Ditch the Dating Apps: Professional matchmaker helps singles find love
By Jordan Houston
It’s February, the season of valentines, and love is in the air – unless it isn’t.
Cue renowned professional matchmaker Erica McKay.
The Minnesota native helms her own boutique matchmaking company, Erica Suzanne Fultz, and has spent over 20 years connecting men and women nationwide with their forever someone.
Despite the rise of digital dating apps, McKay has built a reputation for herself as a passionate and successful matchmaker. Her clientele spans professional athletes and TV personalities, including working with an on-air cast member from “The Real Housewives of Orange County.”
In March 2020, McKay expanded her services to Scottsdale.
“I think the clients I work with are pretty established. They love to travel, and to be able to cross over to connect with someone like-mind — it’s difficult a lot of times,” the matchmaker says. “If you are on a dating site, it’s like going to TJ Maxx and looking for some specific Chanel purse. The biggest obstacle is finding it.”
While not all clients are celebrities or socialites, McKay says she represents individuals who are strong, passionate, driven and emotionally mature. They want “a partner in the minimum to mirror their values and someone that prioritizes a relationship.”
For those feeling particularly hopeless during cupid’s month of love, McKay assures that there is someone out there for everyone — it’s just a matter of fishing from the right pond.
A modern-day matchmaker
McKay works with a maximum capacity of roughly 20 clients at a time. Pricing ranges from $12,000 for a six-month membership to $25,000 for a year, depending on the client’s needs.
Clients may also opt to put their memberships “on hold” for as long as they want, should they begin to date a match, McKay explains.
“I am pretty unique as far as matchmaking, because I do offer coaching along with it,” the mother of three says. “I think everybody has their story, everybody has their journey — who knows what that is, but it affects relationships.”
Prospective clients should first call McKay via her website for a 15-minute phone call, followed by an in-person or Zoom meeting for intake and to create their profile. During this process, McKay gathers as much information as possible about their backstory, interests and attractions in order to tailor a plan for their needs. Then begins the scouting process for like-minded matches.
McKay and her team scour members from the company’s VIP database, as well as actively “recruit matches based on what” the client’s preferences are via social media profiles, LinkedIn, etc.
“My team is scouting people and I’m saying, ‘Hey, I’m looking for X, Y or Z,’ or people are calling me, or I’m taking that call for people who want to be in the database,” McKay shares.
The matchmaker thoroughly vets all potential matches, including conducting background checks, investigating court records and conducting in-person interviews.
After receiving the green light on both ends, McKay coordinates the first meeting between the client and date. She then asks for client feedback and a breakdown, including a post-date survey. The process is then restructured from there.
A personalized approach
While dating sites like Tinder, Match.com, Bumble and Hinge are plenty, McKay offers a more personalized approach for those really looking to settle down.
It’s the one-on-one support, she says, that separates her firm from the rest.
“They’re able to have access to me, I am the only one to client-face. I am not sending them off to an assistant or some other team member,” McKay discloses. “I connect with people on what I say is a soul level. I can’t just send them off to some other person because I’ve asked them to be vulnerable, I’ve asked them to talk about their (stuff), their dreams and then dream with me. I’m honored to be working with them.”
During the intake stages, McKay covers as much ground as possible, ranging from the client’s favorite color to religious and political beliefs, income preferences and birth order.
“When I get to know them, I am digging deep,” McKay explains. “I am talking about their relationships with their parents, the relationship their parents had together, their own relationships in the past. Is there trauma? Maybe it’s awesome things they’re talking about. They get personal with me.”
Be whole first
McKay says the key to connecting clients with their lifelong match is to first ensure that they are happy with their own lives.
The professional, who is divorced and happily remarried, encourages clients to focus on working through their “baggage” from previous relationships before adding another person into the mix.
“I want to have them call me when they’re like, ‘Oh, my gosh, I have the best life ever and I want someone to be the cherry on top,’’’ McKay shares. “That’s where the coaching comes into place. I want people to get into that space so that when we match that and meet their person, it’s on, instead of dealing with lingering issues of past trauma or exes or what not.”
She adds that she is dedicated, through her work, to help her clients all become the best versions of themselves throughout the process.
A connector at heart
McKay hails from Stillwater, Minnesota. She graduated from Stillwater Area High School in 1993 and went on to earn a bachelor’s degree in family social science from the University of Minnesota.
She knew from an early age that she “loved being a connector,” McKay recalls.
“I had an internship at an adoption agency. I was the go between birth mothers and prospective adoptive parents,” McKay remembers. “So, I knew that obviously connecting was a passion for me, but monetarily it was not sufficient.”
The matchmaker’s first post-college job was a brief stint selling fax machines. In 1998, she stumbled upon an opportunity to work at a national dating firm in Downtown Minneapolis called It’s Just Lunch. At 22, she embarked on what would transpire to be a lifelong career in matchmaking.
“I loved it, but that was a big learning time for me as far as how to work with clients that are really looking for love and wanting a relationship, while working with a national chain that was all about money,” McKay explains.
After roughly two years at It’s Just Lunch, she launched Love In Style, a boutique matchmaking business in Downtown Stillwater. She sold it in 2004.
In 2015, McKay returned to full-time matchmaking and launched Erica Suzanne Fultz in 2018.
“Going through my life journey has really changed my trajectory and viewpoints, because I’ve gone through life experiences and a divorce, then being single and meeting my now love,” McKay reflects.
The matchmaker is now newly married to her husband, Tom McKay, whom she met while scouting on the job, she laughs. McKay, who says she has a great relationship with her “wasband,” now co-parents her three daughters as well her two stepdaughters.
She says her biggest piece of relationship advice is to establish strong communication skills and manage expectations.
“I don’t have a secret sauce; I am a connector,” McKay says. “I know if I can get people to the place that I was and help guide them with clarity practices and their energy — whether I match them or not — they are going to find their person.”
For more information about McKay and her services, visit ericasuzanne.com.
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