It all happened within a week. Sheree Morgan left the guy she was dating and the company she was working for. Tired of having to answer for somebody else, she decided she wanted to start her own business.
"Everything that I've done over my life has sort of led me in this direction," says Morgan, a West Vancouver resident. "If all those things hadn't happened at the same time, I probably wouldn't have ended up here. It's great when a very strong positive comes out of a negative."
Sheree Morgan is a matchmaker.
She's the real life equivalent of Cupid, though she carries a sense of humour instead of a quiver of arrows.
Morgan started her company, Match-Works Matchmaking, in 2006. She had flown to Los Angeles and Mexico for a vacation and along the way she read a book that changed her life.
"In the airport in L.A. between going to Mexico, I was looking for a book to read to distract me and the book Rich Dad Poor Dad fell on my head."
Having wanted to read the financial independence how-to book for a while, she decided to buy it.
"It's interesting to look at the book - it's margarita stained, it's tear stained, I dropped it in the water, but I read it from cover to cover," she says.
"I came back and I went 'I have got to start my own business.' I didn't know what it was going to be, I just knew I wanted to work with people, I wanted to do something that mattered and I wanted to do something that nobody else in Vancouver was doing."
Back at home, she was walking along the Seawalk with a friend when they began talking about Morgan's recent breakup. She met the guy through online dating, she says, after a guest dared her to on the online radio show she co-hosted. Her friend asked her if she would ever consider online dating again and Morgan was quick to answer.
"I hated it for so many reasons. It brings a throwaway mentality. It doesn't work for relationships," says Morgan. "Then we started talking about the other options and so on, and I said, 'Dating services don't work; they just throw dates at you. The only thing that would work is somebody who really sat down, spent the time with you, got to know you on a very personal level as a true matchmaker would but there just isn't anybody like that in Vancouver.'" Once Morgan uttered the words, she knew that's what she wanted to do.
"That was it. Two weeks later, I had designed my business card, had my business name and was building my website," she says.
Match-Works is not a dating service, Morgan says, and she's adamant that people recognize the difference.
"The way you can tell the difference between a matchmaker and a dating service is a dating service sells you a number, so they sell five, eight, 10, 12 dates, that's they're contractual agreement. A matchmaker will never sell you a number because a true matchmaker will only introduce you to someone that's a good possible match on both sides."
Morgan says it's not just what you are looking for, but you have to be what the other person wants for it to be a good possible match.
"I like to explain that online dating is the phone book. Lots of people in the phone book, there's probably a good couple of possibilities in there. Good luck fishing through all of it because there's a lot people to go through and there's a lot of false advertising," she says.
"A dating service will sell you one of those pages, doesn't mean it's the right page but that's how you get a page. A true matchmaker such as myself will only introduce what would be considered in sales a good, fully qualified, screened lead. So you're dealing with quality matches versus quantity."
There are a plethora of online dating sites but only a handful of companies in Vancouver that claim to be matchmakers. Morgan has been very successful, she says, and has been contacted not only locally, but also all across Canada, the United States and even internationally.
"Most people find me through a Google organic search. I do have a fair amount of referrals that come in as well," says Morgan. Media coverage and referrals from other matchmakers in different cities have also propelled her business, but she is reluctant to say too much more.
"I can't give away all my secrets," she says, adding her competitors often keep a watchful eye on her business.
"They do always try and find out exactly what I'm doing."
Match-Works has two membership options: the gold membership that is the top tier and the silver membership.
"My gold members tend to be those professionals, executives, entrepreneurs and so on," she says. "My silver members tend to be a little bit of everybody."
The gold membership not only allows Morgan to search through all of her members and the thousands in her database, but also outside of that. For the silver membership, Morgan will only search through her gold and silver members to find a possible match.
"There is a very big price difference. I don't quote my prices over the phone because people that don't know the difference between a matchmaker and a dating service really don't know, and then they tend to compare apples and oranges," Morgan says. "I am absolutely not the cheapest but I'm definitely the best, and that's what I strove for when I started my business."
When someone contacts Match-Works, Morgan will meet with them in what she calls a prescreening before she decides to take them on as a client.
"We talk a little bit about the matching and what they're looking for, but on a whole it's mostly for both of us to get to know each other a little bit," she says. She asks them questions to use on their basic search and takes notes throughout the meeting. "It's also an opportunity for them to get to know me, decide if they want to work with me, and me to really get to know who they are."
