Tired of dating sites and with a knack for successfully matching friends, Mairead Loughman, Founder of A Table for Six, made the jump from finance into the world of professional matchmaking.
With a recent UK launch under her belt, and plans for a small screen debut, Mairead gives us an insiders view into the business of love.
What time do you usually get up and how do you start your day?
I am an early bird! I wake at 6:30am and really enjoy the calm before the crazy day starts. I read the papers before heading for a quick walk. Two mornings a week I meet with two other female entrepreneurs at 8am to discuss our business goals and strategies. Each morning, the team meets for a 10 minute huddle to make sure everyone knows what is happening throughout the business.
Take us on a jaunt through your career to date…
I did a four year business degree in Retail and Services Management in DIT Aungier St.
After college I worked as a Qualified Financial Advisor for six years in Cornmarket, where myself and another lady, who is still one of my best friends today, were the first two female advisors out of over 100 men. I also worked with the Irish Medical Organisation advising doctors on their finances.
Finance was a difficult sector during the downturn so I changed industry and worked as General Manager for one of the largest lifestyle stores in the midlands.
Finally, I managed one of Ireland’s largest online event management companies before eventually taking the jump to concentrate full time on my dream of being a Matchmaker.
I had been on disaster dates, catfished, ghosted, had my iphone stolen on a date and thought to myself – dating should be fun!
Where did the idea for A Table for Six come from? What was your own dating experience up to that point?
I was single myself and trying to be pro-active in meeting someone special. It was the new year so I joined Tinder, POF, Elitesingles, The Farmers Journal etc. and I realised how difficult it was to meet like-minded, ambitious men. I had been on disaster dates, catfished, ghosted, had my iphone stolen on a date and thought to myself – dating should be fun!
I had been successfully setting up my friends, family and colleagues on dates for years and it was something I really enjoyed. People were regularly asking me did I know anyone single for their friends, sisters etc., so I decided to start doing one-to-one Matchmaking and helping other fabulous women and men to meet their someone special.
While doing one-to-one consultations with my wonderful clients, I found the main reason most of them were single is that they simply did not get to meet new people outside their own social circle. Many had busy careers, were commuting, or simply disliked the idea of internet dating.
A Table for Six sends three single ladies and three single men on group dinner dates all over Ireland
I wanted to create a dating event that was fun, civilised and safe, where people could comfortably attend alone or with friends and so I came up with, A Table for Six.
A Table for Six sends three single ladies and three single men on group dinner dates all over Ireland and recently, the U.K. Tables are matched based on age, location, occupation, background, whether or not they wish to have children etc.
I launched the website on the Friday evening of the May bank holiday weekend, and by the Tuesday morning we had been featured on The Irish Independent, interviewed by Ryan Tubridy on his radio show, invited to be interviewed by Eoghan McDermott on 2FM and invited to do A Table for Six live on “Saturday Night with Miriam O’Callaghan” as well as 1000’s of bookings and inquiries from all over Ireland. It was an instant success!
What is the main age group of your clients? A common complaint for matchmaking agencies in Ireland is the skew of women to men – is it more difficult to get men involved?
28-45 is our most popular age group but we cater for people aged 20-70.
When we started A Table for Six we had a lot of enquiries from men, however, we were inundated with inquiries from women with over 5,000 inquiries within 3 weeks of appearing on RTE’s Saturday Night with Miriam! I feel this was because it is such a safe and female friendly way for ladies to date alone.
Guys feel comfortable heading for a drink alone on a Saturday night however most women wouldn’t dream of it. I also felt a lot of guys were nervous that there would be rivalry from the other guys but that has never been the case.
Career ladies are often so strong in their careers but don’t know where they are going wrong with dating
The guys tend to get on like a house on fire and we are delighted to say that there have been loads of bromances started at A Table for Six too!
With our one-to-one matchmaking service, we tend to get slightly more men than ladies as it is 100% confidential. I personally meet with everyone for the one to one consultations all over Ireland, before arranging all of your dates for you.
