Singles who sign up with Sweet Beginnings don’t begin their matchmaking journey by filling out a questionnaire, whether on paper or online.
They start it with a one-on-one interview.
Now in its 30th year, the Levittown-based Sweet Beginnings is an old-fashioned kind of dating service. Attracting mostly people 40 through 65 years old, it’s the brainchild of a former marriage counselor and an oasis for older singles who want that personal touch, or just aren’t comfortable dating online.
“A lot of my clients are divorced or widowed, and their friends are married,” explained Jill Elliot, the founder and sole proprietor of Sweet Beginnings. “A lot of the women are very nervous about putting their picture online, and are afraid the men may be married or not really honest. And, men say a lot of women [online] put up a false or inaccurate picture.”
That’s where Elliot’s service comes in. Before a client has the chance to make any matches, they meet with her for a lengthy interview. The conversation covers “vital statistics” like age, education, religion, hobbies, personality types and the characteristics they want in a partner.
Occasionally, Elliot will do a basic Google search on the person to make sure everything checks out. And, she’s turned down potential clients when she found discrepancies. But, since most of her clients are referrals, she’s often comfortable going with her gut.
“I’m very intuitive, and by meeting people I can get a better sense of their whole being,” she explained. “My counseling background helps me do what I do.”
But despite her background, Elliot insists the idea to start her own business was a moment of serendipity.
“I used to just fix people up in high school and college, and one day the idea just came to me,” she recalled. “One day I just blurted out, I would love to start a dating service.”
That instinct kicks in often during the first interview — “When I’m talking to someone and they’re sharing information, the wheels are in motion and I’m thinking of someone for them,” said Elliot — and led her to early success.
“The first client I signed up ended up getting married through me,” she said proudly.
From there, what started as a part-time gig quickly became a full-time job. Today, Sweet Beginnings manages anywhere from 300 to 500 active clients in Philadelphia, Bucks and Montgomery counties and parts of New Jersey.
“I’m very hands-on. People say I’m like a friend, or a mother or a sister,” she explained.
Her approach led her to expand her services, which now include one-on-one coaching and seminars for older singles who are having trouble getting back in the game.
“A lot of them have not dated in many years. They have no confidence and they’re new to it again,” she noted.
Elliot calls her advice “The ABCs of Dating.” She tries to get people to relax, feel comfortable with the roles and rituals of dating, and cheer them on even if they don’t hit it off with their date.
“I tell them,” she explained, “even if you don’t meet Mr. or Mrs. Right, you still meet great people.” ••
For information, visit www.sweetbeginnings.info