I often meet people who say “wow, congratulations on the success of your business”. My natural reaction is to blush and say a timid thank you. You see, what most people don’t know about me is that I can be really quite shy. I’ve never enjoyed attention as such. Even at school I was described a “conscientious”, and “trustworthy” and on a good day I’d be described as “sweet” and “reliable”.
At school if I was asked to stand up and address the class, I’d get stage fright. Talk to a room of 30 gormless faces? No way. Terrifying. Yet put me in front of anyone one-on-one and I have always been so at ease. It was my affinity to listen, advise and support my friends that earned me the title of “Auntie Vida”, referring to the role I carved for myself as the agony aunt of my friendship group (Vida being my middle name). Whilst it was my friends who pointed me in the obvious direction of psychology as my chosen career path, nobody, least of all me, would ever have guessed that one day I’d have my own international matchmaking consultancy and be immersed into the personal lives of some of the most successful and influential people in the world.
As I write this, I reflect back on ten magical years. It really has felt like magic. Even during the tough times when I felt like I was drowning, the personal growth I experienced as I found my way back to the surface, was…magical. In some ways it seems like yesterday that I was scribbling logo designs (clearly the most important foundation of any business as every entrepreneur will tell you), yet I’ve grown so much and hit so many milestones for which I have surpassed my own expectations. My secret? Staying true to my values, which has become the focal point of our entire business, and build a team of the kindest, smartest, most passionate people I can find.
My top ten 10 magical moments and milestones:
- Grabbing my first opportunity
When I set up Vida, I didn’t really know how successful I would be. I set one rule…listen to my clients and evolve the service intuitively around their needs. I loved those first few months, which I often describe as riding on the crest of a wave. Family, friends, acquaintances and even complete strangers I had only just met at one of the dozens of networking events I attended, all spurred me on. It was incredible to experience the support and encouragement from so many people who wanted me to succeed. I had little more than a scribbled business plan to guide me. But reflecting back, I realise that my lack of a plan was my biggest blessing. Instead, I intuitively grabbed opportunities as and when they presented themselves. And the opportunities were endless.
The first opportunity came in the form of a Leila Benton-Jones. We were introduced through a mutual acquaintance who discovered our shared interest in matching people. Leila matched people for fun at her infamous dinner parties. We met for coffee with no set agenda, and within a few hours she became the first Vida team member. Leila was the Vida social butterfly who flitted around London scooping up the who’s who of the singles world, while I geeked out on my computer and focussed on clients (people don’t actually realise how heavily administrative matchmaking can be!). Leila and I had so much fun in the early years and have become lifelong friends.
- Successfully matching my first international client in two weeks
Within 12 months of setting up Vida, just as I felt I had cracked London, along came my first international client. He lived between various homes across Europe and flew into London specially to meet me. He asked me to search throughout Europe for his future wife. This was a new challenge for me and I was determined to succeed.
For the next couple of weeks I networked, not at events, but online. Two weeks later, I met my client, and we reviewed my pre-selected matches. Together we chose one match that stood out to him. They met, they fell in love, and they are now married. I couldn’t quite believe I managed to find the right match for him with just one introduction. I remember speaking with his match on Skype, when she told me how their first date lasted a full week and resulted in them falling in love. She joked that I was her guardian angel. But it got me thinking…what were the factors that made this happen? Well firstly, our ability to network anywhere in the world, secondly our focus on values and thirdly…well a little bit of magic 😉
- Spreading the love across the pond
Continuing the international theme, in 2013 joined forces with a top matchmaker from the USA. Megan was seeking the know-how of London matchmaking and I was getting to grips with international matchmaking. I was managing the European market fairly comfortably at this point but knew I wanted to start laying foundations in the USA. We formed another dream duo and for the next few months, Megan and I worked tirelessly at transforming Vida into a truly international agency and another lifelong friendship was formed.
- Speaking at the Matchmaking Institute Conference
When I was invited to speak at the Matchmaking Institute Conference in New York in 2014, it served as a pivotal point in my role as not just a matchmaker, but also a thought leader for the industry. I met some incredible matchmakers on that trip, and it inspired me to delve deeper into my expertise as a psychologist and to continue making Vida stand out as a matchmaking agency. I knew that to stand out I needed to grow both the psychological expertise and have an unrivalled global network along with the friendliest team on the planet for our members. This spurred me on the grow the incredible team of 23 that I have today.
