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Caroline Canlas talks about her entrepreneurial beginnings, pickup lines, the Toronto bar scene, and the extinction of the alpha male

Detached from its reality TV hype, professional matchmaking is a serious business that has found its niche catering to urban singles.

Launched amid the gloom and doom of the 2008 economic meltdown, transplanted Pinay Caroline Canlas decided to blaze her own trail with a dating service, Recruitment 4 Love Inc. (R4L, for short). Three years down the road and business is brisk, thanks to a steady stream of disenchanted singles searching for that special someone.

China Business: Recruitment 4 Love was launched in the aftermath of the 2008 financial crisis. What was your biggest motivation to start a business at the worst time imaginable?
Caroline: My business partner and I were both working as headhunters at the time. We had been slowly building our company and completing the research and development phase part time until, finally, we came to a point where we either had to just do it and follow our dreams, or pull the plug. So, here we are! As well, our research showed that dating and matchmaking is a relatively recession-proof industry that, oftentimes, sees an increase in revenue and volume during an economic crisis.

As is the case with many entrepreneurs, did people around you say it was a bad idea?
Of course, every entrepreneur faces doubt from themselves and those around them. Especially coming from a traditional Filipino family, where my culture has a tendency to lean towards safer, less volatile occupations, I found this to be a huge turning point in my life and what I knew would be my lifelong career. Dale Carnegie always came to mind: “The person who goes farthest is generally the one who is willing to do and dare. The sure-thing boat never gets far from shore.”

After four years and several awards, has R4L exceeded your expectations or is it all moving according to plan?
I would say that everything has been moving along according to plan. In the beginning, we hoped for the best and planned for the worst. So I’ve been pleasantly surprised with our success. Of course, there is always room for growth, as an entrepreneur and as a company, and we’re always looking for new ways to improve and fine-tune what we’ve built so far.

If I wanted to join R4L’s stable of professional matchmakers, what special skills do I need?
The most basic requirement would be, at least, a degree in Human Behavioral Biology, or Psychology, or Sociology, or even Human Resources. A few years of recruiting and headhunting experience and/or business development and sales in a corporate environment are a huge bonus. But the key ingredient that we’re looking for? Personality. You have to be outgoing, positive, upbeat, fun, charming, charismatic, relatable, friendly, polished, easy-going, flexible, dynamic, and have a good sense of humor.

You have to be the kind of person who, when you walk into a room full of complete strangers, will be able to make real and genuine connections with every person in that room. This is the kind of career where your relationships, both personal and professional, are the driving factors of your success.

How much homework did you do to prepare for Recruitment 4 Love? Where did you get the capital to run the operation?
We incorporated the company in December 2008 and, by then, we had already been doing R&D for about a year. With a little help from our angel investor and our own personal savings, we were able to move into a brand new office in the heart of the financial district by June 2009.

How diverse is the demographic of R4L’s clientèle?
Extremely diverse. We’re based in the heart of Toronto, so our database is definitely reflective of the city’s true multicultural nature. The majority of our clients are busy professionals between the ages of 30 and 65.

What special insights into the human condition have you gained?
Interesting question. There have been a lot of things I’ve learned since I started R4L, about myself and people in general. One of our favorite topics of discussion nowadays though is the extinction of the alpha male. Check out Recruitment 4 Love Inc. on Facebook for the full discussion. Anyway, in highly developed metropolitan cities like Toronto, a woman’s chances of finding a man who is as educated and financially secure as she is dwindling. Women nowadays earn a greater share of high school diplomas, associate’s, bachelor’s, master’s, and doctoral degrees.

Significantly fewer men enroll in college than women, and an even smaller percentage graduate. Even before the recession, twice as many men as women ages 24–34 were still living with their parents. Interesting, eh?

Should guys even bother with pickup lines these days?
(Laughs) Honesty and a sense of humor are the best approach. Check out our blog, Overheard in the Dating World (r4linc.blogspot.com) where you can read some of the most hilarious pick-up lines we’ve heard when we’re out in the city.

Are you concerned that the oversaturation of dating services is taking the romance and spontaneity out of dating?
No. The ‘dating’ part should not be affected at all, as romance and spontaneity is up to the two parties dating. However, it’s the ‘meeting’ part that Internet dating has changed. On the one hand, Internet dating has increased the amount of potential mates available to a specific individual. In the past, we were limited by proximity and circumstance. But Internet dating has allowed for connections with a much wider geographic pool of potential candidates. On the other hand, this has increased the fastidiousness of today’s daters due to the abundance of mate choices available to them.

Please spill the beans on the GTA bar scene. How good can it get when it comes to meeting exciting people? Is a bar, club, or Starbucks the best place to find your long-term partner?
The Toronto nightlife and bar scene is world- renowned! If you ever have a chance to check out this amazing city, please do so. Our nightlife is phenomenal, but you often feel like you’re lost in a crowd of people. Our clients often feel like they’ve ‘been there, done that’ with the nightlife. When you’re 40-something, the last thing you want to do is go to a club and try to meet a potential match. Bars and clubs are great for the 20-some- things. Lounges, gyms, coffee shops are great for the 30+, and the 40+ are all busy executives who usually hire a matchmaker to find that special person for them.

R4L has a very nice blog, which uses humor and photos of cute animals. Does having an entertaining and constantly updated blog still drive traffic to your site or is social networking (Facebook, Twitter, etc.) really where 100% of the action is?
Referrals are still our primary source of quality singles, and Google is a close second. Our social media really contribute more of an online presence and help contribute to our high search engine optimization rankings on the Google search engine.

What are your favorite chick flicks?
Believe it or not, I’m not really a chick flick kind of girl. I love smart, quirky, thrillers with a well written plot twist.

Print ed: 06/11


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