An old-fashioned cupid

Sweet Beginnings celebrates 30 years of one-on-one matchmaking.

Love is in the air: Jill El­li­ot, the founder of Sweet Be­gin­nings, of­fers an old-fash­ioned type of dat­ing ser­vice that re­lies on in per­son in­ter­views rather than on­line ques­tion­naires. JACK FIRNENO / FOR THE TIMES

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.sweet­be­gin­ 

comments powered by Disqus