“Love entrepreneur” Maria Avgitidis launches AgapaMe.com website

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Self-proclaimed “love entrepreneur” and Agape Match founder Maria Avgitidis is arguably the most popular Greek matchmaker in the United States today. But despite her flourishing company, hundreds of loved-up clients, and fourth-generation matchmaking pedigree, she is the first to admit that playing cupid was never part of her original career plan.

by Cindy Klimek

“Oh, no!” Avgitidis exclaims, laughing. “Nothing ever told me I’d be a matchmaker.”

Though her grandmother used to hold coffee readings to predict romantic futures, and her mother dabbled in matchmaking (never professionally),and she herself was “constantly being asked for dating advice,” it took a chance encounter with a friend who happened to be a dating coach for Avgitidis to seriously consider getting into the business of love.

“I researched the profession and found my personality fit,” she says. “I’m very sassy, a little bit bossy, slightly obnoxious, and my clients appreciate my no-nonsense approach.”

Avgitidis also credits an entrepreneurship class she took while earning her Master’s in Global Affairs with giving her the courage needed to launch Agape Match. “After a few classes, I realized,‘I rock at this!’” she explains.

Agape Match, named for the Greek word for love, was founded in September 2009, and less than a year later saw one of its earliest pairings walk down the aisle. Since then, the company has grown significantly, with marriages, babies, and in 2012, nominations for Most Innovative Company, Best Dating Site Design, and Best Matchmaker at the iDate Internet Dating Industry Awards. In the former category, AgapeMatch.com went up against such powerhouses as OKCupid and Match.com. Though she ultimately lost, Avgitidis says the nomination alone is a sign of how influential her site has become.

“I’m so proud to innovate an old profession,” she adds.

One of the innovations she is referring to is a video on the introductory page of her website. Avgitidis, clearly proud of the clip, says it helps to establish rapport with her clients right away and is responsible for bringing in about 80% of her business.

Despite its 21st Century website, Avgitidis describes Agape Match as “a traditional matchmaking service with a human matchmaker”: meaning she personally selects potential mates for her clients, sorting through approximately 30 women for each man, and vice versa. She then weeds out unlikely matches, performs background checks, and interviews both parties before setting up in-person dates. “We want to give people their emotional equivalent,” she explains. “In the Greek community this definitely means someone who is family oriented. Maybe someone who is churchgoing. Maybe someone who would want to send their children to Sunday school.”

Agape Match offers matchmaking for men and date coaching for women, a 12-week course that involves measuring her clients’ emotional needs, pointing out destructive patterns, and, yes, ladies, a makeover. Avgitidis says, on average, she sees a significant change in her pupils’ confidence in the first few weeks, and that by week five, they’re “doing great and ready to mingle”. By week 12, they are changed women, already in relationships.

The majority of the Manhattan-based company’s clients come from the New York area, though Avgitidis also has members from other parts of the U.S., as well as Greece. They are typically between 25 and 55 years-old, college-educated, and professionals. However, despite advertising Agape Match as a Greek matchmaking service, Avgitidis says only about half her clients are actually Greek or Greek-American. The remaining percent are non-Greeks who want to meet established and successful singles, including Greeks, a group she refers to as “Greek lovers.”

Over the past few years, due to the economic situation in Greece, as well as the recession here in the States, Avgitidis has noticed that people have less money to go out, so are staying in more and pairing off less. “Love is recession proof,” Avgitidis says, “but love can only be found if it presents itself.”

That’s why, like any good entrepreneur, she is expanding Agape Match by adding a new platform – AgapaMe.com, which she is exclusively announcing through NEO Magazine. According to Avgitidis, the new website will digitize what Agape Match does for its clients. Members will be able to sign up, complete a profile, and communicate with their match on the website. To ensure members find their perfect mate, AgapaMe.com will feature a scientific algorithm, which bases compatibility on what Avgitidis bases compatibility in her office, “shared core values and aligned communication patters.”

Agapa Me will be launching this winter, and will offer free lifetime memberships to the first 2000 users to sign up. “We hope to fundamentally change the way Greeks date,” Avgitidis says, referring to herself and her business partner, George Zapantis, a Manhattan-based lawyer. Their other goal for Agapa Me? “To make more Greek babies, of course!”

Avgitidis is also doing her part to ensure more Greek progeny through Agape Match events, held every few months in New York City. A self-confessed fan of “activity dates,” Avgitidis says her idea of a perfect evening consists of, “dancing, sushi making, going to a beer garden and trying every beer, that type of thing,” and her Agape Match events are the proof. Past outings have included a samba-filled Brazilian cruise around New York harbor and a “Love Lockdown,” where women are given locks, men are given keys, and Greek/Greek-loving singles are encouraged to “find their match.” Though the events have so far only been held in New York, Avgitidis says she is hoping to expand to other U.S. cities in the near future.

For those who need a little direction before diving back into the dating waters, Avgitidis also hosts a weekly date coaching seminar, the Agape Dating Academy, with Rachel DeAlto, a flirting/communication expert and CEO of FlipMe.com. Some do’s and don’ts covered in the academy? Avgitidis says having ‘The Talk’ too early is at the top of the list. “This can come up organically, you don’t have to rush it,” she explains. Also on the don’t list is mistaking casual dating for something serious. “If you’re not on the same path, the relationship is doomed to fail,” she says. And, of course, don’t let the relationship take a backseat to other things going on in your life. According to Avgitidis, “you should be a priority, but the relationship should also be a priority. You have to go out, make time, cultivate the relationship.” As for the do’s, Avgitidis says “do be a giver, not a taker” and also “do make sure you love yourself first. How can you expect someone else to love you unconditionally if you can’t love yourself?”

This may sound like a self-help book, but Avgitidis doesn’t just preach, she practices, often following the same mantras she gives to clients. “All good matchmakers take their own advice,” she says. “It takes a certain type of woman to be a matchmaker and a certain type of man to date one.”

Currently, Avgitidis says she is playing the field, enjoying dating and living the single life. Asked about her ideal man, she laughingly describes a mixture of England’s Prince Harry and Miami-based rapper Pitbull. “I’d want him to have Prince Harry’s good-nature, he is part-Greek after all, and Pitbull’s sensuality,” she explains. She also sees her ideal man as witty, secure enough to date a woman who owns her own business, dependable, intellectual, and able to laugh at himself. She then brings up a favorite photograph of hers, a shot of Earth from Mars. “You see that picture and all of your problems and accomplishments seem so insignificant,” she says with a laugh. “I want us to bask in our happiness together …I’m not interested in reality or being too serious.”

Avgitidis says she encourages her clients to describe their ideal mate as she does, focusing on personality rather than looks, since the most successful matches tend to be people who are close friends as well as lovers. “Think about if you were diagnosed with breast cancer at 60 years old. Would you want someone who is going to leave you for a 30 year old, or do you want someone who is going to stay with you?” she explains. However, the nearly six-foot-tall matchmaker does admit that she likes height in a man, since she “doesn’t own flats.”

She may stick with heels, but she still does her fair share of running. Aside from Agape Match, Agapa Me, the Agape Dating Academy, and the numerous other events in Avgitidis’s calendar, she is also the co-founder of the Matchmakers Alliance, a network of matchmakers who swap stories, advice, and sometimes even clients. Avgitidis says she was inspired to start the Alliance after co-hosting the 2012 Matchmakers Conference, a yearly event that she will be hosting again next spring.

Clearly, though Maria Avgitidis didn’t originally aspire to become a matchmaker, she has found her perfect professional match in helping others find their perfect love match. “It’s all about opening your eyes,” she says. “There’s someone out there for everyone.”



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