Interview: Joss Wyatt (Owner, DATE LAB)
Opportunity Access Careers aims to motivate, inspire and inform people within their lives and careers. The aim of our features is to highlight different industries, sectors and career paths we also aim to inspire people to raise their aspirations.
In this post, we speak to Joss Wyatt, owner of Date Lab, a pioneering dating and matchmaking service, about what led her into the world of dating and her experiences so far.
What appealed to you about starting a business within the dating industry?
I was working for flirting expert and coach, Jean Smith, and that got me really interested in the offline side of the dating industry. I also have a masters degree in psychology, and the goal was always to work with people. Help people overcome the barriers they face in making genuine romantic connections with people is both rewarding and fun.
Date Lab is a name that speaks for itself, how did you come up with the Date Lab idea and what was the deciding factor to go ahead with the idea?
Like I said, I have a masters degree in psychology, so mixing science with dating seemed like a natural next step. As the tagline says, I wanted to help people find chemistry through science. There’s so much research out there about dating, and I thought it was time that this knowledge was brought to the market.
What type of job were you doing before you started The Date Lab?
I was a copywriter. As well as writing commercial copy, I also wrote for World Finance, Business Destinations, Guestlist Media and Mongoos Magazine (an arts magazine). I also have some experience in PR and marketing. It was the combination of all these diverse and individual experiences that gave me the tools to start my own business.
Talk us through your career history, why was starting your own business appealing and what was your experience in working with online dating before The Date Lab?
I was copywriting for Flirtology and started learning about the industry that way. Like I said, before then I had no idea about the offline side of the industry. I became more interested in matchmaking (as opposed to coaching, which is what Jean Smith does – and she is simply fantastic at it). Being a matchmaker is like being a headhunter for love, but it also draws on a variety of other skills.
As for why starting my own business was appealing, well, I guess I felt like I had both the ideas and the tools. Because of my previous experience, I’ve been able to do my own copywriting, design, marketing and PR.
What would you describe as being your big break with Date Lab?
I’m not sure I’d describe it as a ‘big break’, but I know that training with the Matchmaking Institute in LA was a professional turning point. Matchmaking is much bigger in the U.S., and gleaning trade secrets from industry leaders such as Lisa Clampitt (President of the Matchmaking Institute) and Patti Stanger (Bravo TV’s ‘The Millionaire Matchmaker’) gave me invaluable insights into business development and service delivery.
What has being a highlight of owning a business in the dating industry?
I’m an ideas person, so translating those thoughts into something tangible, something you can actually see, is the most rewarding thing about starting out for yourself.
What are some of the challenges you find with owning a business within the dating industry?
Despite the growing popularity on the dating industry (both offline and online), there is still stigma attached to finding love in ‘unconventional’ ways. There’s the added stigma of actually going to a dating professional for help; there’s something about involving a living, breathing person that feels a step further than online dating, for example. Having to disclose sensitive and personal information is often humbling – there’s a huge degree of vulnerability involved in the matchmaking process.
Was there ever a time you weren’t sure about owning your own business and whether to continue? And if so what motivated you to be persistent?
The idea has kept me going. When I have felt like giving up, I remind myself that I started DATE LAB to cater to a gap in the market, and that I can’t walk away without at least trying to fill it.
How would you describe your current role within Date Lab? Has it changed since you first began?
When you first start up a business, it’s all about registration and creation. As time goes on, it becomes about maintenance and development (and with that, you have to learn to balance entrepreneurship and actual service delivery). All that said, we are about to launch our first series of events, so I’m currently in ‘creation’ mode. It’s very exciting!
What is the best advice you have been given in regards to owning your own dating business?
Lisa Clampitt telling me to just go for it. I’m a perfectionist, so I can pick at things until the cows come home. Anyone can. It’s not until you get going that you realize what’s worth picking at/being a perfectionist about.
Is owing Date Lab what you thought it would turn out to be?
In life, things rarely turn out exactly as you pictured them to be. I wouldn’t say better or worse – just different.
How do you stay motivated day-to-day?
