only will your employees be in a good mindset to achieve the best for themselves, but that success will roll into the business and you will have a loyal and motivated workforce to help you achieve those shared goals.
How do you see women’s sisterhood in modern business, ideally?
Even in these modern times, if you attend a business networking event you will most likely find that most of the room are men and with only 1 in 3 UK entrepreneurs being female it is easy to see why. This gender gap is equivalent to 1.1 million missing businesses, highlighting the importance in increasing the opportunities for women to be able to start their own businesses.
In a world that is massively dominated by males, sisterhood and collaboration has never been more important in modern business. Even though female entrepreneurship has increased a little in recent years, it is still nowhere near the male equivalent and we need to do more to encourage women to take that leap of faith and support them in their endeavours.
In the last few years there have been numerous advancements in women’s-only networking events, groups and associations focused on building up female empowerment withing their specific industries and collaboration between female business owners in the same industries to help them all achieve their goals. By continuing to invest time and effort into things like this, we can build a strong sisterhood for female entrepreneurs worldwide and give them the tools and expertise to grow their business and make it a huge success.
Since the pandemic, how has the modern dating world changed?
Since the pandemic started last year, we have all experienced a shift in perception and a gratitude for the things that are really important to us. The restrictions on our everyday lives has brought with it a new-found appreciation for love and companionship, and as a result the dating industry has seen a huge influx of people signing up to introduction agencies in a bid to move away from the labour-intensive swipe right lottery in favour of a more traditional approach of quality introductions over quantity.
With the ongoing restrictions, the dating journey has also changed. Over the last year we have seen some creative ways to bring the fun and excitement back to dating – from virtual quizzes and escape rooms to cooking over Skype and Netflix Party movie nights – there are now a number of apps and platforms to allow people to stay connected. This is something that we expect to continue long after the pandemic is over as a way for couples to stay in touch on the days that they cannot be together in person. We also believe this new appreciation for the little things in life is likely to see couples choosing alternative dates like going for a walk or bike ride, instead of heading straight out for a drink and dinner date like they may have done in the past.
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