It’s no secret that dating isn’t easy, especially in this city. Whilst technology has changed the way we date, The Dinner Party is taking more of a traditional approach to the dating game, aiming to connect people face-to-face, in a casual and pressure-free setting.
Who are you? Tell us about your business and what inspired you to create it.
My name is Andrea Hill, I am the Chief Romantic Facilitator, founder and creator of The Dinner Party. My company’s sole focus is to truly help people date better. I have been in the business of relationships my entire career, and have been researching and writing about dating for years, with hundreds of interviews under my belt. What I have witnessed is a steady decline in the way people date. Everyone wants the same thing – to meet and have a quality relationship, but they are ending up frustrated with the lack of authentic connection.
There are more dating services, sites and apps than ever before, but they seem to have caused more dysfunction than connection. I wanted to create a company that was the antithesis of that. I want to swing the pendulum the other way, to start a positive dating movement, and that is why The Dinner Party was created.
The real connection happens at monthly events where 8-12 like-minded and relationship aligned people (equal number men and women) are brought together to connect authentically over an amazing meal. The dinners are hosted at local restaurants, and I work with the venue to create a really special dining experience for my guests. Anyone wanting to be considered for an event must first enroll as a member of The Dinner Party, which is conveniently done online, with a private profile. Once I have a group come available that would complement you, I reach out and invite you to book a Discovery Session with me. This is when each guest is interviewed to learn more about them, and to discover what they are looking for in a partner, and desire in a relationship. It is with this information that I curate tables of guests that will best complement each other, thereby giving them the opportunity to connect without the regular pressures of dating.The rules are simple – be open, be on time, be yourself, and you’re not allowed to ask anyone out that night! It takes ‘awkward’ right off the table. As part of the service I follow up with each guest individually, post dinner, to see if there are any mutual attractions and then facilitate a connection.
The response has been wonderful and a reflection of people’s desire for this kind of service. What started as a fun thing to do once a month to create change, has organically grown by word of mouth into a heart based business. The company also provides dating support services, to empower people to have the dating and romantic life they desire. The Dinner Party officially opened it’s website doors this past February.
What has been the most challenging part about running this business and how have you addressed it?
The challenging part has been shifting people’s mentality around dating. The dating industry is fast moving and inundated with apps and others services that propose quick and seemingly easy ways to connect with others. We live in a time of instant gratification, and finding a meaningful relationship, or connection just doesn’t thrive in that environment. My challenge has been to get people to slow down and enjoy the process. To take the time to connect. I’ve addressed this by taking the management part of dating out of the equation. I’ve personalised the experience. No online searches, swiping, endless emailing/texting or organising of first coffee dates. I take care of all of that, you just get to show up for dinner and meet some amazing people. Dating shouldn’t be work, it should be fun, and that is what I provide for my clients.
My other biggest challenge is just getting the word out in such a busy and competitive market. That takes working capital and a thinking outside of the box mentality.
How has Vancouver’s rising startup community played a role in the development of The Dinner Party?
Vancouver is incredibly open-minded. I believe because so many exciting up-and-coming businesses are being developed within our own city’s walls, there is a heightened level of acceptance and enthusiasm towards new ideas. The business community in general in Vancouver is very supportive. We’re a forward thinking city.
What core problem is your company specifically solving and/or what’s the main value you provide?
It’s all about creating a positive dating experience – to connect with others in a safe, fun and pressure free environment. No dysfunction, just authentic connection. To bring a little bit of old school fun back into dating.
The Dinner Party’s mission is to create a platform in which to promote positive change in our social/romantic connections – by creating a venue that fosters communication, and encourages the development of potential relationships.
It’s not just a business, it’s a movement.
How did you end up becoming an entrepreneur and what challenges did you personally overcome to succeed?
I’m an entrepreneur at heart. I have always run any company, whether it be my own or someone else’s, like it was my mine – fully invested and committed to its success.
I came to Vancouver five years ago, got involved with a number of different projects and companies, and then fate and a desire to create positive change brought me to this. It really chose me.
I love leading the charge in business, and building an online business from scratch was a new challenge for me. It has been a steep learning curve, complete with having failed attempts and tough lessons, but that’s how you learn, grow, and become a better business person. It’s also how you run a better business, having failures along the way is part of that process, and deepens the level of intimacy you need to have with your business in order to be successful.
What entrepreneur has inspired you the most for running your business and what makes them so special?
The women in my family are my biggest inspiration. They are all dynamic, self made, smart risk takers. I have also been blessed to have met some really amazing business women during this particular business development journey. They are not only inspiring, but also very generous by sharing their knowledge, time, and support. I am very grateful, and make sure that I pay that generous spirit forward.
What Vancouver celebrity/influencer would you most be excited to have as a member of the team and why?
I had the immense pleasure of hearing Lara Kozan speak recently at a business seminar. I was already aware of her business prowess from her YYoga and Nectar business success, but I wasn’t aware of her business beliefs and acumen. Her talk had a profound impact on me. I loved her business story, her mission and vision to run heart-based, business savvy, companies and appreciated her candor about the realities of running your own business. Her focus on the importance of sustaining both you and your business to be truly successful, and the priceless value of your relationship with your customer resonated deeply with me.
In just a brief talk, she left me inspired, and filled my business love cup. I know I could learn a great deal more from her and would love be a fly on her business wall.
What are some accessible resources used and winning habits you have developed to learn and grow as an entrepreneur?
Your biggest resource are your fellow entrepreneurs. A great business habit is to ask for help and feedback. Don’t let pride get in your way of learning from others and fine tuning your craft. You don’t always need to take the advice, but feedback is so very valuable. Don’t be afraid to ask others for help, shoot high, reach out to those whose work you admire. They may say yes, or they may say no, but the answer will always be no if you don’t ask! Then be sure to return the favour to them and others, be a supportive member of your business community.
Give and receive, with grace.
What’s your advice for current or future entrepreneurs?
Listen to your customer, be authentic, evolve, try, fail, try again – you only learn through doing.
Lara Kozan shared some great advice – know your business inside and out, have intimate knowledge of your cash flow. Otherwise, if it isn’t making money, it’s not a business, it’s a hobby.
And most importantly, just do it. One small step at a time.
Vancouver Entrepreneurs is a weekly feature on the city’s most notable entrepreneurs and startups that are making a local and even a global impact. If you think your venture deserves to be on the series, send an email to casey(at)vancitybuzz(dot)com to explain why you’re a fit.