Tate cashes in on lonely hearts - Jamaican online dating website finds clientele among overworked, urban professionals
Wherever there are busy working people there are bound to be lonely hearts, according to entrepreneur Everton Tate, and he is cashing in.
Tate owns and operates an online dating site called 'Singles Club 876' aimed at finding the perfect match for single Jamaicans. He says that he struck upon the idea for the matchmaking business after a female friend was gypped by a lying cheater.
"About five years ago, a very close friend of mine got involved with the wrong person. When she started doing her checks, she found out that the guy was married. This prompted me to start something, because there are many people like my friend who would want to have a thorough check done," Tate recalls.
Business has been good. So good, the one-time candidate of the Overseas Employment Programme has not answered the many calls to take up jobs in Canada or the United States in five years.
Tate now employs three others in the dating service venture.
He says that he has found a ready market among busy working people, particularly the financial industry, where he says the long hours leave those persons little time to find true love.
"There are a lot of persons in the banking sector who don't get a lot of time to go out. The bank closes after 2 p.m. ... and their work is just beginning at that time. They don't get any time to go out and meet people," said Tate.
"We do the research, we introduce people to each other, and they can't ask for any better," Tate said.
Singles Club 876 is not constrained by geography in terms of clientele. Website testimonials indicate that persons from Canada and the US are paying the US$25-$35 registration fee to find a suitable match.
"We don't limit ourselves to Jamaicans at home since there are so many others abroad. There are many Jamaican women abroad who are looking for Jamaican guys, but they don't have that space where they can search for the right person or have someone do that search for them," Tate said.
It takes an average of two to three weeks for applicants to be matched with their first date. Tate says that it takes that much time to ensure that only genuine people are on board. The service spends a lot of time collecting and double-checking information on those who sign up. Tate says that the amount of detail sought is one sure way of keeping away shysters who are on the prowl.
"We screen all individuals who register with us. We don't just stop at text messages. We actually call them," the entrepreneur said.
"What we have found is that once they realise the amount of detail involved, and the level of checks we are making, then the non-genuine persons start to back away."
Since the launch of the website, the service has signed up more than 500 members, according to Tate. He sees the business venture as one that is growing in popularity among people of all ages. Still, Tate says that he finds that his clientele is mostly on the mature side - meaning late twenties and upwards.
"We cater to mature individuals. You submit the required information along with two recent photos. That information will then go to our database. If, say, a male makes a request, then we go to the female database and search for that type of person. When we locate that person, we make contact and tell them that we have found a match," Tate said.
At the stage of the introduction, only first names are used, along with very basic information so as to protect identity and mitigate bad outcomes. If the first date goes well, more information is supplied based on feedback from both parties.
Tate says that there are many success stories, but only a fraction is shown on the website because of the need for discretion. In addition, many of the persons involved are professionals who would prefer to keep their personal life private.
Gleaner Business checked with some of the persons who have used the service. SC is a government worker in her early twenties who lives and works in an area that offers few opportunities to date.
"It's been lovely," she said. "I've got an opportunity to understand more about male/female relationships and there were some really exciting times. Out of that I've seen some prospects and, yes, there is one that I am going steady with right now," she said with a laugh.
Tracey is a thirty-something realtor who is very particular about the type of man she wants. After rejecting a number of possibilities shown to her, she has been on one date and two singles' events.
"It was a pretty quick turnaround from registration to first date, about two weeks or so. While he wasn't bad, he was not 'the one', so to speak. The events have been great. I met nice people and had some interesting conversations. Yes, there's definitely a market for it, and I am satisfied that they are trying to fill a need," Tracey said.
Tate says that he has invested more than $300,000 so far, plus his time, in the venture. He says that the small investment comes from the fact that the business operates online, and website development and equipment costs were not that onerous.
The 'singles' events' hosted by the company were introduced this year, and come with an all-inclusive charge of $3,000-$4,000 that allows singles to mix and mingle and the "shy guys" even get tips on how to approach a good looking power-dressing female professional.
Tate says that the very first singles' party at Frenchman's Cove in Portland had more than 100 participants. That was followed by a limited-entry affair at Ultra Lounge in Kingston. Another is being planned for persons in western Jamaica, which will be by invitation at the Blue Beat Lounge in Montego Bay.
"People are just happy with what we're doing. We've had great reviews and continue to deliver quality service," Tate said.
Singles Club 876 can be accessed at www.thesinglesclub876.org, as well as social media platforms Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram.