| Aimee Phillips

Headhunting For Love: Meet The Matchmaking Agency Founders Putting The Personal Touch Back Into Dating

The Sybarite spoke to Julie Mackay and Judith Payne, the founders of luxury matchmaking service The Next Chapter. We discussed why retaining a personal touch in the matchmaking process is important, the pitfalls of online dating, and their advice for a successful first date.

Finding a partner when you are at a more mature stage in your life can be serious business. So serious, in fact, that the founders of The Next Chapter, Julie Mackay and Judith Payne, have likened their exclusive matchmaking service to that of a professional headhunting operation. The agency caters specifically to a particular clientele – highly accomplished and wealthy gentlemen over the age of forty.

As these men often live busy lives, the one thing that eludes them is a significant other with whom they share a real connection. The Next Chapter offers bespoke and highly confidential introductions that make the best use of its clients’ limited time by bringing together intelligent, high-achieving and forward-thinking people.

After a year’s hard work, Julie and Judith launched The Next Chapter on Valentine’s Day this year, a timely date, given the industry that they are in. Before the agency, Judith ran her own event concept and design business for more than ten years, whilst Julie ran upscale dating events in the 80’s, before running several retail and customer service businesses in the UK and USA. After relocating to Devon, in 2003 she started the first independent aesthetics clinic and more recently an e-commerce site for international skin care brands.

Although divorce rates are decreasing, falling by 5.3% from 2013 to 2014* many people are finding themselves alone in their mature years. Judith and Julie want to tackle the issue of loneliness by helping people from around the world to find someone they can share their lives with.

Next Chapter agency founders interview
Judith Payne (left) and Julie Mackay (right)

In the digital age, it can be all too easy to find potential partners online. People across the globe are now able to connect with each other and develop a relationship without even meeting. As fantastic as this can be, however, this increased accessibility does have its pitfalls. Many daters become disillusioned after high expectations of the person they met online result in a disappointing reality.

“Online dating is becoming more and more like a habit for people and they don’t take it as seriously as they should,” Judith says. With the ability to hide behind a screen, some people will lie on their profiles in order to impress. The very nature of online dating is to be able to present the best version of yourself; glorious holiday photos and witty profiles may work wonders in attracting other online daters, but it is often not a fair representation of one’s true self.

“It’s part of our throwaway culture,” Julie tells me. “It has its place in society but it’s more difficult to find the one through internet dating.”

Julie and Judith believe that retaining a personal touch in the matchmaking process is imperative. With half of online daters misrepresenting their physical appearance on their profiles and over a quarter lying about their relationship status and children**, the world of online romance is far from rosy. As one of the most basic and important foundations of any relationship is trust, Julie and Judith endeavour to ensure that all their clients are thoroughly vetted before introducing them to others.

“I don’t think that men and women realise that there is help out there. It is an investment, but I would say to anyone making that investment: how much would you spend on a decent holiday? Five, ten, fifteen thousand? This [finding love] is an investment that you’re making for the rest of your life.”

“The target market we are trying to reach are time-poor gentlemen in high positions,” Judith says, “they haven’t got time to go online and screen potential dates.” One of the benefits of using The Next Chapter is that the agency does this screening for them.

“Invariably a lot of [dating] is still about looks,” Julie says. The agency doesn’t show their male clients photos of the women they set them up with, preferring instead to tell them about their date in order to engage them so that when the pair meet, they will trust the agency in what they have told them.

Next Chapter founders interview matchmaking agency

“Men are just as fearful as women when it comes to first dates and the initial meeting can be awkward.  We take a hand holding approach with our clients, accompanying them to personally make the introduction and will even pay the bill,” Judith shares.

“[The agency’s male clients] rely on us to introduce them to the ‘right’ types of women with whom they can share all the trappings of their success. A lot of what we do is based on instinct – it is particularly important for us to feel that a match will work and this is where knowing each and every client personally comes into its own,” Judith tells me.

After long term relationships, some people can almost ‘forget’ how to date, as after spending years with a significant other, one can become comfortable interacting with their partner, so when the relationship ends, it can be difficult for some to learn how to ‘flirt’ again. “You have to re-ignite these people into believing that they have those qualities, even if they are slightly hidden,” Julie says. “You need to be interesting, but you need to be more interested.”
“A man falls in love by touch. A woman falls in love by having her heart touched,” Julie continues. “The man has to think about what he can do to make the woman feel extra special, and the woman has to remember how to be tactile and kind.”

The key to a successful first date, Julie believes, is to “look great, feel confident and to be a good listener. Be interested in what the other person has to say. Smile. Be Kind.”

“We encourage [daters] to find a venue or activity that is common ground,” Judith says, as opposed to the usual go-tos such as a bar or restaurant. Trying something fun and exciting that will give you both something to talk about, or an activity to do during lulls in conversation, is a much better idea.

What the dynamic pair feel sets their agency apart from other high-end services of its kind is the fact that the team at The Next Chapter really listens to the needs and wants of their clients. They also work with their clients to analyse what went wrong on their first dates.

Despite fears about getting back into the game and dating at a more mature stage of life, there are many benefits. “You’re 95% sure you know what you want,” Julie says. “You’re bringing a certain amount of independence and financial independence. Essentially, you’re not looking for someone to provide you with a child, or a car, or for some, a route to freedom. You’re looking for someone who will bring companionship and value to the table.”

As The Next Chapter’s clients are all thirty years of age plus and financially successful, what they are really looking for, Julie believes, is someone who is “generous and passionate and kind, and has the same vision as you about life, the same goals,” because what’s the point is having it all if you haven’t got someone to share it with?

*ONS Divorce Rates in England and Wales 2014
**Symantec Norton ‘Online Dating Risks Report: Dating in a digital era in the UK’ (2016)

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