- Having a baby
This may sound like more of a personal magical moment than a business one, but when I fell pregnant in 2014, I needed someone I could trust to steer the Vida ship while I took 3 months maternity leave. Every part of the business relied heavily on me, so I knew finding the right person was critical to maintaining the high standards I had set for serving our clients. I remember talking to my fiancé Jamie about it and mentioning that out of all the thousands of people in my network, the one person I felt I could trust was Mia Wealthall. I checked her out on LinkedIn and discovered that she had just left her job to go self-employed as a business development consultant. The stars had aligned! A few coffee meetings later and Mia was ready to step into Vida to run the business while I had my baby. Fast forward to 2021 and Mia is now my business partner. We are the perfect combo, and lifelong friends. Mia makes stuff happen in a way I have never seen before – pragmatic, yet compassionate, and oh so much fun! No wonder the team call her ‘Mama Mia’ and I have her on speed dial.
- Opening our NYC office
A lot of my friends decided to take a step back from their career to have a baby. I, on the other hand, decided to ramp things up a gear. Enter Nick Wiszowaty. Nick came on board as an investor and non-exec Director in 2017, primarily to help me open an office in New York. My youngest son was just 3 months old when I hopped on a plane to NYC. I remember sobbing on the flight wondering what the hell I was doing leaving my baby. Nick flew in from LA to meet me and we had a week to get our office up and running. Our first meeting was with Gina Yannotta. Once again, the stars aligned. Gina was connected to us by one of our clients who thought she’d be a good fit. And boy was she right. When I met Gina, we had an instant connection. I didn’t want a ball-breaker to run our office. I wanted someone who would live and breathe our ethos of putting clients first. Gina was and still is the perfect fit and now dubbed my American Sister!
- Succeeding in being a working mum
This may not sound like a significant milestone for some, but in a lot of ways this has been the hardest one for me to achieve. I’m a bit of a workaholic it seems, so I did wonder how on earth I would juggle work and parenting. I’d given 7 days a week to my business for so long that it was a big shift for me to make. Running an international business and wanting to be there for the small things with my boys too is no easy task, but with lots of planning and good support at home and accepting that I cannot be in the business every hour of every day, I am pleased that my two boys will grow up without stereotypes around traditional gender roles of mummy and daddy. Their father and I play very equal roles as parents and providers and I’ve grown to love rushing from a meeting with a high flying executive to making sure that I’m there to make a park time playdate and pulling popcorn out of my hair.
- Making friends and creating babies!
People often ask if I get invited to weddings. Yes, I do. But what’s more special to me is the friendships I have formed with clients. I feel so fortunate to have met so many inspirational people over the years. One of my all-time magical successes was matching a client who has since become a friend and whose first daughter was born on my birthday – not sure you can get more magical than that!
- Running our first digital Masterclass
Over the years, our team has hosted many events, workshops, and talks on topics around dating and relationships. In 2020, Lynsey Wilson (our Head Matchmaker) and Madeleine Mason Roantree (Director of Relationship Psychology Services) hosted our very first digital masterclass, which succeeded in reaching our members across the globe despite the pandemic. It proved a huge success, and we have since launched a Masterclass series, with three further classes delivered (this time by Madeleine and me) to our members and also members of Home House, private members club in London. This was a big milestone for Vida as for the first time ever we were able to share our expertise with hundreds of people across over a dozen countries at the same time.
- Celebrating 10 years
This 10-year milestone is a definite proud moment for me. I genuinely cannot believe what a whirlwind It’s been and it’s thanks to every single client, colleague, friend and my family that I’m here today!
So, what next? Well, I am as excited about the future I was 10 years ago. This year will see some brand changes (watch this space!) and we’ll continue our mission of helping our clients find their ultimate match and form healthy and successful relationships across the planet. Let’s see what this next decade holds! In the meantime, I look forward to celebrating with my incredible team.