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My guest for Episode #71 of the My Favorite Mistake podcast is April Davis, founder and CEO of LUMA Luxury Matchmaking, an INC. 5000 high-end nationwide Matchmaking service featured in Bravo’s Real Housewives of Orange County, Forbes, and CBS.
In today's episode, April shares her “favorite mistake” about pushing to get through college too quickly (she got her master's at age 20). You'll hear about how she left corporate America and started a matchmaking service (and why it was a mistake to not start it sooner). April also shares stories and advice about how to avoid mistakes when dating or when trying to find your perfect match for marriage and life.
Questions and topics include:
- How did you come to start a matchmaking service?
- How much of this is technology versus a person making matches?
- Dating mistakes? Especially those by executives, entrepreneurs, and high net worth people?
- How do you measure your matchmaking success rate?
- How does your background in process improvement help you in this business?
Scroll down to find:
- How to subscribe
- Full transcript
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Automated Transcript (Likely Contains Mistakes)
Mark Graban (0s):
Episode 71, April Davis, CEO of LUMA Luxury Matchmaking.
April Davis (7s):
Sometimes, as entrepreneurs are, you know, they say, what do they say? Like the light that burns twice as bright, burns twice as fast…
Mark Graban (19s):
I'm Mark Graban. This is My Favorite Mistake. In this podcast, you'll hear business leaders and other really interesting people talking about their favorite mistakes because we all make mistakes, but what matters is learning from our mistakes instead of repeating them over and over again. So this is the place for honest reflection and conversation, personal growth and professional success. Visit our website at myfavoritemistakepodcast.com. For show notes, links, and more for this episode, go to markgraban.com/mistake71. Please follow rate and review. And if you enjoy this episode, please share it with a colleague, a friend, a family member that'll really help get the word out about the show.
Mark Graban (1m 6s):
Our guest today is April Davis. She is the founder and CEO of LUMA Luxury Matchmaking. It's an Inc 5,000 company. They are a high-end nationwide matchmaking service they've been featured in shows, including Bravo, Real Housewives of Orange County and Forbes and CBS and their website, if you were in the market for such services is Lumasearch.com. So April, thank you for joining us here today. How are you?
April Davis (1m 34s):
Well, thank you so much for having me. I'm doing well. How about yourself?
Mark Graban (1m 36s):
I'm doing great. I'm looking forward to our conversation. You know, I think you're in an interesting industry. We haven't had a guest so far involved in matchmaking, so I think we'll have a chance to learn about that. And some of the work you do, or some of the mistakes people make in trying to find their, their match, but you know, first off as we normally do here, April, I'm going to ask you, you know, looking at your career, what's your favorite mistake?
April Davis (2m 4s):
Oh, geez. I would say, I think the mistake that comes to mind is I probably went too hard and too fast to get through college. And, you know, I think my, so my, my focus was really on just getting it done. And I started college when I was 16. I did post-secondary and then I took summer classes and never stopped and never took a semester off until I had completed my master's degree. And actually, even then after that, I T I took another semester and took some lessons on the private pilot for private pilot, pilot license license.
April Davis (2m 45s):
And so I just, I kept going and going and I, so I got my master's completed by the time I was 20, which is pretty awesome too, you know, and that was rewarding to get it done, but I know that I missed on a lot and it probably could have done, you know, done more and done better. And if I had focused on that, but instead of being so, you know, so all over the place, cause I was working full-time and going to school full-time and so it's, and I also used to race snowmobiles. So, and I would do that on the weekends, in the winter. So there wasn't really a lot of time downtime at all, or even really time to do much studying, or I had to do a lot of my homework while I was actually at work and stuff sometimes.
April Davis (3m 33s):
So this was getting it in when you can't. So I think like it just pushing it probably too much to her with it and not being able to focus as much on quality so I could have done probably better in my schoolwork and you know, that kind of thing. Cause I was it's just sometimes as entrepreneurs or, you know, they say, what do they say? Like the light that burns twice as bright, burns twice as fast. And when we get to be, when we do something, we do it. Yeah. So it was a bit extreme or probably a bit much.