It's this process that allows Morgan to gain a better understanding of a potential client and decide if she wants to work with them. Morgan says although she wants to help people, she's learned over the years that she can't help everybody and she wants to maintain her good reputation.
"I take great pride in what I do, so I'm not going to shoot myself in the foot and take on somebody that I know I can't get what they're looking for or if I don't feel like I can represent them," says Morgan. "I also won't take somebody on if I think the timing is wrong, or I think their expectations are unrealistic and I can't get them what they're looking for."
She says people will often send her their profile beforehand, but it's not enough to truly understand what they are like.
"It has all sorts of facts on it, but it doesn't tell me anything about them," Morgan explains. "I learn more about them by 15 minutes in front of them, but I usually spend about an hour prescreening beforehand."
Once both sides have decided they want to work together, a background check is required, something Morgan insists on for everybody. Then it's a consultation and a walkabout.
"I want to know who they are physically attracted to as well as the consultation of what they're looking for in a person. You need to have a balance of a little bit of both, otherwise the most I can give them is a really good friend," she says. "When you're picking just on chemistry and not looking for the balance in their life path, similarities and so on, you tend to get something that is hot and heavy, but it also has a lot of issues and problems along the way, not necessarily the best way to pick a match."
Morgan says that before her potential matches even meet, she has looked into every detail including whether they believe in marriage, want to have children and are planning to stay in Vancouver.
"By the time I introduce them, I've looked to see if they are on similar paths, I've looked to see that there are enough compatible areas and that they have the basic similar core values before they meet," she says. "If they do have a spark of chemistry they have a good shot, and that's basically the bottom line on why the people that I've put together have had a lasting relationship. Those things are there before they find out that they have that blinding chemistry that makes us all lose our mind."
When Morgan first started Match-Works, she thought her age demographic would be 40 years old and up. Not the case, she says.
"My biggest age demographic, male and female, is between 27 and the latest late 40s," says Morgan. She says she has had people 50 years old and up, but very seldom and not very many.
The North Shore has its fair share of singles. According to the 2011 Census by Statistics Canada, those classified as single, or never legally married, numbered around 39,370 for all three municipalities, with males making up roughly 20,580 and females about 18,790. Morgan says that although women are more proactive in seeking her out, her client base is fairly equal when it comes to the sexes.
"Right now I have a very good balance, but I work on that balance," she says. "What happens is, let's face it, we're in Vancouver and men in Vancouver tend to be a little lackadaisical and women are proactive - usually, again these are generalizations and not always true of everybody."
She says she does not pursue clients.
"I just create awareness for men specifically, so I'm really fortunate in that I get a really good balance of 50-50," says Morgan. "You start your business, you pay attention, you adapt and evolve through what you see coming in."
Match-Works has been successful in making matches and Morgan says the results for her gold members are particularly good. "I tend to get my matches by the second or my third introduction," she says. "But I've had 17 couples that I've got on the very first time - that only happens when you do the work.
"The only reason that everybody else doesn't do it is because it's a lot of work, it does not happen easily. I have to spend a lot of time with my clients," says Morgan. "I know them all personally and I have to spend a lot of time doing the cross-matching and the pre-screenings for them beforehand, before I introduce somebody to them. There's nothing immediate about it, but the results are good."
Morgan says she has learned all she knows from life experience and learning from her mistakes.
"I always got the lesson the first time," she says. "I have always believed that any success and failure in relationships always has two sides and that the only person I was in control of was me."
Interviewing experts when she co-hosted an online dating and relating radio show, as well as reading numerous self-help books, also helped mould Morgan's education on relationships.
"Every day I learn something new," explains Morgan. "If you're in this business you have to love talking to people, and part of talking to people is really listening."
When she began her business, Morgan was not interested in finding someone for herself. "I just don't think you can focus that much on starting a business and starting a new relationship, and like I said, one of the number 1 things I'm looking for always is timing. Now it's finally timing but I can't date my clients, it's a conflict of interest.
"So quite honestly, I could use a matchmaker for me," she laughs. "I kid about that, I'm doing OK. I'm just now to the point where it's like 'now it's the time to take care of me.' "So yes, the matchmaker is looking for a match at the moment."
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