I also do consultations for people that may be new to dating or just don’t know what they are doing wrong, especially career ladies as they are often so strong in their careers but don’t know where they are going wrong with dating.
Tell us about the Love Letters initiative..
There was nowhere on the internet solely dedicated to people seeking a long term relationship, and online tends to be so impersonal, so we came up with Love Letters!
You post a small bio on our site (there are no photos) and people can either write to the person for free directly through our site or write a handwritten letter and send it to our office. We then forward you on your Love Letters in discreet packaging. It is just so beautiful to see the handwritten letters arriving each day and some people put so much effort in to having lovely stationery and handwriting.
Start today, with what you have now. You might surprise yourself with what you can achieve.
What has been the biggest learning curve for you in starting your own business? What advice would you give to others starting on the same path?
I had only managed large companies in the past, with dedicated accounts departments, admin, IT depts etc. It was difficult at the start being completely on my own 24/7, especially with the volume of enquiries I was receiving daily, and I was working really long hours.
I eventually had to take the phone number off the website for a few weeks which went against all business thinking but it was the only way I could manage as the phone did not stop ringing day and night.
My advice –
- Time Management – Work smart, not hard, otherwise you will not get the important tasks done and will waste your time on non important tasks.
- Set clear goals – What is not measured, does not get done. No matter how passionate you are about your business, if you are not seeing the rewards, you will lose interest quickly.
- Automation – With so many inquiries, I had to make my website as automated as possible and there is great software available to help you follow up with clients.
- Hire Help! – The hardest yet best decision I have made was to hire my right hand women, Holly. She is brilliant and my business would not be able to grow if it wasn’t for her.
- Take quality time off, away from your business, guilt free!
DO IT! – We tend to have so many great ideas before we actually start our first business. Start today, with what you have now. I had never built a website or done graphic design so I taught myself; you might surprise yourself with what you can achieve.
How do you motivate yourself on days when your energy levels are lower?
My appointments are usually booked weeks in advance but I tend to plan my week the week before, and each day the day before, so that really keeps me on track. I also think we all underestimate the power of water – when I feel the afternoon slump I drink lots of water.
If you have clear goals just visualise how you will feel once you have achieved them and that always does the trick!
Overall, as a Matchmaker, just hearing from clients you have matched about how happy they are is enough to keep you going. I have a wall in my office full of happy couples that I have matched so a glance at the pictures and thank you cards would motivate even the toughest heart!
Ask yourself “is this the right thing to do”: you will know in your heart what you need to do and you will make better decisions.
What’s the best bit of advice you’ve been given in your career?
“Always do the right thing”, was the best advice I have received for life and business. We all get faced with tough decisions. I worked in finance for years, which was tough, and now I am meeting genuinely lovely people, some with heart breaking stories.
If you ask yourself “is this the right thing to do”, you know in your heart what you need to do and you will make better decisions.
What are your goals for A Table for Six over the next year?
In November, I am the Matchmaker for the Ardara Matchmaking Festival in Donegal for the second year in a row which I highly recommend for anyone that is single.
We have recently launched in the UK, which was very exciting, so we have huge plans to grow in that market. I have also been approached by a TV company so you may soon be able to watch the dating fun on the small screen!
We will soon be launching “Ireland’s Biggest Singles Christmas Party” again for this year, and we are also adding a number of other fun, civilised and more personable ways to date in the coming months all over Ireland.
How do you relax & de-stress at the end of the day and during difficult periods?
I have structured the business so that it is not stressful, in the most part, unless we have a big event coming up.
I travel a lot to meet clients for appointments in Galway, Cork, Limerick, Kilkenny, Dublin, Mullingar etc so on those days I work late but most evenings I finish at a reasonable time and go for a walk, meet friends and family.
I have also recently taken up yoga which I love and that really helps me to relax.
Visit www.atableforsix.ie or contact Mairead on +353 (0) 87 068 0882