Letting it Go Dating hosts speed dating event

BY LAURA WILLIS | MAY 05, 2011 7:20 AM

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To a visitor, the beige-colored room appears like any other office space — plus the heart décor. Two large pink and red mugs rest next to a telephone on the desk. Maroon candles sit on the windowsill below a sign with three simple words: Faith Love Live. For Katie Lamphere, the mantra is more than an inspirational phrase, it’s her job.

“When you put a little love in people’s lives, everything seems better all around,” said the founder of local dating service Letting it Go Dating.

Last year, the New York native started the personalized dating service in Coralville. The business creates social events, such as mixers, salsa-dance lessons, and barbecues, to help local singles interact. At 8 p.m. Friday, Letting it Go Dating will host eight-minute speed dates at a location only known by those who register. Admission is $15.

Lamphere had seen speed-dating events in the past, but most had been canceled or had an uneven male-to-female ratio. Through advertising, she found that women primarily responded to Facebook invitations, while men answered more quickly to Google ads and direct mail. Besides the sex ratio, finding the correct age range is challenging. Lamphere had to turn down a 55-year-old woman who wasn’t interested after learning that the typical age at speed-dating events ranges from 25- to 40-year-olds.

“There’s the little things that you have to think about to make it successful,” Lamphere said.

The matchmaker’s particular attention to minuscule details help to establish a more relaxed environment. As singles begin the speed dating, each will be given a number — men with odd numbers and women with even. All people carry clipboards complete with a “yes, no, maybe” checklist next to each number, as well as a list of conversation topics to cure awkward silences.

Names and contact information is not revealed until Lamphere reads through the paperwork and identifies two like-minded people. After e-mailing the pair about one another, she asks permission before giving out the other’s contact information.

“With speed-dating events, there are no background checks,” Lamphere said. “It’s as if you are meeting people on your own, which makes it a nice, easy event, but you still have to be cautious.”

Confidentiality is something Lamphere emphasizes with Letting it Go Dating. She does a background check on each potential member through public records and social networks to ensure that they are safe and single. Clients then can make appointments to chat about their interests and life goals with Lamphere over coffee. With a paid membership — which varies in price depending on attendance at social events — Letting it Go Dating helps arrange a complimentary date and salon appointment for two similar people.

“We start building their self-esteem back up, helping them work through insecurities, and really just getting them ready to meet somebody,” Lamphere said.

Though the Letting it Go Dating offices opened in 2010, Lamphere’s creative ideas were in full swing in 1997. The single mother of three was working for a dating service in Florida that was costly and included online dating, a method Lamphere had experimented with only to be consistently disappointed. When she visited friends in Iowa in 2008, she noticed a large number of single people who had difficulty dating because of living in small towns far apart.

“If you are in a small town like Davenport, how do you meet a person in Des Moines? How do you know about each other?” Lamphere said. “It could be your soul mate.”

With success at its Coralville location, the company will soon have offices in Des Moines, Sioux City, and Council Bluffs. Lamphere has enjoyed seeing love change attitudes — a woman developing social skills after being in an abusive relationship and couples marrying after seven months of talking.

Letting it Go Dating has clients ranging from age 20 to 70. While Lamphere doesn’t hear from a large number of undergraduate students, she is familiar with grad students looking to find a relationship outside the Iowa City bar scene.

“How do you meet someone when you don’t want to go downtown?” she said. “What happens if you don’t want to date people online, where someone may or may not be single? What do you do?”

Unlike finding love by the click of a mouse, Letting it Go Dating members do not have a profile picture to choose from. Instead, they focus more on personality before meeting each other.

While speed dating is a rarity among younger college students, online networks such as plentyoffish.com, eHarmony, and match.com continue to thrive.

University of Iowa freshman Ellen Schwartz said students feel that Internet profiles allow users more freedom to express themselves.

“For someone who is shy, it can be liberating,” said Schwartz, who met her boyfriend of one year on myYearbook.com. “You have this place where someone can tell you they think you’re cute in a less frontal way that makes you more comfortable.”

On social networking sites such as Facebook, Schwartz knows the people who see her profile and feels more relaxed to post what is on her mind. Yet when looking for romance on other dating servers, she remains cautious.

“It’s the first time that you’re meeting people,” she said. “You don’t want them to judge you by words or how you will phrase something. It’s almost like a very formal first job interview.”

Presenting one’s identity online can be less nerve-racking than confronting someone in person, Schwartz said. Trusting whether or not information is accurate on a stranger’s profile is a risk many are willing to take.

After moving to Iowa City, UI sophomore Brittany Crawford was curious to meet new people in the area, and she created a plentyoffish.com account. She frequently chatted online with local members whom she admitted were people she wouldn’t have normally had a conversation with in person. But when it came time to arrange a date, she always backed out.

“I was too nervous to meet with people who I’ve only talked to over the Internet,” Crawford said.

Experiences such as hers are why Lamphere created Letting it Go Dating. She feels that personalized dating services can successfully introduce singles in the area, providing a comfortable atmosphere that isn’t found on Internet profiles.

“If I can prevent people from crying themselves to sleep at night or eating a bucket of ice cream on the couch, I’d be happy,” she said.

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