We are so excited to introduce you to Grace and Rachel, the co-founders of A Good First Date. A Good First Date is essentially your therapist, life coach, relationship coach, and best friend, all rolled up together. They help you rediscover all your unique attributes, advise you on how to represent yourself in a fun and authentic way, and ultimately go on higher quality dates. At GSD, we are huge fans of their novel approach to dating and discovery.
Interview has been edited and condensed for clarity
Grace, share your background with us. How did you transition from finance to relationship coaching?
GL: I grew up in Michigan, studied in Atlanta and Cambridge, and went into banking at HSBC in Europe and Asia. I was married at the time but eventually got divorced and moved to New York in 2009. As a single woman with children, who was dating in New York, I ended up trying every permutation of online dating without much success.
Because I am data-driven, I actually did an experiment where I went on as many first dates as possible. By using a basic screening process around age, education, and attractiveness, I matched with something like 200 men, texted 75, and went on 50 first dates. From that, I had 2 second dates. Only 2! This was without compromising around my initial filters of age, education, and attractiveness. Every disappointing date not only took time but also took a little bit out of the process for me. It wasn’t a zero cost process.
Rachel, share your background with us. What got you interested in matchmaking and coaching?
RP: I grew up in Chicago and went to the University of Illinois, Urbana-Champagne. At UIUC I studied communications, psychology, and creative writing. After college, I received a Masters in Social Work from Loyola and was a therapist for many years, working with children, adults and families.
So many of the themes that came up in my sessions revolved around romantic relationships. I would see these cycles where clients found themselves in similar partnerships, with similar relationship dynamics, over and over again. I began to wonder what it would be like to solve this problem at a more fundamental level - how to head this all off - and became fascinated with matchmaking. I especially the coaching process – working with people to find out what blockers prevent them from finding fulfilling relationships.
How did the two of you get connected?
GL: I actually worked with Rachel when I was dating. She completely changed the way I date. I was having fun but wasn’t getting anywhere, and as you can see in my experiment above, treating it as a numbers game and cycling through people wasn’t working. I was someone who would never consider using a dating coach, and I found immense value from working with Rachel.
RP: Yes, it’s all about shifting your mindset. I helped Grace understand that she might be going on fewer dates but that these were more meaningful. We joke that I live in “gooey” land – as a former therapist, I’m working with people to help them to love themselves again, and to own who they are.
GL: Rachel and I come from opposite backgrounds. She is more in tune with the emotional side of things, and I am very analytical, very logic-driven. Our ways of thinking complement each other quite well.
Let’s talk about A Good First Date. How are you different from other matchmaking or coaching services?
RP: Dating stresses people out because there are no rules. We make the whole process more manageable and less overwhelming by providing our clients with a plan.
We break out the process into four stages: (1) what you want, (2) who you’re meeting, (3) first dates, and (4) relationships. You have to think about and really understand yourself first, before you can even get to the relationship part. At the same time, we don’t want to dictate the same approach for everyone. It’s more like a coloring book – we provide the outline, but our clients need to color it in.
We are extremely strengths and solutions-oriented. We help clients understand what they are truly looking for. Look, if you’re a chameleon and pretending to be someone you aren’t in the early stages of the relationship, and you end up with that person, at a certain point you’ll have to be yourself.
“Don’t sacrifice yourself; be true to who you are.” - Rachel Perlstein
Who are your ideal clients?
GL: First, they need to have a genuine desire to want to be in a relationship. These are people who have been dating on their own for so long, and it’s just not working. They need to be motivated, curious, and open-minded.
RP: We talk to a lot of people who say that their friends need our services. If so, it’s all about how you communicate it to those friends, because it shouldn’t be a stigma. There’s a nice way of stating it to your friends – basically that, “you are a badass and [AGFD] can help you create a plan to get unstuck and show that to the world”.
What is the process like? How long does it take to typically see results?
GL: We typically spend a few sessions going through who you are – your background, values, lifestyle, all that good stuff. I tell clients that they will never be the hottest or wealthiest person, or be able to change their age, but that they have their own amazing brand. Their brand is a compilation of their interests. We figure out who they are and how to translate that into their profile.
RP: I work with clients to create a customized dating plan based off of where they are today. I love sitting with clients and mapping out who they are. That is the most rewarding part of what we do. When I can see a change in my clients – that is the best feeling. They become more confident, more empowered to communicate.
GL: In terms of how long it takes to typically see results – it depends on the person. I’ve had cases where I have only had one or two meetings with a client before seeing results! We might discuss small changes to their photos, or how they text people (hint: stop staying “hey, what’s up?”)
“Filtering and slowing down will make the journey better. Being a good dater doesn’t mean you’ll find the love of your life right away – it means having a plan and sticking to it.” - Grace Lee
How do you charge clients?
RP: We offer hourly session packs, so you can purchase a set number of sessions (4, 8, 12, etc.)
At GetSetDate, we are obviously believers in having high quality photos. Let’s talk about your photo tips and recommendations.
GL: Have clear photos that show your face. Don’t cover your face with sunglasses or a hat. You can have full body shots, but make sure it isn’t…don’t be naked.
RP: Yes, don’t be naked!
GL: Don’t have variations of the same photo twice. Don’t show a photo from a football game and then another photo from the same game. Also, you should be in every photo. This isn’t National Geographic! If you want to include a group photo, that’s fine, but it should be towards the back.
Your selection of photos should convey your lifestyle and personality. More importantly, they should convey your values. If you have a solo headshot, it doesn’t just have to be you in front of a neutral background. It could be you in action. Don’t use all professional photos; mix it up.
Choose settings that speak to who you are. Anyone can take that selfie on the beach, but how many people have that photo of climbing a mountain, or at a mixology class, or at your favorite museum? Your photos should help tell your story, and at the end of the day, your profile should feel like you. You should be really happy with your own profile.
Photography tips FROM AGFD:
Have clear photos that show your face – no sunglasses or hats
You should be clearly identifiable in every photo
Your selection of photos should speak to who you are and your interests (no generic selfies)
Grace, Rachel, it was so much fun talking to you today!
It was great speaking with you as well!
To connect with Grace and Rachel, reach out here and mention GetSetDate.