Mark Graban (4m 9s):
So I'm thinking of the racing, you know, I'm thinking about, well this is top gun and you know, the need for speed or, you know, the, the silly welfare all movie about Talladega Nights. If you're not first, if you're not first you're last where it's, it sounds like that drive. I mean, you're, I think you're our first guest who had a master's degree at age 20. Like where do you think that drive that need for speed came from?
April Davis (4m 37s):
Well, I'm from a small town in Northern Minnesota and there weren't many girls there that I was friends with. I was friends with most guys because that's who was there, you know, and my brother was close to my age, got along with him and he raised and then, so I got into it and it was just, it is super fun, you know? And I just, I love it. And so I did, I did snowmobiling. I started to snowmobile racing and then I bought my cursor by when I was 15, I'd saved up all summer long. So I could buy that first on my dirt bike and just loved it. It was so much fun.
April Davis (5m 18s):
And then have always been kind of into that. I enjoy going fast and you know, any motor vehicles, you know, motorcycles, dirt, bikes, cars, anything.
Mark Graban (5m 30s):
Yeah. So how do you think that translated then to your education and wanting to complete that so quickly because to your point spending, you know, going at a regular pace would have given you more time for the adrenaline rush of those different activities. So, I mean, what, what, what was the motivation do you think to push through school so quickly?
April Davis (5m 51s):
You know, when I was first starting out, I mean, I was, I did waitressing and bartending and anyone that's done that kind of work knows how hard and just it can, it can take its toll. It's difficult and people can be very difficult. And so I was really, I was motivated primarily, so I didn't have to wait years anymore because I knew as soon as I could get my degrees and then I could have a, a real job. I wouldn't have to be running around on my feet for hours on end, you know, working my butt off. And it's just, it was so extremely exhausting and hard.
April Davis (6m 31s):
And I don't know how people do this forever, but I was, yeah, it was really, it was, I think that was my big motivation was to get it done so I wouldn't have to do anymore.
Mark Graban (6m 42s):
And your, your degrees, both degrees were in business, correct?
April Davis (6m 45s):
Correct. Business management. Yeah. Yeah.
Mark Graban (6m 48s):
So you, you didn't rush to get a PhD at a young age. You, you, you left school behind and went out to your career. What, what happened when you were out of school then?
April Davis (6m 60s):
Yeah, I think masters was enough at that point. And then, then I I've always wanted to get my pilot's license. So I started on that, taking the ground school at a local community college and I didn't finish it at that time just because I realized, you know, I'm a little bit scared. I was all over the place and I was young. I was like 21, I think at that time. And I'm like, I probably just need to have fun and you know, do other things. So I had a motorcycle. So at that point I'm like, I'm going to just ride that, just take a break and I'll come back to it when I'm older and maybe more calm and can be focused because that's the kind of thing that you don't want to mess up.
April Davis (7m 40s):
There are no, there's no second chances or riding it out or guessing it out as they say when you're writing. But yeah. So I, I actually did just complete it in January. Just got my pilot's license, so oh, great to fly solo. Yep. Yep. Excellent. They let me do it alone now. It's crazy. Somehow convince stuff.
Mark Graban (8m 8s):
Well, so then, so you have, you know, all of these, these, these, these wild rides and entrepreneurship can be a similar maybe adrenaline rush or wild ride. What, what led to you starting a business in particular, a matchmaking service?
April Davis (8m 26s):
Well, I've always been a connector and actually the first couple I ever put together was when I was 16 when I was a waitress in a little cafe. So it was a, it was a patron. And then one of the ladies I worked with ended up hooking them up and they ended up getting married. So that was pretty neat. And so I've always been a connector, whether it was for romance, of course, but also business and friendships. And then, well, in 2010 I realized I'm like, Hey, this is an industry. And I started looking at reviews of other companies and, and then hearing stories, of course, from my single friends, one whole word. It is to, you know, especially online dating. Wasn't quite as mainstream as it is now, but it just hearing about how challenging it is for people to find someone.
