PAUL CARRICK BRUNSON: Are you pleased with your dating life? If the answer is no, then what are you doing differently? It's not just about finding your husband; it's about opening the door to a new experience.
ESSENCE: What does your company, OneDegreeFrom.Me, offer?
BRUNSON: First our clients receive a two-week consultation. We talk to their family and friends and ex-boyfriends or girlfriends. We have them complete a personality profile to get a 360-degree analysis of that person, then create an action plan that focuses on self-development. If we decide to keep working with a client, we either continue coaching him or her or move on to matchmaking. We pair them with people who meet their values and personalities. We also host large-scale Black speed-dating events in cities like Washington, D.C.; Houston, Texas; and New York. Tickets are $20–$50, and our consultation and matchmaking packages range from $400 to $10,000.
ESSENCE: How did you get into the matchmaking business?
BRUNSON: My wife and I started throwing Brown Sugar parties in 2008. We invited our single friends to our home to mingle. Later that year I went to a matchmaking conference and realized there was a void that needed to be filled in the African-American community. I became a certified life coach in 2009. ESSENCE: Black women have heard a lot from experts looking to capitalize on their singleness. Why should we trust you? BRUNSON: I don't think we should fall victim to the idea that a Black male relationship expert is capitalizing on the woe-is-me Black woman. When thinking about working with an expert, you should consider two things: (1) Do my values align with this person who's giving me this advice? and (2) Is this someone who walks the walk? Many people will find that their values don't align with mine, so I probably won't be a good fit for them. But for those whose values I align with—and for those who do see me walking the walk—I think I can be helpful.
ESSENCE: Do you guarantee a relationship for your clients?
BRUNSON: I don't guarantee anything. However, most of the people who come to me have been on fewer than five dates in a year. We've been able to put more than 3,000 people on first dates.
ESSENCE: We all have a list of must-haves when it comes to dating. Is this holding us back?
BRUNSON: You have to weigh your nonstarters versus your preferences. A nonstarter is any trait that directly impacts your health or happiness, like smoking. Anything else is a preference, and it shouldn't prevent you from getting to know someone. For example, you might want to date a 6-foot-tall man, but dating a shorter guy isn't going to impact you negatively. I often say love comes in unexpected packages.
ESSENCE: This process sounds very strategic. Shouldn't love happen naturally?
BRUNSON: People plan almost every other aspect of their lives, from what college they want to attend to where they want to go in their careers. Love is no different. You can't sit at home and think Mr. Right is going to come knocking.