[caption id="attachment_143918" align="aligncenter" width="690"] Image Credit: High Net Worth[/caption] As you read through my interview with her, you will learn that it is intentional. Just like how Steve Jobs would always be in black and Mark Zuckerberg in his greys, donning purple consistently helped in positioning. Her success story has been nothing short of amazing. Starting at a time when the perception of such services are things only your parents would do, Lunch Actually not only have to educate the market while finding market validation. Today, Lunch Actually is South East Asia number 1 dating expert with six offices in Singapore, Malaysia, Hong Kong, Indonesia and Thailand.
1. Please share a bit about what you do.I’m the Co-Founder and CEO of Lunch Actually Group. Lunch Actually is South East Asia’s first and largest lunch dating company. Lunch Actually to-date has presence in 6 cities, five countries and have 100+ full-time associates. We have a well-tested and well-proven matching algorithm that has created many happy unions and our service has a high satisfaction rate among our tens of thousands of clients. Other than just being a platform for singles to meet, we also provide date coaching and image coaching services to help our customers increase their success rate. How Lunch Actually works is: first, we will invite every potential client to our office to have a chat with our dating consultant. During this conversation, we will find out more about their profile and preferences. Also Read: Love Out Loud Asia (LOLA) gets acquired by Lunch Actually Group After that, should we have suitable candidates for them, we will offer them a membership package. We will also do some ID and background check. Based on their profile and preferences as well as our dating consultant’s assessment, we will proceed to find their first match. Our well-trained dating expert handpicks each and every match. Once matched, we will contact both parties to share with them the details of it. With approval from the two sides, we will proceed to arrange the date, book the restaurant, finalise the arrangement. All they need to do is to turn up at the restaurant and enjoy their date. After the date, we will contact both parties again to get their feedback. Based on their comments, we will fine-tune the dating criteria to find them their next match.
2. What were you doing before starting your business?Like most people out there, my childhood dream is NOT to be a matchmaker. Far from it really. Like most Asian children, I was groomed by my parents to study hard, get a good job and go to a good university which was what I did being the obedient daughter. Far from it really. Like most Asian children, I was groomed by my parents to study hard, get a good job and go to a good university which was what I did being the obedient daughter. I read Law at the University of Manchester and subsequently, I did my Masters in Personnel Management at the London School of Economics. However, during my summer attachments at a law firm, I discovered that as much as I love the law, it was not my calling. My first job was with Citigroup Singapore as a Management Associate, and that was where I first got the inspiration for starting a dating agency, as I had so many single colleagues.
3. How did the idea for your business come about?[caption id="attachment_143919" align="aligncenter" width="690"] Violet with her co-founder/husband Jamie[/caption] As an MA (Management Associate) at Citigroup, I get to work in many different departments and met many people. I observed that many of my colleagues were single and not dating. That was rather puzzling for me as they were attractive and eligible people. I soon realised that it is because they were working long hours, they were virtually married to the bank. When I came across the concept of lunch dating, I was immediately attracted to the idea because I felt that lunch was ‘short, sweet and simple’ – it is long enough for you to get to know someone, yet it was not too long that it would become awkward. Also Read: Dating app for the serious single LunchClick launches in Singapore Having always been passionate about helping people, I decided to quit my job at the bank and start a new career as a modern-day matchmaker, where the business is not just about making money but helping to make a difference in people’s lives by helping them find their life-long happiness. From the earlier part when we first started the company, what I had to sacrifice mainly was my lifestyle. When I worked in Citi, I was earning $3k+ (US$2190) a month, and after starting Lunch Actually, at that time the paycheck that Jamie and I got was $800 (US$584), so definitely compromises had to be made; I had to cut back on taking cabs, eating out at restaurants, and even hanging out to meet friends as much. Mainly it was financial aspect. I also read an article previously that said something like “If you are a start-up founder, between sleep, family, work, friends and health – among these five things, you can only do 3.” So I thought about it, and the thing that I probably sacrificed the most is my friends; I could not meet them as much. But this year, my word of the year is ‘connect’, and I’ve been making an extra effort to connect with them.
5. How did you get funded?When we started the business, we knew we didn’t want to be just a mom-and-pop shop. Nothing wrong with that, but we wanted to build a business, and with that we needed proper office and it needed money. So what we did was we sat down to write a business plan and started meeting investors. The first person we met decided to invest. We were very blessed. Together with the investor’s capital, we have begun with S$150,000 (US$110,000) When we’re starting out, cash flow is king. There were times when we were short of cash flow, so we went back to the investor and explained our situation. Also Read: Why and how to develop resilience as an entrepreneur So they were very nice as well that they lent us money to help us tide over the situation and we paid them back afterwards.
6. Could you describe your first sale and how it came about?Because from day 1, Jamie and I knew we didn’t want to go ‘in’ the business and that’s why from the beginning we already hired an associate. So the first sale was done by our associate. [caption id="attachment_143922" align="aligncenter" width="690"] Entrepreneur Violet Lim giving a talk[/caption] The first person who came to our office for a consultation was a friend of a friend after we spread the words around about what we do and our friends were also sharing about us to their single friends. That’s how we got our earlier leads. So we did many roleplays before that, and when the client came, the consultation took much longer than it usually does, and ultimately the client said ‘Yes, I’ll sign up.” Everybody was very excited and happy because that point was when it stopped becoming just a concept but something that is real, which someone was willing to put down money on.
7. What has been your most successful form of marketing?I think from early on; we’ve had a strong vision of how we want our brand to be. Even though we are in the dating industry, we do not use red colour or heart symbol in our logo. We have always aimed for the premium, professional image as our clients are working professionals and we want them to be able to say our brand ‘Lunch Actually’ without the apparent association to it with ‘love’ and ‘relationship’. That has worked for us so far. Our strongest marketing tool has always been and is still is: word of mouth. When clients have a good experience with us or when they have successfully found their other half through us, they will spread the words and tell their friends and family, and right now our branding is very strong because we have had such a positive and effective word-of-mouth. Also Read: Why trust is the biggest barrier to entrepreneurship and innovation
8. Describe/outline your typical day?
- Wake up at about 7, run or do some exercise, hang out with Cara before she goes to kindergarten (Corum is in primary school)
- Reach work at 11 am
- Leave work at about 7 pm, hang out with the kids (reading, outdoor activities, learning, playing games), bedtime routine (stories, prayer)
- Kids in bed by 9.30pm, spend time with hubby to catch up on the day, bedtime by 12am. The focus over weekends would be on family and the kids.