Teacher by day, matchmaker by night - East Valley Tribune: Business

Teacher by day, matchmaker by night

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Posted: Sunday, May 29, 2005 7:35 am | Updated: 7:20 am, Fri Oct 7, 2011.

During the day, Jamie Marks, 31, teaches elementary school children in Paradise Valley.

At night, she spends most of her time sitting in front of her computer at her home office in Scottsdale . . . matchmaking.

Marks is founder and president of a rapidly-growing singles dating service, 15 First Dates, a company that will celebrate its first anniversary Thursday with some of the following reasons to cheer:

• Her company so far has more than 2,000 registered singles who gather primarily in upscale restaurants and bars in the Phoenix-Scottsdale area.

• Marks’ part-time company grossed more than $42,000 its first year and income projections for 2005-06 are expected to double.

• 15 First Dates is preparing to expand events to Mesa, Chandler and Gilbert and is also planning to offer its Web site in Tucson and Chicago soon.

Dating services for singles is a growing industry in the Valley as well as nationally, according to the many Web sites and other outlets, including television and newspapers.

"There is a tremendous need for this kind of service, especially for busy singles who don’t want to hang out in bars and who don’t have a lot of spare time," said Marks, whose family moved to Scottsdale when she was 5.

"It’s the wave of the future."

15 First Dates is a company that is primarily involved in speed dating, a process that quickly unites potential couples ranging in age from 21 to 60.

It works this way:

• Singles register on the company Web site for $35, then attend listed events at restaurants or lounges. Usually, the number of attendees is 15 but it could be more or less.

• Single females sit at 15 tables and, every three minutes, a potential male companion joins them and each asks the other questions. After three minutes, a bell rings and the males move on to the next table. The women and men each have "score cards" on which they rate the other. They keep one copy, the other is given to Marks, who compiles the information in a computer and then e-mails the individuals with the results, or individual "ratings," within 48 hours.

If two people agree they would like to see each other again, it’s a match.

"We’ve done our job," Marks said.

It’s up to either one of them to contact the other.

The speed-dating is carried-out at up-scale restaurants and lounges in Scottsdale and Phoenix.

Participants pay for their own drinks and food, a welcomed attraction for restaurant and tavern-owners who set-aside semi-private rooms for the gathering.

Matt Ronnfeldt, owner of Armitage Wine Lounge at DC Ranch in Scottsdale, provides space for Marks’ company and prospective mates once each month.

"It’s great for our business," said Ronnfeldt. "The people are very respectful, polite and after they go through the 15 First Dates they sit around and have some wine and a bite to eat. Its not your drunk, saloon crowd. We love it."

Marks said the three-minute encounters has another benefit.

"If you go on one bad blind date, that is an entire evening," Marks said. "You don’t have time for that — this gives you an opportunity to meet 15 people in one night.

"It’s a great way for busy, single professional people to meet one another."

In addition, 15 First Dates also offers social gatherings called "Mix and Mingle" for as many as 200 single, professionals.

Two upcoming "Mix and Mingle" for ages 24 to 37 are at Armitage Wine Bar at DC Ranch, June 26 and for 37 to 49-year-olds June 28 at Grimaldi’s Old Town in downtown Scottsdale.

"When I first started the company, I didn’t know it would take off like it has," said Marks, who has taught in the Paradise Valley Unified School District for nine years and who also is an instructor at Ottawa University in Phoenix.

She earned her bachelor’s degree in education at Arizona State University and masters at Northern Arizona University in Flagstaff.

"I’ll soon be faced with a decision to continue teaching, or devote full-time to my new business," said Marks.

Jamie Marks

Age: 31

Resides in: Scottsdale

Key achievement: A full-time elementary school teacher who started the dating service for singles via the Internet on June 2, 2004, grossed more than $42,000 her first year, has more than 2,000 singles registered and is planning to expand to Mesa, Gilbert and Chandler. The company Web site next year may also open in Tucson and Chicago.

Success Philosophy: "I really care about matching singles. I put my heart and soul into it."

Information:

www.15FirstDates.com or (602) 625-4848. Cost to register is $35. Age groups — 21 to 60

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