Tuesday, October 02, 2001

Cyber Scene Spotlight: Emanuel and the Georgia Peach

The soft afternoon light that streamed into the lobby bar of the Union Square W Hotel softly lit the faces of the few business people meeting for an afternoon coffee or tea on Tuesday, October 2nd. I had the pleasurable experience of chatting with Emanuel Citron of TraditionalMatchmakers.com. This relatively new online service is just one of the newer functionality offering for a traditionally run business in the age old arena of personal matchmaking.

Since the days of Jane Austin and her meddling but delightfully good-hearted heroines, matchmaking that's done well is a personal art. It's something that required the busybody, er, matchmaker, to know enough about two people to place a bet that they might benefit from becoming acquainted. Sometimes this enviable, enjoyable (detestable?) task is left to Aunts who don't have enough going on in their lives to keep them properly occupied.

Emanuel's mother, Beatrice Gruss, founder of Traditional Matchmaker, has taken this to a professional level. Starting her now burgeoning business in 1983 she has built up her business based on the strengths of her personality. To wit, starting in Atlanta, stressing the personal interaction/intervention was precisely what was the lead selling point to local clients. She states, "Making good matches is about understanding people, their priorities, and how they deal with their inner and outer circumstances. Nothing is more important than someone's personal life. Our reward is that what we do really makes a difference."

Starting with a forty-five minute interview with a Personal Matchmaker (PM), each client gets very personalized treatment. Each client is also rigorously screened in a thorough process that includes background checks (including criminal, credit, marital status and occupation checks). After submitting a photograph (required- however you qcontrol distribution) and of course submitting the nominal fee, then you're off to waiting land while your PM finds the perfect mate for you.

This is where Traditional Matchmakers differs from many of the other online and offline services. They carefully consider each match for you, based on knowing the people involved. Their database is not open for clients to peruse, rather, they offer you up to three tailor-made matches per month and your PM is available via e-mail or telephone anytime. The site's design is reminiscent of pop-art-UK style and throughout the site you're reminded you can finish registering at any time.

But since the company's key differentiator is the personal approach, I figured I'd find out a bit more about one of the key people behind the personality-driven matchmaker team. Emanuel has lived in New York City since January 1988 when he returned from a 15-month stint motorcycling throughout Africa and the Middle East.

Try, if you can, to imagine a more exciting time. Imagine motorcycling up the Eastern side of Africa Cape Town to Cairo. The arid air and deeply tanned Emanuel and his two good friends from Penn State found some of the more exciting stops were Cape Town and Harare, Zimbabwe. But the countryside is where the real magic happened-like the amazingly beautiful country of Zimbabwe that is full of outstanding people. The kindness and generosity of these people, who would offer anything-when they had nothing--struck Emanuel. And Exposure to raw nature, the elements and animals was quite humbling and, at times, almost frightening (like when they were surrounded by hyenas while camping in the Kalahari Desert one night).

And some of the most important things he learned from this journey? "Separation from all of the well-intentioned friends, family and other advisors that I had always been previously surrounded by enabled me to become familiar with myself and the way that I make decisions in a way that I never had before. I learned to value perspectives that were very different from my own and to value character in people, no matter how dissimilar its form. I learned that often when people tell you that you cannot do something, it is often because they have thought about doing it themselves but just couldn't take the plunge.

So having completed his studies at Wharton (Magna Cum Laude) and traveled exotic lands extensively, Emanuel got down to business here in the international exotic land of Manhattan where a trip from Battery Park to the Fort Tryon Park can include just as many international experiences as a trip through Africa (or the World for that matter). He worked for a while at The Beacon Group, a private equity/M&A advisory firm.

Then it got to the point where he was at a cross roads and his mother asked him for assistance in bringing her business online.

Already with Traditional Matchmakers business plan as a case study that he presented as part of his entrepreneurial management course-work Emanuel had his new calling. He set to work getting the site ready and establishing the secure database with Faucett New Media, a top-notch 30-person shop in Atlanta. Now Emanuel's new challenge is to break into the New York market. A tough nut to crack in general, the dating and matchmaking world is an even harder one. Between the noise from fly-by-night organizations to ones set up temporarily in a cold suite near the Port Authority Terminal to Learning Annex and other "educational" services to the hyped-up online services to the elite agencies already in existence, Emanuel and this Georgia Peach--Traditional Matchmakers-had their work cut out for them.

Fortunately Emanuel started making inroads the way his mother did-through personal connections and word-of-mouth, which is how they expect this service to grow initially. Of course, some well-placed ads and stories don't hurt either, do they?! ;) What's next for this 28-year old savvy world-traveler? Well, in his time off, he's exploring NYC, reading foreign policy, business biographies or golfing when he's not traveling or mountaineering.

You can find more about this personal service, and perhaps a qualified mate, at: www.traditionalmatchmakers.com. Stay tuned to this space for a special deal for Cyber Scene readers next week.