A headhunter for love: NYC matchmaker has you covered
By Kathy Tzilivakis
Following in her Greek grandmother’s footsteps, Maria Avgitidis is taking the age-old art of matchmaking into the 21st century. She uses the Internet, social media and her networking skills to help singles find their perfect match.
A fourth generation matchmaker, Avgitidis says “meddling” comes naturally. She has a “sixth sense” for what has become a lucrative business.
According to Marketdata Enterprises, an independent research company based in Florida, the market is now a $2.1 billion business in the US.
In an interview with The Pappas Post, Avgitidis talks about her decision to become a modern-day “headhunter of the heart”.
How did you get into the matchmaking business?
This is the question of the day, everyday! When people ask me, I always say that I did not pick this. It definitely picked me.
My first job out of college was working at the US Embassy at Athens, and then I came to a corporate job in Manhattan. I thought I would take on an international economy position one day. I have a graduate degree in global affairs in private sector and economics from New York University. So, nothing told me ahead of time that this would happen.
But I’m the person who always been awesome at correspondence with anyone they’ve ever met. In the beginning I was being asked to help someone meet someone to cut a business deal and then one day this transformed into making personal introductions.
And, you know, the thing is – it’s what every matchmaker will tell you – that if you have one success, then everyone else will follow after that.
So, I started building a reputation as the person who meddled into people’s lives and would start setting people up. Of course, it does help that I come from a lineage of matchmakers. My grandmother was a matchmaker. Her grandmother and my great aunt were also matchmakers. It just keeps going. It all starts from Ayvalık in Asia Minor and from there it goes to Kozani and then to Alonissos and then to Athens and now to New York.
That’s kind of how it started. That’s the long story.
The short story is that people just really trust me with their problems and I’m a problem solver.
When did you launch it as a career?
It was in 2009. That’s when I set up Agape Match.
What’s a typical day like?
No day is typical. I usually meet my clients in the evenings because that’s when people get out of work. So most of my day is set with administrative duties like writing an article for my blog or a publication, corresponding with people I have met recently and kind of catching up and making the matches – sending emails to my clients and letting them know that they have a date tomorrow or a week from now.
The evenings are usually reserved for meeting potential matches and clients or going to an event. There has to be a sort of vicariousness for a matchmaker of going out and enjoying life and meeting people as they come- give a shot at fate.
What’s your rolodex like?
My database is filled with hundreds and hundreds of Greeks.
I do matchmaking – actual services – for men. I used to take on women for matchmaking, but unfortunately it became a little bit difficult - expectation-wise. So, now I offer date coaching for women. It’s my specialty. It’s half the price and it has a 100 percent success rate. Women are usually in a relationship either before the 12 weeks are up or within the first three months of completing their sessions.
What’s date coaching?
Not everyone knows how to date or for that matter date properly. Date coaching assesses your relationship history and dating endeavors, and we aim for success. I teach my clients how to become more approachable and clear the obstacles that are denying them a chance at love and a successful relationship.
What sort of men and women come to you? Are they all Greek?
In New York, Agape Match is very popular. CBS ranked us the number one dating service. This gave us an influx. Getting the number one spot, not only through CBS but also by earning the finalist spot for best matchmaker at the iDate [Internet Dating] Awards – we’ve become really popular. So that said, I do work with non-Greeks. They are mostly Caucasian and mostly Christian. If someone Jewish comes in, I tend to refer out to a Jewish matchmaker. My database is mostly comprised of 25-55 years olds, men and women, college educated. My clients are those who are not interested in online dating or just don’t have time to go on bad dates.
When someone comes to you, what’s usually the process?
When they come into the office, they go through a consultation. We don’t take anyone who wants to give us their money. My job is to vet people. When someone comes in for a consultation, we go over their relationship history and their relationship endeavors. If we can help, we will.
Do you send your matches on blind dates?
Yes. The client gets a brief description of the person they are about to go out with. I always suggest that my clients go on a dinner date because I believe there is more commitment to a date than if it a “just drinks” date. If it’s just drinks, you can have one drink and then leave, but you can’t really meet someone that way. Sit down. Chat for a while.
Any interesting stories to tell?
The best stories, in my opinion, are when someone gets married or calls me gushing to tell me they’re falling in love. That’s always a great day. At one of the weddings of my clients last year, I was the Maid of Honor.
Interesting stories? I have several, mostly made up of gold diggers or womanizers who happened to stumble into my office with a really different expectation of what I did for a living. Stop watching TV!
Any crazy stories?
I think the craziest stories are about my dating life. I’m currently single.
When I tell a guy what I do for a living, sometimes I have to lie if I like the guy. This is because when I tell them what I do, they might ask me if I’m going to set them up with someone. So, even if they did like me, now I’ve peeked their interested about all the wonderful women I could potentially introduce them to.
How do people usually react when you tell them you’re a matchmaker?
My friends - those who knew me before I became a matchmaker – are not surprised. If anyone was going to do this, it was going to be me. They know how social and obnoxious I can be.
When it comes to new people I meet, there are two reactions. Some say, “Oh my God! Are you serious?!” Others immediately inform me that they are not single. Nobody asked!
The funniest reaction is when I meet married women who tell me that they wish they had met me years ago.
How did your parents react?
My mother was witness to the whole natural progression, but I was kind of scared to tell my dad. In the beginning, I told him I started my own company and it has to do with going out. That’s what I told him. I think it was 10 months later when he asked me what I was really doing and whether I needed some money. This is when I told him what I did. He had a cool reaction to it.
The first time he came to my office – it was on the day of my Masters graduation – he sat behind my desk and got a little emotional. I think this is when he realized that this is real- that I’m an entrepreneur with a Masters degree. He was just so proud of me. Both my parents are of course, but you know- my dad is a tough Greek father.
As for my mom, she actually works for me as a consultant sometimes. Agape Match is expanding in the next couple of months internationally, so her help in our brand strategy is oh so helpful.
Can you tell me about that?
All I can say is that we are expanding internationally. Stay tuned!
Have you been offered a show?
Yes. I’ve received pitches every week for two years now. All of the shows I’ve heard have to do with reality TV which is something I’m not interested in. I wouldn’t mind a dating show, but reality TV? I have Greek parents, and I’m involved in the Greek community. I am so scared of embarrassing my parents.
Why do you think matchmaking has become so popular?
I think it’s because online dating has become really popular – it has exploded. The more popular online dating becomes the less people in executive or managerial positions want to be seen on online dating sites because they don’t want to be seen among their employees who might also be on the same dating site. There is also a privacy issue for many people.
Another reason matchmaking has become popular is probably due to the recession. I think it has made us more comfortable with headhunters and when someone gets used to that, it’s very easy to make the turn to a headhunter for love – which is what essentially a matchmaker is. These people are my favorite clients. I just love it when someone else meddles in his or her life. When I get those clients, I am the happiest because they really let me do my job the right way. They don’t have this crazy list of deal breakers and standards.
More information about Agape Match can be found by visiting http://agapematch.com.