COSE Update

5 entrepreneurs share how they turned a bright idea into a viable venture

By Rosemary Rood-Tutt

When businessman Mike Green says, "Let's do lunch," he may have more in mind than idle chit chat over a Cobb salad. As the founder of Lunch Date, Green may be sizing you up to be a client for one of the cleverest ideas to hit Cleveland's singles scene in years. Green's company, Lunch Date, personally arranges non-committal matches for couples who meet over lunch, coffee or an after-work cocktail.

"Being in a casual setting breaks the ice so there is not a lot of pressure on people," says Green, marketing to professionals who are caught up in the chaotic pace of the business world.

Bright and articulate, the entrepreneur looks more like a corporate executive than a matchmaker, which helps him relate to his clients - all upscale, white -collar professionals between the ages of 25 and 65.

The Shaker Heights resident stumbled on the dating concept when he worked in Chicago selling medical supplies. Returning home in 1993, he felt there was a niche for a business that eliminated much of the anxiety, time and energy associated with meeting a new person.

"I went to 25 or 30 people who I knew were single, and they served as my initial client base," he recalls. Then he researched similar companies in New York, Los Angeles, and Chicago often posing as a prospective client - to find out prices, services, and types of contractual agreements. "I took all of that information and came up with my own rules."

With a flair, Green created his own marketing and advertising program. But it was his personal service and intuitive nature that distinguished Lunch Date from run-of-the-mill dating services.

"The way you come across with people over the telephone and in person is most important," says Green, adding that naysayers and skeptics still present the greatest challenge. "You have to be knowledgeable and have good people skills. In my mind, that's why the company has succeeded."

During the screening process Green is not just looking at physical appearance but a client's intelligence, depth and outlook on life. Matches are made based on the person's profile, plus Green's interpretation and intuition.

"What makes this thing go is the people we take in," he explains. "These are hardworking, honest, down-to-earth, bright professionals."

When he started Lunch Date in 1994, Green guaranteed his 100 clients six dates in six months for a fee of $200. Today, serving 1,400 clients in 12 counties (and 105 marriages to his credit), he has hiked the price to $695 for the same offer.

"What makes us different is that I'm the proprietor," Green states. "We're not some nationally advertised company that has 22 people working on salary. This is my livelihood. I put a lot of heart into it."

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