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Single professionals can be almost anyone: music producer, artist, filmmaker, actor, fashion designer, model, photographer, event planner, corporate employee, C-suite decision maker, executive assistant, and much more. Single business owners and corporate professionals are laser-focused on their careers and companies, but want that missing companionship, so when it comes to finding love, many start online, and dating sites are everywhere—Pew Research Center reports that one in five adults between 25-35 years old use them. Interestingly enough, only five percent of people who are married or in committed relationships met their significant other online. Imagine then the landscape for the single professional who is always on the go. For them, dating sites typically result in a woeful web experience, bad blind dates (usually a string of first dates only), and wasted time. Single professionals don’t have that time to waste, but what other options do they have?
Seeing the Need
Tanya Baskerville understands all too well. The convivial Florida A&M University graduate holds a Masters in Business Administration from the School of Business and Industry and works in pharmaceutical sales. As a single professional herself, she knows a lot of single professionals of all stripes who had a tough time dating. She realized they needed a website for themselves that would meet their high standards and not be a noisome crowd of sex-hungry seekers.
She spoke with and polled other professionals in person and on social media, and gleaned from her own standards, and saw three common problems single professionals have with dating sites.
First, deceptive profile photos and information. Horror stories abound of dater’s remorse—instances of meeting someone in person who is absolutely nothing like their online alter ego: someone either out to a score or desperate and socially awkward. No matter the scenario, he or she is simply not a quality match.
Second, immature presentation: Casual selfies, bathroom selfies, and topless photos are a turnoff for most professionals.
Third, a lack of privacy. Many dating site profiles can be searched by the public, and professionals do not appreciate their personal information being so easily accessible.
Meeting the Need
Baskerville founded ExclusiveStandards.com, a dating site exclusively for single professionals with high standards. The site is now live and currently accepting new memberships, with a free sixty-day trial for the first 100 people who register and are selected for membership.
The site’s membership profiles include a profile photo, which Baskerville recommends should be professional, and personal information. What catapults Baskerville’s Exclusive Standards ahead of other dating sites, however, is its use of video. A member’s profile also includes a video introduction, and users can enjoy video chats on the site. “Video chats help our members connect in real time more safely,” she said. “Other sites use instant messaging.” She also noted that video profiles help people overcome the communication barrier by allowing them to see each other and allows their true personality to shine through.
The site also addresses the privacy problem. All who apply undergo meticulous screening to be approved for membership, ensuring “a higher caliber of members and standards.” The videos also double as a safety measure. While it is easy for someone to copy and paste another’s personal information and grab his or her photo from anywhere online, “You can’t say someone stole your video,” Baskerville said. “That’s you.”
Additionally, only Exclusive Standards members can research member profiles, so profiles are not accessible to the public. In 2016 the site will also implement professional verification background checks on a pass-or-fail basis.
ExclusiveStandards.com echoes LinkedIn’s professional feel—it is an online Millionaire Matchmaker, asking more specific questions and utilizing a matchmaker algorithm. “I asked single professionals, what would you want to know about another person?” Baskerville explained.
ExclusiveStandards.com’s quarterly memberships are $49.99, a model Baskerville feels will motivate single professionals to use the site often, allows them adequate time to comfortably befriend someone new before meeting in person, and is more affordable. “Many other matchmaking services are much more expensive,” she said. No need to spend thousands of dollars. We want you to save that for your wedding.”
ExclusiveStandards.com will offer its first members event in early 2016, and Baskerville will develop international trips for Exclusive Standards members in the future. “You don’t really know someone until you travel with them,” the avid traveler divulged.
Meeting the Challenges
Entrepreneurs wrestle with the struggles that come with being a startup, particularly a tech startup, and Baskerville was no exception. She has had to wrangle primarily with two: technical development and marketing.
As with any other website, Baskerville’s Exclusive Standards underwent several incarnations. “The development process took two-and-a-half years. This is my third website,” she recalled. “But it’s worth it to me because it’s good feedback. It’s been extremely well received.”
Baskerville said her bigger challenge is marketing, and several issues come with that.
First issue: Perception. “The biggest misconception is that it’s BlackPeopleMeet 2.0,” she said. Exclusive Standards, however, is not aimed at any particular ethnic group, and the imagery on the website and across its social networks reflect diversity, displaying couples of different ethnic backgrounds. Its main exclusive element is its focus on single professionals.
Second: The need for professional men. Baskerville noticed that recruiting single professional men to join ExclusiveStandards.com has been a challenge because some professional men are shy, and many dating sites tend to be skewed towards women. “Every professional single woman knows a good professional guy,” she said. “I’m encouraging those women to refer their male friends.” Exclusive Standards welcomes professional men between 25 and 55 years old.
Third: Exclusive Standards is the little site that could. “Online dating is a huge industry,” Baskerville noted. “The big players make it difficult.” She observed that the larger sites spend $70,000 per month on advertising. Facebook does not allow smaller dating sites to post ads, and she opted not to do LinkedIn ads because they were too expensive, but she is running sponsored tweets.
Staying Ahead of the Curve
Baskerville had her site constructed in such a way that single professionals could immediately embrace it. With video profiles and video chat keeping Exclusive Standards ahead of the game, members-only profile search “so their face isn’t plastered everywhere,” professional verification background checks coming in 2016, required professional profile photos, and membership approval screening, professional singles finally have their own private circle and peace of mind knowing that the people they will meet on the site are high-quality people, which lends to world-renowned motivational speaker Les Brown’s rule of association: OQP. Only quality people.
“When you get on my site, you get a feel for the caliber of people,” she remarked. “It’s more important to me that it’s about a quality site with quality people.”