Karen Mooney founded the Sara Eden Introductions dating company in 1988 and, as managing director, has watched it grow for 16 years. Pairing off single professionals, Sara Eden has resulted in more than 1,500 marriages since its conception. Karen gives dating tips on BBC2’s Celebrity Would Like To Meet tonight at 8pm.
How does it work?
Our clients are interviewed about what they want from the future. We don’t necessarily need interests and hobbies to match, so we look at background, lifestyle and values. Matches have to think in a similar way. Future goals are important – in five years, you might want to settle down with a family. In that case, you’d want to meet people who want that as well.
METRO CAFÉ EXTRA: Is any of it done online?
Some of it. We’ve filled both ends of a niche market. Security is a big aspect of the Net so, at the lower end of our membership, we offer a secure way to be introduced to people. They come to the office, give us their ID, we interview them, they pay a lower fee and they can select people via our secure server online – which is as secure as a banking website. Others want to do it all face to face. They meet a consultant and offer advice so that we can fine-tune the search for them. Not everybody wants to go on the Net. Some of our clients are high-profile – media types, personalities, lawyers and doctors.
If I wanted to meet a rich, deaf and dumb Page 3 girl who owns a pub and a chippy, would you take it into consideration?
I’d probably say: ‘Go away. I can’t help you.’ Your wish-list is too big.
How much do you charge?
Clients should contact us to discuss our membership options.
Isn’t it like shopping for a date?
Not at all. I’ve been in the industry 16 years and I’ve noticed people don’t put a lot of thought into finding a partner – it depends on who happens to be available. I think divorce rates will fall if people begin concentrating on their long-term partners: as a best friend as well as a sexual partner.
METRO CAFÉ EXTRA: How did we get dates before there were agencies like yours?
At the turn of the 20th century, people met through their families and social networks. A lot of people put up with Mr or Mrs Will-Do. In the 1970s, women got the Pill and freedom, which led to the 1980s being a time that we could have a house, job and lifestyle. When I started Sara Eden, there was nothing like it. I knew of Dateline but ours was for single professionals to meet each other. Positive, forward-thinking professionals knew we were the personal introductions service that provided suitable partners.
How can you guarantee you wouldn’t match me with a man-eater who has 300 men on the go?
We turn people away if we don’t think they’re right after interview. Even if you choose someone online, there’ll still be a consultant at the end of the phone who’s got to know your prospective date. If someone is suffering from what we call the Sweet-Shop Syndrome, we’ll have a quiet word in their ear.
How many dates should people go on before their first kiss?
At least a year [laughs]. No, you can’t really say. Some people click as soon as they meet. I’d say the first date should be for getting to know one another and, on the second date, you should see how you feel.
METRO CAFÉ EXTRA: Do you advise people to try three or four people at once?
We ask you to select ten people from those we’ve put forward as suitable. We ask them to select ten because some of their choices may not choose them and we need to get feedback so we can get a good idea of the people with whom they get on best. They can find out where they’ve been going wrong all their lives. We can cram a whole lifetime’s dating into a few months.
METRO CAFÉ EXTRA: How do programmes like Men Behaving Badly and Sex And The City affect your operation?
It doesn’t really have an effect. Men will always be men and both the characters in Men Behaving Badly come across as nice – they just need to be looked after. It’s more that those shows define the sexes – they’re the result of the 1980s in which people could have jobs, houses and money without the need to get married.
What advice could you give to three female friends of mine who have just been dumped?
Why don’t they swap men? One of the blokes might be more suitable for the other girl [laughs]. I don’t know. The main thing is not to take it to heart. They have to have a positive outlook – the person who dumped them wasn’t the person for them. They need to pick themselves up and keep looking for Mr Right.
What happens if you find two Mr/Mrs Rights?
Then you’re very lucky. Only one of them will really be Mr Right. Ask five questions: Where do they see themselves in three years’ time? Do they want a family? Can you imagine yourself with them when you’re old? Have they seen you with no make-up? Have they met your mother?
Why the mother?
We act as a bit of a mother. We can see things in people that somebody wearing rose-tinted glasses might not. Sometimes, Mr Right can be Mr Wrong but somebody could find him very attractive. I always find the mothers love me when girlfriends have brought me back – it’s the girlfriends themselves who can’t stand me. [Laughs] Then you’re probably too nice. It’s lovely if the mothers like you but you obviously haven’t found the right girl yet. You need somebody who makes you laugh – that’s the key.
Do nice guys always finish last?
A lot of women are attracted to flash-in-the-pan romance but, truthfully, all women want a man with a sense of humour, who’s in touch with his emotional side and who is a best friend as well as a lover.
What’s your greatest success?
My favourite was when we got two brothers married to two ladies. The younger brother and his wife now have a baby. The older couple tried for a baby and didn’t succeed at first – she’s 49 and he’s 48 – but she’s now 20 weeks’ pregnant. She joined us in her early 40s thinking: ‘Oh, my God, I’ve missed the boat.’ Now she’s happily married with a baby on the way.
METRO CAFÉ EXTRA: Have you ever found somebody through the agency?
No, we don’t do that. It’s a bit like a doctor-patient relationship. We rely on each other to matchmake outside of work.
Should you talk about ex-partners when on a date?
Not all the time. Use your common sense – everyone has baggage and we get more as we grow older. But there’s no need to carry it on your shoulders. There’s nothing worse than talking about an ex-partner all night and the person you’re with thinks you’re still in love with them.