April Davis (9m 13s):
And so I looked into the industry, did some competitive analysis and realized there's an opportunity for improvement. And that's my background is, is improvement and process improvement. And so I put that to work and created the model. And initially I just did it for fun and it wasn't charging anyone, just helping people connect and giving people coaching advice. You know, I take clients shop, we still do this, but they take her in shopping and help them figure out what to wear wardrobe or how to style your hair. And just, you know, it's usually, it's just like a tweak like 10%, if they can just turn the dial 10%, they'll step up their game and make significant improvements and then stand out from the rest of the crowd.
April Davis (9m 56s):
And so we really focused on that and I just started building up my database and eventually I, you know, started charting. And of course, then I had employees while I was still working in my corporate job. And then eventually in 2014 I left my corporate job and went full-time and went after it. But I think a correlation can be made between what the adrenaline is kind of the risk-taker type persona. So people that are, you have to be willing to take risks, to start your own business and make sacrifices. And so I think that's where that can come in, where forum entrepreneurial and also competitive spirit.
April Davis (10m 43s):
So racing definitely instills a bit of competitiveness into you. And that drives me probably more than anything. So I am, yeah. If I start not just of competition with other management firms or, or, or like dating sites and apps, it's just, I mean, I saw the movie about Facebook Mark Zuckerberg, and I was inspired. I was like, look at what he's done. And he's like, at his age, I'm like, I can do a lot more than this, you know? So it's just, when I see that there's opportunity and I mean, yeah, it's probably just pushing myself and being competitive with myself. I know I can do more or be more so I'll go after it.
Mark Graban (11m 27s):
So thinking about that race with your competitors, I mean, how, how does your company differentiate itself? You know, if somebody is looking for a matchmaking firm, I mean, you've probably got direct competitors. And then when we talked before you told me there's a difference between like dating sites and matchmaking. So you've got indirect competitors as well, I guess, how do you line up with them?
April Davis (11m 53s):
So I say apps and dating sites. They're not our competition. It's more of a justification because once people use them, they recognize, okay, this is a lot of work and there's a lot of bogus profiles out there and there people aren't just, they're just not getting what they want. Right. And so they go to a matchmaker because a matchmaker has, we have our own Rolodex of individuals that are seeking a committed relationship. So, you know, you want the same things that weeds out. A lot of people right there. And also we permanently focus on people that are we a lot of high net worth. So it's like business owners and professionals, executives, you know, people that have high standards for themselves and the kind of person that they're looking for in a match.
April Davis (12m 39s):
And so we have our own database of people that anyone can join, be a member of that database. So then we can consider them as a match to our clients and we'll meet with them. We interview them and you know, some of the differentiators, one of one thing that we do is we interview on average about 50 people per client. So it's like, we're going on 50 first dates for our clients, so they don't have to. And we also, our matchmaker to client ratio is really low. We have about average, about 15 to 20 clients per matchmaker. Whereas a lot of services we'll have literally hundreds of climates per matchmaker, and there's no way to effectively take care of clients, you know, and that when you have those kinds of crazy ratios and another thing, I only hire people that have industry experience because I want the best of the best.
April Davis (13m 28s):
And you say, I want to, you know, how they say, hire people that are smarter than you. And so I learned, we are able to learn from each other and, and bringing in people that have, you know, different industry experience that can help us to bring the best out of everyone else too. And it's, so it's very much a boutique type of service. It's very, one-on-one we do. We help her find some whatever way that is necessary. So it could be helping them with, or drove or hair, or just booking a location for a date, you know, helping them figure out what to do on a second date. Or I've literally sent text messages to the clients saying, okay.
April Davis (14m 9s):
Center and then there's coaching. Yeah. And a lot of what we do is actually just working it as the middleman. And we I've say many relationships just talking to people, smoothing things over or explaining things and just being that middle person, because that feedback is really helpful. I think when people do, if you meet somebody organically or online or something, you don't get feedback, you don't get a second chance, you know, when people might just go host or they, you know, just nothing ever becomes of it. And so that's why it's, it can be helpful to have a matchmaker in between to help just kind of, yeah.
