Amber Lee and Sandra Myers co-founded Select Date Society after they both spent decades working in the matchmaking industry. Amber & Sandra met in 2009 while working for the same company. They always knew that they could provide a higher level of service than the large corporation they worked for and envisioned a boutique approach that would get results for their clients. Just over a decade later, they brought that vision to life with Select Date Society. Currently, their business brings in over $1 million dollars per year and they are getting results for their clients in the dating arena. They have been featured in Forbes, The Wall Street Journal, The New York Post, Cosmopolitan, and more.
StarCentral Magazine recently caught up with Amber and Sandra to discuss their journey as entrepreneurs and here’s what went down:
When did your entrepreneurial flair first reveal itself?
Amber: I’ve always been interested in entrepreneurship. Being a matchmaker for over 20 years, I have always worked independently and felt very much like an entrepreneur, but actually building a business from scratch has taken my love for the business to a whole new level!
Sandra: Growing up, my mom was a business owner and I always admired how she did things. I feel honored now to be able to support the talented women on our team in the way I witnessed my mom inspire her employees.
How did your life look like before being an entrepreneur?
Amber: My passion has not changed! Honestly, at my last real job, I felt like I was way more invested in our client’s outcomes than the owner of the company was. I truly believe I cared about the success of her company more than she did. That’s when I knew that I had to make a change.
Sandra: I used to work a lot and I still do. The difference is now I’m working to build my own dreams rather than someone else’s. I think that Amber and I have such a great partnership because we have a similar drive and work ethic. Being business owners hasn’t changed that. In fact, we have both probably worked harder than we ever have before, but it’s so much more enjoyable when you are building something that you are excited about!
As an entrepreneur, what is it that motivates and drives you?
Sandra: When we started Select Date Society, we didn’t set out to be just another matchmaking company. We wanted to be the example of what a luxury matchmaking company should be. We are obsessed with getting better every single day and perfecting our craft. I’m truly motivated by the culture we’re creating and inspiring greatness in our team.
Amber: We tell our team that we want to give Ritz Carlton level service to our clients and it was so important for us to show them what we meant, so for our one-year anniversary, we flew our team to the Ritz Carlton in Charlotte for the weekend. We let them experience that level of service first-hand and we spent the weekend talking about our company culture and the level of service we want to be known for. Creating that type of culture definitely drives us.
In one word, describe your life as an entrepreneur and explain why.
Amber: Empowering; For me, entrepreneurship has empowered me to help others in so many ways. I am empowered to help our clients, our team, and my community.
Sandra: Impactful; The way that I can positively impact the lives of our clients has been amazing. I feel like I am finally able to control how effective I can be without the restraints of a company holding me back.
What were your top three motivations for starting your business?
Sandra: The biggest motivation we had was the desire to do it better than anyone else. We saw what services were out there and we knew we could provide a higher level of service for our clients. I think we were also both motivated by our own love stories. We both have amazing relationships with our husbands and we wanted to help other people experience that.
Amber: And I experienced a sudden cardiac arrest that gave us the final push we needed. I was healthy and happy when my heart stopped while I was driving. I drove into a brick house! While I was in the hospital, I decided that I could not go back to working for someone else, so that gave us the motivation to get started.
What do you put your success down to?
Sandra: Having the right team in place has definitely been huge for us. We have invested in hiring experienced matchmakers who know what it takes to get results for our clients.
Amber: I agree! Our team has been key to our success along with our work ethic. I think that we are all passionate about what we do, so it often doesn’t feel like “work,” but we are all dedicated and extremely hard-working.
What would you say are the key elements for starting and running a successful business?
Sandra: It definitely takes resilience. You are going to make mistakes along the way, but you have to keep moving forward. We had a lot of knowledge and skills going into this, but we have had to develop new skills and learn new things along the way.
Amber: We’ve both mastered new skills, and I think that mindset matters. We both tend to be forward-thinking and positive, knowing that we can accomplish anything we put our minds to.
What are the three biggest challenges you have faced growing the business and how did you overcome them?
Sandra: One of the biggest challenges has been the growing pains of growing so quickly. I don’t think either one of us expected to reach the level of success we have so quickly, so we definitely had to make quick decisions and adjustments along the way.
Amber: One of the challenges we’ve experienced is hiring. We had to put people in positions faster than we expected and there were times when we realized we had the right people, but they were in the wrong seat. We’ve had to move people into different roles based on their talents and strengths.
Sandra: Another challenge we’ve faced is technical hurdles. We are matchmakers, so we’re used to dealing with people and real-life situations, not tech! Something as simple as getting the photos on our website resized properly can keep me up at night. We’ve learned to outsource the stuff that is outside of our own skillset to get it done right.
Does the loneliness of the entrepreneur really exist?
Amber: Maybe for some entrepreneurs, but we’re lucky to be in this together!
Sandra: Yes, I think having a partner in business is a huge asset for your mental state as an entrepreneur. If one of us is in a slump, the other one can offer encouragement.
As you grew the business, what have been some of the most important leadership lessons you have learned?
Sandra: We’ve just recently learned to let go. When it’s your business, you can easily find yourself micro-managing all the details because you’re so invested in getting it right. We realized that, as owners, we had to step back and let someone else handle the everyday management of the business. We appointed a VP who handles the day-to-day activities so that we can focus on the big picture.
What do you hope to see happen in the near future for small businesses all over the world?
Amber: I hope that more people, especially young people, turn their passions into profits through business ownership. I think that the trajectory to success has changed so much today. I have a 13-year old daughter and I tell her that she can go to college if she wants to pursue a traditional career, but I would be just as happy if she wanted to skip college and go into entrepreneurship. It’s not an easy path, but I believe it is so much more rewarding than working for someone else!