The very fact that there’s no other job or industry I’d prefer to be working in. When you know where you want to be, it’s easy to stay on-track.
What is an average day like for you?
There is no average day in the dating industry, whether it’s online dating, coaching or matchmaking. It’s because you’re working with people, and people are so unique – especially when it comes to finding love.
Do you think that the perception of internet dating as it used to be and the matchmaking service that you have evolved it into now has changed? Especially among the market you are targeting?
The perception of matchmaking currently is that it’s either a) for desperate people and weirdos; or b) it’s an incredibly high-end luxury service that only ultra high networth induviduals can afford. In creating DATE LAB, my aim was to change these perceptions. DATE LAB offers London a young, accessible and urban matchmaking agency that challenges dated misconceptions about the industry. I think the fact that it’s so big in the US hints at the likelihood that it will become big over here.
What kind of advice would you give someone who is interested in starting their own dating/matchmaking company?
It’s really hard to get experience in the dating industry, because most people operate very small businesses. I would suggest getting any experience that would compliment the kind of business you want to start. If you want to get into coaching, go and work with individuals in therapeutic settings. If you want to get into matchmaking, consider giving recruitment a go. Then there are those hugely transferable skills you can pick up in marketing and communications. Think ahead, plan ahead and get the experience you think you’ll need in the future.
How long were you running the business before you started paying yourself? How did you live through those first few months/years?
I would tell anyone looking to start their own business – and that’s in any industry – to keep their day job until it’s commercially viable to leave. That’s just good business. Money shouldn’t be the driving force. As my cousin always tells me (he runs his own successful photography business) – if you put the needs of your clients first, the money will follow.
What do you wake up most looking forward to?
Learning something new. We learn something new every single day. It might be something small and completely unrelated to what you do day-to-day, but it makes life richer.
What’s next for Date Lab?
We’re launching the events part of the business in the next 1-2 months. DATE LAB is at its core an accessible brand, and having fun and unique events has always been central to the business plan. The first set of events will incorporate scientific research into speed dating into an event of our own, thereby giving daters a higher chance of ‘success’ in finding someone special. The second set of events will bring together matchmaking and events in a way that has never been done before.
Who has inspired you in your life and why?
It might seem like a cop out, but I’d have to say my partner. He has been a continual source of love, support, friendship and inspiration. He is an amazing person and our relationship is the foundation for both our lives – a platform from which we can grow, learn and pursue our goals. Also, being able to reflect on my own relationship is hugely useful in the dating industry.
What is your favorite quote?
“The definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over and expecting different results.” – Albert Einstein.
This appeals to the psychologist in me. If something doesn’t work, change it up. Manipulate the variables, change the conditions and see if things improve or get worse. It doesn’t matter whether the change is positive or negative, because at least your gathering information about how to improve things on the whole.
Finish the sentence “I could never leave the house without…”
My phone. I am a compulsive list-writer and -keeper. I am fanatic about organisation, so I always need to know what I’m doing, where I’m going and what the next steps are. Planning is everything.
What is a recent book/article that has impressed you?
Marie Kondo’s ‘The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying’ is an amazing book. I love books that have a simple, yet powerful message – especially when that kind of thinking can be transferred from the home to the workplace. It’s all about keeping things you love, rather than disposing of things you no longer want or need. I love books that aim to shift perceptions.
What TV shows you currently cannot stop watching?
I love watching Take Me Out. It’s a guilty pleasure. I’ve also been watching Mysteries of Laura (it’s a tongue-and-cheek crime show starring Debra Messing). She’s a smart, strong-willed, kickass woman – a great character to watch.
Biggest pet peeve in the workplace?
The offline side of the dating industry can get lonely. Most people work alone, and even the job is people-focused, it’s not like going into a huge office everyday, where people chat at the water cooler and everyone goes for drinks on Thursdays.
3 essential skills required to owning a business within the dating industry?
Organisation, interpersonal skills and perseverance
We would like to thank Joss for her time and honesty and we wish her the very best success for herself and for Date Lab in the future.