Mark Graban (14m 48s):
So a lot of times when there's a breakup, there might be some stated reason, or like you said, no unstated reason, or, you know, the, the, I guess if somebody thinks of dating and finding love as a process, I'm an engineer. So I'm going to use your language. It's a process. I think about process improvement without feedback we can't improve. So what you're saying is kind of having that intermediary increases the chance of getting indirect feedback or getting more, more accurate feedback, I should say, plus third party, maybe objective feedback.
April Davis (15m 24s):
Right. Exactly. And I always say too, there's three sides to every story. So a lot of times it's just recognizing, okay, this is what their perception was, whether it's true or not, you know, that's another thing, but this is how you came off to them. And then this is how they saw it. So, and, you know, if I saw the same thing when I met with them, and now we have a pattern, so that's something that needs to be addressed. And you know, like a lot of times I am, I've had these clients that they're great, they're super amazing successful. And they're just, they're really good at what they do and they're in their companies and stuff, but maybe when it comes to dating, it's just not working out.
April Davis (16m 10s):
There's something not quite right. And so that's where it can be really beneficial to have a professional along your side, to help you with that even. I mean, sometimes it's just the introduction, it's just the access to the type of person that they're looking for. And that's what we have. And that's what we do. We really focus again with my background and process improvement. I've utilized that to incorporate a lot of recruitment methods that have helped us to find the right kinds of people for our clients as well. That's the biggest part is just being able to find the right ones for people. Yeah.
Mark Graban (16m 45s):
So, and I think of clients who come to you at some point, they're probably reflecting and thinking there's, there's some dissatisfaction or they've been, they might feel like they're making mistakes and who they're meeting, who they're asking out how they're going about things as, as entrepreneurs or successful or driven people. How much of it is a matter of they've made mistakes and they're, they're ready now to try a different approach versus maybe just not having the time they're too busy. Yeah.
April Davis (17m 14s):
I think it's mostly a combination of not having time and too busy, but also just not having the access. So, okay. For example, online dating is horrible for guys because if you are a decent guy and you find a woman online that you know is attractive, she's probably getting hundreds, if not thousands of messages and the really good looking ones are going to just delete their profile after a couple of days, because they're so disgusted by the creeps that are messaging them. And so how are you going to stand, you know, stand through how are you going to through so she can actually even see your message, let alone get an eight. So that's where it can be super challenging where a guy might, and he doesn't, it's hard to, it's hard to really, really who you are in a profile.
April Davis (18m 5s):
People just look at pictures and they don't know who's who, so we can really be an advocate for people, or we can be an advocate for our clients. So if I can, I can call up somebody and say, I call it a woman. And I tell, I'm telling her about my client. It's going to mean a lot more to her coming from me. I'm another woman, I'm a trusted advisor. And then it's going to, it's going to mean a lot coming from me versus, you know, some random profile, some dude in messenger, messaging her online again. And so, and she's going to, it's just more credible and I'm going to be able to fill in the gaps. I'm going to tell her, give her a lot more insight about who he is versus just, you know, what it says on this profile or just looking at pictures of on the job.
April Davis (18m 48s):
So being a big client advocate, I think is a big part of what we do as well. Yeah.
Mark Graban (18m 54s):
So how do you measure the success rates? When we think about process improvement, we often think about, you know, measures and as we improve the process, we want to move the needle on, on results. And I'm, I'm guessing the success rate in matchmaking then drives your business success. I mean, how do you gauge or measure success? Is it the percentage of marriages? Is it time until maybe right.
April Davis (19m 21s):
Percent of people that end up in a relationship when they're working with us? Yeah.
Mark Graban (19m 27s):
And so are there times where, and it sounds like there's a lot of, this is not technology, artificial intelligence. This is human intelligence. If not intuition around who is a good match, like, you know, is there a time you can think of where you, you were convinced there was a great match and that turned out not to be true? Like what, what are the things that are surprising
April Davis (19m 50s):
All the time? Well, I always say the more I've been in this industry, the more I realize, I don't know anything because humans, humans are complex and this is why I always am so vocal around people needing to be open-minded because we are really quick to judge and people are layered. They're very, they're very complex. You wouldn't look at me and think that I've raced snowmobiles that are having a private pilot's license, you know, but there's a lot of layers to everyone. And so it's important. That's why I always say it's important to recognize that. And also just to have an open mind about what kind of package someone can come in, because oftentimes people think, oh, I need this, this and this and this.
