Back to the café

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Click photo to download. Caption: Nancy Slotnick. Credit: Courtesy Nancy Slotnick.

For all its benefits, the Internet can sometimes get in the way. This is perhaps most evident in the arena of relationships, where Jews spend hours each day “friending” others on Facebook or browsing for singles on JDate—in both cases, interacting with people they have never met and failing to make real-life connections.

Nancy Slotnick, an expert in dealing with relationships for most of her life, says she has the antidote.

This past summer, the dating and life coach launched Matchmaker Café, a Facebook app that combines the open platform of the Internet with the more intimate elements of old-fashioned dating to bring people together—in a way that encourages them to stay together.

“I’m a natural connector,” Slotnick tells JointMedia News Service, “and I felt like I wanted a way to make introductions using the efficiency of technology coupled with all of the advantages of a real-life social network.”

Matchmaker Café (apps.facebook.com/matchmakercafe/)—formed from Slotnick’s personal network of eligible singles—allows users connect with each other on Facebook without being Facebook friends first. The process is meant to be as discreet as possible: last names of users aren’t revealed, and no activity shows up on your Facebook “wall” or “news feed.” Users simply click “find matches” and click “allow” if they want to meet people in Slotnick’s network, and are eligible for 10 new matches at a time.

Slotnick, 45, says that because social media sites like Facebook have become “so pervasive” and allow users such easy access to information of friends—and friends of friends—it is now “easier than ever” to meet. Even so, she says fewer couples are able to make it to marriage and beyond, and Matchmaker Café “serves as the facilitator” of that purpose.

The café concept isn’t anything new to this Boston native. After graduating from Harvard University with a degree in psychological anthropology during the 1990s, Slotnick created Drip Café. The popular dating service had singles peruse each other’s profiles in large three-ring binders, and then Slotnick’s service set them up with the singles they chose (profiles later went online, but meetings between singles were arranged in actual cafes). The program was so successful that it quickly spread from New York to bars and restaurants across the country, making hundreds of matches before online dating even existed.

As Slotnick herself was single when she launched Drip Café, she not only got to meet a good number of eligible men, but she was also able to observe singles in their natural element.

“It was great fun,” she recalls. “When I finally met my match [in 2001], I had learned a lot from observing our customers at Drip.”

Realizing the potential of the Internet, Slotnick in 2003 rolled out Cablight (www.cablight.com), a Web-based program that allowed singles to show when they were truly available (much like a cab reveals its availability to passengers with a rooftop lamp). This program proved so popular that it spawned not only a successful book and a set of DVDs, but also a syndicated radio show, and scored Slotnick spots on shows like Oprah and Today.

Ever ahead of the Cupid curve, the Slotnick has already begun to respond to the Web-based backlash. “Everybody wants to use Facebook for dating,” she observes, “but there hasn’t proven to be a convenient and socially acceptable way to do that.”

In conversations with her hundreds of clients, Slotnick realized that despite all the online options available to them, most people still meet their mates through real-world friends. As many of those actual friends are often busy with other issues, however, many are left looking for love on the Internet.

Having had success with both online and off-line dating startups, Slotnick decided to put her years of experience to work to bring these two worlds together, through Matchmaker Café. “I have always been interested in trying to fuse a hybrid between the real-world meeting and the online technology that can make that meeting happen more efficiently,” she explains. 

Slotnick said she noticed that many of her clients were eligible and even available, but did not have the wherewithal to do what they needed in order to get what they wanted. “I saw firsthand the way that singles need a push in the right direction and a lot of handholding in the dating process,” Slotnick recalls, “even when they have lots of choices at their fingertips.”

Describing herself as “shy,” Slotnick (now happily married) says her matchmaking work came out of self-interest.

“All of my strategies were developed by my attempts at figuring out how to attract men and specifically how to attract the right ones,” she explains. “I went through plenty of time and heartache, so I tell clients that I can save them on time and heartache.”

In addition to the new café, Slotnick also offers private coaching through her Most Eligible Program (MEP). “It is for people I feel are eligible and have potential for success in dating,” she explains, noting that most of her MEP clients are people who are “successful in every other area of life, but just need help to focus on their love life.”

While she knows the Jewish community best, Slotnick does not discriminate when it comes to matters of the heart. “I am Jewish and I guess I know a lot of people in the Jewish community,” she reasons, “but I work with people in all different religions.”

Slotnick is planning some VIP services for the members of Matchmaker Café, including a new set of intimate, invitation-only events such as home-based dinner parties. “In this way, I can zero in on introducing more specific demographics and have dinners geared just to a Jewish or…an older demographic.”

By combining real-world experience with virtual savvy, Slotnick is prepared to help other people avoid what she calls the “trial and error” she experienced while learning how to date.

“I really want to help people in that situation because, for most people, finding love is their #1 priority, yet they are so scared to reach out,” she says. “Matchmaker Café aims to make it one step easier.”

Posted on March 11, 2012 and filed under Features, Singles, U.S..