Original Article: ‘Inside Track: Rena Maycock, Intro Matchmaking’, THE IRIRH TIMES, Michelle Jackson, 09th September, 2016
Intro grew exponentially in first three years and now we have a strong business
With a success rate of 25 per cent, Rena Maycock and her husband Feargal Harrington take the business of finding love for their clients seriously. Intro Matchmaking arranges up to 100 dates each week for clients from all walks of life aged from 21 to 83 and have clients from all 32 counties.
What sets your business apart from the competition?
Unlike other agencies operating from home, we have offices on Grafton Street that clients can visit and we have a staff of six looking after our clients’ needs. Some agencies will pass out phone numbers and wait for clients to make calls to each other. We meet all clients and check everyone’s ID to make sure they are who they say they are, then we arrange each date so every introduction actually takes place which also provides extra security for clients. A member of staff from Intro is available after hours, to ensure every date starts without a hitch.
What was the best piece of business advice you’ve ever received?
Ask for help. When we started Intro, we had virtually no seed capital so we asked our friends and contacts for any help they could give us to get the business off the ground. That help came in the form of discounts, donations of equipment, locating great office space and referrals for informed advice. If you don’t ask, you don’t get it.
What’s the biggest mistake you’ve made in business?
Naively accepting all of the business that came to our door. After a year of dealing with the wrong kinds of people whose expectations we simply could not meet no matter how hard we tried, we started a qualification process. For four years now, we have only offered memberships to those who accept our policies and who we genuinely feel it is in our power to help. Since then our success rate has skyrocketed and, although we turn away more clients (and consequently, revenue) than we accept, we have a much healthier working environment with happier staff and more satisfied customers.
And your major success to date?
Launching Arealkeeper.ie. I would have said growing Intro to be the biggest matchmaking agency in Ireland but, having achieved that early on, we set our sights on providing a safe online environment for those that don’t want to go as far as an introductions agency to find love. Over the years, clients have told us endless horror stories about their online dating experiences so we wanted to take our experience as matchmakers and create an online dating option for real people that want real relationships only – no one-night stands or affairs. We spent two years building the site which we soft-launched in December.
Who do you most admire in business and why?
Cork man Pat Phelan, the founder of Trustev. Pat came to my attention when we were looking for a way to give nervous users of our online dating site Arealkeeper.ie a way to verify their identity so they could feel more secure about being on the site – they can elect to only communicate with other “Verified” users so they know they are not dealing with a fraudster/scammer or a “bot”. We looked at solutions all over the world but by far the most sophisticated with the most robust results came from Trustev.
Based on your experience in the downturn, are the banks in Ireland open for business to SMEs?
Yes. We have used Bank of Ireland as our business bank for Intro since the beginning and, although they look for personal guarantees, we have found them very helpful with Intro and in funding our new project Arealkeeper.ie.
What one piece of advice would you give the Government to help stimulate the economy?
Creating an innovation hub that gives practical information and support to entrepreneurs about how to develop their idea would result in a great boost to the economy. Included in this hub would be a project manager that would provide a schedule of meetings with a panel of highly qualified advisers to include help in accounting, marketing, technology and legal advice, and direction in finding premises. The current grant application system is very red-tape heavy and largely inaccessible to small business people.
What’s been the biggest challenge you have had to face?
Finding the right staff for the job. Because we operate a strictly private and confidential service and place a high value on loyalty, our list of criteria for candidates was exceptionally high. But we are proud to say we have a strong workforce that are loyal, conscientious and are driven to provide an excellent service.
How do you see the short-term future for your business?
Healthy. Intro grew exponentially in the first three years and now we have a strong business that continues to gain strength year on year.
What’s your business worth and would you sell it?
We have no idea what the business is worth because we don’t care – it’s not for sale. Our dream was to have our own successful company and, although it was a tough slog to get here, we can relax a little now.