April Davis (20m 37s):
And then I'll be in a relationship and it's, there's a lot more to it. And people will surprise you. They can pleasantly surprise you if you are open to him.
Mark Graban (20m 48s):
Yeah. And I mean, it it's love and, and emotion that's involved. It's not a rational check the box. I mean, I, I th I I've been married for almost 20 years and hope to be married another 20. So the whole dating discussion is not, you know, it might be more relevant. It's going to be relevant to the audience. Maybe not me, but I think of buying a house because that's something my wife and I have done a number of times. Like, even, even that is not a strictly rational, logical activity. We're sure you can have a list of, to your point of, well, here are the features we want in the house, but then sometimes you see a place and there's just this, this connection or this feeling.
Mark Graban (21m 30s):
You're like, well, okay, what's missing these two things, but we love this house.
April Davis (21m 34s):
Yeah. Well, and that's just it. How many times have you maybe I don't know about you, but I'll just ask people in general. How many times have you met somebody and you thought you had great chemistry there, you know, it's wonderful. That's the one. And then it fizzles out, you know, like lightning struck. And then if it's a little more, so the opposite can be true as well. You know, I can start off slow and then build up and, you know, get to, as you get to know the person they can grow on you. There's a lot of people that started off as friends or maybe colleagues, and then eventually the attraction grew and they got to know each other and ended up together. So I've seen it happen and people can, if you're just, you know, if you're open to it than just getting, giving people the chance and not expecting, oh, it has to be this great lightning bolt, you know, attraction, because that's that oftentimes that doesn't work.
April Davis (22m 30s):
Mark Graban (22m 32s):
And, and, and I'm, I'm somewhat regretting that might've been a mistake that wasn't really a great analogy because buying a house and falling in love is not really…
April Davis (22m 40s):
Well. I think it is a lot of times people will come to us and it is kind of like, they're buying a house. They're like, I want this, this and this and this, but okay. But your budget is this. So let me, and when I say budget, I mean like, okay, you're five and you want a to seven.
Mark Graban (22m 59s):
Hmm. I was about to ask the up question. What do you mean by budget? But like what kind of restaurants you can afford to go to, but no,
April Davis (23m 5s):
But it's like, people want all these things and they're, they're, you know, they're only what they're working with. Isn't, you know, up to par that person would want from them. So it is in a way, a lot of times it's kind of like a house, but what's funny with buying a house, you have 15 minutes to the side, and then you gotta either buy it now, or it's off the market. Somebody else is going to get it. So it's kind of, it's interesting. And we're thinking this dating doesn't have to be that way.
Mark Graban (23m 37s):
But so the, the other thing that comes through in what you're doing is it's not just introductions, but the coaching and the process improvement, if you will, you mentioned appearance, maybe just like your coach, coaching people and other factors, like being able to carry on a conversation or giving coaching of like, don't talk about yourself so much or other things that could end up driving someone else away.
April Davis (24m 5s):
Sure. Yeah. It can, it can be that depending on what the client needs and maybe what feedback we've received, it could be something just as simple as, okay, well, I'll put together a bunch of pictures of hairstyles, like, okay, I think this is the hairstyle that would be good for you. And we have referrals to different hairstylists or wardrobe consultants or whatever it is that people might need in order to just up their game. And like I said, little tweaks, it's only, usually it's about a 10% rotation of the dial because we're not going to Cinderella, anyone, you know, just making those little things that can make all the difference.
April Davis (24m 47s):
And I always had this story, or I had this client that he had this, something on his nose, like right here. And it, it looked like a mall and it wasn't a mall, but it was, it looked like one. And I just knew that that was going to be awfully distracting. And I'm going to take away from this chances of meeting someone. So like with the mall, he was a four and without it, he was a six. So I just told him, I had to tell him like, Hey, that's some, you should get that taken care of. Now now's the time. And he listened to me and I know it definitely helped his chances.
