Everyone needs an editor.
Columnists, for instance.
But apparently those in rather urgent need are the lovelorn, who, on dating websites, tend to write too long, reveal too much and either overstate their qualities or cast themselves in unflattering light.
So says a pair of Omaha women who have launched a business promising to be your local, modern Cyrano de Bergerac.
In the play about the Frenchman with the big schnoz, eloquent wordsmith Cyrano gives a less-gifted fellow soldier, Christian, the right words to woo the beautiful Roxane.
In real life, Nanci Kavich and Marcia Kapustin give clients the right words to best market themselves online to prospective companions.
Their startup, called Profile Wingman, offers a mix of editing and coaching. They will write your online dating profile, edit said profile and tell you, unlike your too-nice best friend, how truly awful that bathroom mirror selfie you posted is.
“We strive for honesty,” says Nanci. “We want to limit people's time online. We want them to be attracting the right person.”
Since its debut almost two decades ago, online dating has become a common way for romantic partners meet. It is a mainstream, $4 billion industry with myriad niche sites tailored to religion, hobbies and interests.
Related services, like profile consultation, are now sprouting, with national sites such as ProfileHelper, e-Cyrano and Look Better Online.
Mark Brooks, longtime industry analyst with the New York-based Online Personals Watch, said the Omaha women fill an important niche. Online daters, he said, need help.
“Their expectations are often too high, and they're not very good at self-reflection,” said Brooks. “The problem is, people don't really know what they want. And they don't really describe themselves very well.”
Some companies, responding to busy or insecure clients who have neither the time nor the savvy to do it themselves, take over all online communique, in what is a somewhat controversial practice.
Others, like Profile Wingman, get you launched, provide some coaching and stay on-call.
Unsure how to respond to Mr. Right in an email? Wondering if this picture will attract Wonder Woman?
Clients call on Nanci, who guides them over the phone, through email or via Skype.
The business, hatched in January in the Whole Foods deli, is still new and has about a dozen clients. Nanci runs a stationery business on the side. Marcia has a full-time gig as a visual content producer for music acts.
Both women say they are planning to ramp up advertising on Facebook, which they hope will drive more business.
Apparently, there are plenty of single fish in the Omaha sea.
Courtney Hawkins, founder and president of a more old-fashioned form of matchmaking called Omaha Love, said 15 to 20 clients sign up each week and she's got several hundred already.
“Business is booming right now,” she said. “There's a lot of single people out there.”
Nearly all of Courtney's clients tried online dating and were frustrated. She said they complained about an online hook-up culture when they were after more serious relationships. And she said the online persona didn't always match the real-life person.
Nanci said she learned this the hard way from her first official client, a Marine from Florida preparing to re-enter dating life after raising her three children.
“She was the military, kind of a tough woman, kind of dry, kind of straight lines, by the book,” Nanci said. “I'm more fun and silly and goofy. I tried to infuse that into her profile a little bit and she came back to me and said, 'That sounds cheesy.' ”
Nanci obligingly rewrote the profile, paying heed to the client's wishes.
“I realized, this is not me. This is her,” Nanci said. “I had to kind of whip it around, make it more structured, matter-of-fact, and she loved it.”
The pair give their wisdom away for free on blog posts offering dating and profile-writing advice that generally goes like this: Be honest. Stay positive. Keep it brief. “Readable in under a minute, if possible.”
Scott Hendrickson will vouch for Profile Wingman.
Friends with Marcia and Nanci, the Creighton University professor met them for drinks the day of the Fiesta Bowl at D.J.'s Dugout. He brought along his dating profile and two pens and watched them, not the football game on TV.
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“They both started reading and shaking their heads,” he groaned.
Scott is 43. He has a law degree and a doctorate in political science. He teaches political science and is described as funny and down-to-earth on RateMyProfessors.com. But the Iowa native hadn't had much dating luck.
Part of it was moving around and changing careers. He lived in Minneapolis, St. Louis and Harrisburg, Pa., before coming to Omaha in 2009. It was hard to break into social crowds as a transplant. The older he got, the fewer dating prospects there were.
Scott tried online dating in spurts.
Finally, in January, this social scientist looked at the data and his lack of dates and called buddies Marcia and Nanci.
The two women, both in their early 40s, have had their share of luck in love. Marcia is now in a two-year relationship. Nanci, who is divorced, has dated a lot since she became single again. Both are online dating veterans.
Nanci has a communications degree and prides herself on handwritten letters.
She instantly tore into Scott's essay the way your old high school English teacher would have. Marcia sat back and watched, an idea forming.
The next day, she and Nanci sat in Whole Foods and hammered out a business plan, got an Internet URL and launched ProfileWingman.com.
If someone like Scott, with advanced degrees, needed help, wouldn't others?
Scott's profile had rambled. He had referenced 1980s movies. He had used too many subordinate clauses starting with “although” and “however.”
But he was going for nuance, Scott protested. Nanci said to save nuance for email follow-up.
In the end, Scott followed his friends' advice. He brushed up his profile, embellished nothing and ended with a lighter, quicker, more engaging read. After suffering through the initial ego-bruising, he found himself in the end more confident about dating and about himself.
Coincidentally or not, he wound up with a few dates.
One of them has stuck around.
He's been dating her for five months.