Dynamic duo Justin Parfitt and Annabelle Parfitt of speed dating company Fast Impressions have the formula for business success down pat: a unique, tailored concept, a solid business model, and a desire to practise what they preach. Jessica Stanic caught up with the married couple, as they shared their secrets for love, life, business success and the speed dating phenomenon sweeping the globe.
Flirting with success
Fast Impressions (known as Fast Life elsewhere in the world) is the world’s biggest and most stylish speed dating and singles lifestyle service, hosting unique, invitation-only events that bring together busy, successful single professionals. Events are held in 43 cities in six countries across the US, UK, Canada, Australia, New Zealand and China.
The business was created in 2002 by then-single English entrepreneur Justin Parfitt. Sick of the tired old dating formula: Step one: go to a dingy, loud, crowded pub. Step two: down a few beers. Step three: Pluck up the “dutch courage to chat up some bird”, he saw a gap in the market and sought to find a way to merge personal success with financial freedom.
“I wanted to do something which would generate valuable IP that I could leverage and do something else with. What I wanted to do was make it something I would enjoy doing myself. Back then, there were other speed dating companies, but they were so middle of the road and consisted of old men with comb-overs.”
He wanted to create a unique and tailored speed dating company that was a bit more “upmarket, stylish, sophisticated and fun” that connected likeminded business people with one another. Thus Fast Impressions was born. His fashion designer wife, Annabelle, later joined the business and they set about conquering the world.
Creating a unique business model
“I think it’s important for the dating process to be fun and efficient,” explains Annabelle. “That’s what we are trying to do, and I think it sets us apart from the competition. By efficient I mean you are meeting the right people who you are likely to want to see again.”
Fast Impressions prides itself on the pinpointed accuracy of its matches. Unlike other dating companies, they do the guesswork, tailoring events to a specific group of people, and then send out personalised invitations.
“With other online dating sites, the events are open to anyone, so they get a lot of randoms showing up. With our events, we match specific people based on their preferences,” says Justin.
It’s been an effective model, with the company boasting a 91 percent success rate for matches, against the industry standard of 40 percent.
Customer feedback on their website is a testament to this success. Tim from Melbourne says: “Mate, just wanted to give you some feedback regarding your business… I attended one of your functions… and met the most terrific girl I could hope for. The opportunity to meet so many dead set “genuine” nice people was just simply beyond comprehension.”
So how did they manage to infiltrate the market, while changing prevailing attitudes about speed dating at the same time?
Says Justin: “The strategy we use when entering a new market is to form a partnership with a reputable online dating company. In Australia we partnered with RSVP. Obviously they specialise in online dating and we are event professionals so we can execute and co-ordinate events.”
The benefits of partnership marketing have long been touted as a great way for a business to extend their customer base and boost their profile within the marketplace. “It’s complementary,” explains Justin. “We can market our events to RSVP members, they get a commission and we have an opportunity to provide their members with a broader range of services both offline and online. There are definitely a lot of benefits.”
Know your audience & identify trends
A key component of their success stems from a thorough understanding of who their audience is, along with an appreciation of how trends evolve within the marketplace, says Annabelle.
“Our core audience is predominantly high disposable income professionals between 25 and 39, urban dwelling, opinion leaders and generally time poor. We have an event for every taste.”
Justin adds: “Because we have been in operation for seven years, we have been able to get a snapshot of the trends in the market and how they evolve over time.”
So what trends have emerged in the dating world in recent months? “We have noticed a tendency towards the toy boys in recent months,” exclaims Annabelle, while letting off a little chuckle. “Toy boy events have a much bigger match rate than our standard event, it’s about 100 percent. But it’s probably more of a short-term thing than long-term.”
Practise what you preach
An important part of what the couple do, is to practise what they preach. “We are peddling love to people,” explains Justin, “so if we can’t get it right ourselves, then there are problems.”
Says Annabelle: “We are positioned as dating experts, our relationship has to be a model for our clients, and they have to believe in our product.”
So what are the key ingredients to running a successful business and having a happy marriage? “Teamwork, patience, understanding, and date nights,” says Justin.
“We are on the same page, and knowing that your own goal is keeping you on the same page, well, it makes it easier to work together. We contribute different skill sets, we both have separate roles and let each other do their own thing,” says Annabelle.
Sweet scent of success
So what’s next for this duo? According to Justin they have many exciting projects on the horizon.
“We are currently working with Macquarie University to see if we can analyse our data to create new ideas. We want to uncover the secret to attraction. Once we have got that, we will see if there is any kind of commercial application we can use. We are also filming a TV show and looking to set up a franchise model for the US.”
Justin’s optimism is astounding, but then he believes every entrepreneur should be highly optimistic otherwise they will never succeed. “In my view, entrepreneurs should be optimistic, with energy, passion and vision. They should be willing to work hard and dream big.”
For more information visit www.fastimpressions.com.au
Annabelle and Justin’s Top 5 Tips for Success
1. Be prepared for anything and do every job with a smile
2. Negotiate, negotiate, negotiate!
3. Be prepared to innovate, invest and change
4. Position yourself correctly
5. Don’t rest on your laurels
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