April Davis (25m 26s):
So cause it is a little, but it's something like, yeah, he knew about it, but just think it was that big of a deal. But like no two women that kind of stuff. It is attraction first day, that stuff is important.
Mark Graban (25m 40s):
Well, how often do you assess a client and say, I don't know if we can really, I don't know if we can get him or her there. I mean, how often do you just say, I'm sorry, we don't, we can't work with you for one reason. Yeah. All the time
April Davis (25m 55s):
When we first are thinking of taking somebody on, we go through a whole series of questions to determine if we can work with them and how realistic they are. And, and then we'll determine, yeah. If we can take them on as a client, then we move forward. But otherwise we might refer them out or give them that feedback. A lot of times people appreciate the feedback and then they will maybe we'll have back on what their expectations are because we're like, yeah, if we're saying we can't help you, then there's probably something, something else going on. So you might need to buy some people just need, they need to reset their expectations or maybe talk to somebody else about them in some
Mark Graban (26m 42s):
Cases, maybe a therapist of a matchmaker. Yeah,
April Davis (26m 45s):
Mark Graban (26m 47s):
So I'm, I'm, I'm kind of, you've used some examples of clients being men, or are your clients predominantly men or is that a mistaken assumption? On my part,
April Davis (26m 57s):
We have women. We have, it's about 50, 50. We have women and men, but we have a database and that's that's we have over 70% are women in the database. So we have lots of, lots of ladies that they want their man to be able to find them.
Mark Graban (27m 15s):
Yeah. Yeah. One of the questions I want to ask you is as we're on our working our way out of the pandemic, how has the past year affected matchmaking? I mean, we all spend a lot of time on Zoom. We're doing this interview on Zoom. Is that meant more Zoom dates, Zoom interviews,
April Davis (27m 34s):
Or we're definitely doing a lot more virtual and FaceTime dates. Initially. Some people are still meeting in person now that it's warming up all over. People are able to meet up and go for a walk or do something like grabbing a coffee or ice cream or something and being outside. But it it's always on a case-by-case, you know, client by client basis, what, you know, what their comfort level is and you know, what they want to do proximity to different options, you know? So we plan everything. We it's all up to the client and in the matchmaker.
Mark Graban (28m 13s):
Yeah. So it was the matchmaking activity about the same and the success rate about the same during the pandemic. Yeah,
April Davis (28m 20s):
We were slower of course, last March and April of 2020, like everything, everybody kind of followed the stock, quite frankly, when the stock market crash and within went down, everybody was scared. You know, we were all hunkered down, social distancing and then June rolled around and people were starting to come out and then we had a bin Grush and everybody was wanting to meet someone. So, and then we've stayed pretty consistent and steady ever since. So Yeah, because you know, it's hard for people to meet online it's and they're definitely not meeting organically out and about not going to parties, not, you know, meeting people at the bar or for example.
April Davis (29m 4s):
So they, there's definitely a need for a matchmaking service.
Mark Graban (29m 10s):
Yeah. Well, and you are there. So again, we've been joined by April Davis, LUMA Luxury Matchmaking, she's the founder and CEO. The website is Luma search.com. You know, thank you for sharing some of your history in terms of, you know, education and then starting a business. And thanks for giving us a glimpse into an industry that we haven't been able to talk about here before. So really enjoyed it. I really appreciate it. Thank you for joining
April Davis (29m 43s):
Us. Yeah. Well thank you for having me. Appreciate it.
Mark Graban (29m 46s):
Thanks so much again, to our guest, April Davis, if you'd like to find show notes and links, you can go to markgraban.com/mistake71. And I hope this podcast inspires you to reflect on your own mistakes, how you can learn from them or turn them into a positive I've had listeners tell me they've started being more open and honest about mistakes and their work. And they're trying to create a workplace culture where it's safe to speak up about problems, cause that leads to more improvement and better business results. If you have feedback or a story to share, you can email me firstname.lastname@example.org. And again, our website is myfavoritemistakepodcast.com.
Mark Graban (30m 29s):
Since every podcast asks you to do it, it would be a mistake. If I didn't ask you to please follow rate and review, but most importantly, thank you. Thank you for listening.