If the idea of a matchmaker immediately brings to mind a rash, larger-than-life Jersey woman yelling into her phone on Bravo, Emily Holmes Hahn of LastFirst, in Ralph Lauren suede boots and with an altogether well-mannered temperament, is set to disappoint. But if a serious, lasting match is the interest, her success rate will speak for itself.
“We want to break away from the mold of those matchmakers you see on television where anybody who can write a check can go in, no matter how crazy,”Holmes Hahn says. “Some of those people are people you or I would never date.”
Holmes Hahn started LastFirst three years ago, after a LinkedIn message lured her from the Paris office of Ralph Lauren where she worked as a personal shopper. “Right around the time that my visa was expiring, I got a recruiting offer from a matchmaker in New York,” she says. “It was pretty out of the blue — I had a friend who worked there but [the timing] was very serendipitous. So I moved back and worked there for a year and a half and I loved it, but I kind of wanted to marry the luxury brand concept with the big-box dating service concept.”
LastFirst is billed as a boutique matchmaking agency: they limit their clientele to around 30 at a time. “The way that my business model works is it moves horizontally, so when I get a client into a relationship, then I take on another client,” she explains. “But I’m never going to take on 100 clients at a time — I always want to keep the group intimate and keep the approach really hands-on with each of them, so that we succeed for them. Getting people out, getting people in — and we actually have a waiting list.”
The clients are mostly men, who range in age from their late 20s to late 60s at the moment, and who work in a range of fields, from medicine, law and finance to acting, film production and art. She declined to discuss the cost on the record, but “price is very based on the project.”
Clients are taken on for 18 months at a time — “usually, though, if we’re doing a good job, it’s a lot less than 18 months,” she says. “The whole model is it’s a flat fee, but we’re very incentivized to get it done in less than 18 months.”
Getting taken on as a client is a lot more complicated than swiping right; the process is equally dependent upon Hahn Holmes liking the potential client, as much as the client seeks her out. “We’ll go to them, and start off with the interview,” she says. “And from that, we go back and we determine if we think this person is a good fit and would represent the brand well. And we really kind of judge people on everything. We go back and discuss if we would want to accept a check from them. And if we would, then we’ll make them an offer.”
Matches are made with “guest members,” a pool of around 2,000 mostly women who do not pay, and who are scanned in a similar process. “They have to be referred to me by a friend, or by someone who knows the company and trusts us, and then after that they fill out a 70 question questionnaire, which asks all kinds of questions like ‘what is your relationship like with your parents,’ ‘what was growing up like for you,’ ‘if you could have a dinner party with five people living or dead, who are you bringing’ and we read those questionnaires really carefully. We then ask for photos, and if somebody sends us head shots, we actually send them back and ask for just a Facebook link or something, so we can have an idea of what they actually look like.”
At the end of the day, the goal is to find “marriage-minded individuals” who aren’t just content dating online. As it happens, a lot of the women in the network are fashion people, “just because of my own background and my own interest and the places that I like to go out,” Holmes Hahn says. Such places include events like the Whitney Art Party or the Dior-sponsored Guggenheim pre-party, where she’ll either mingle with a client to get to know how they socialize, or scout potential guest members.
While the core of the membership is in New York, LastFirst works with clientele in L.A., London, Paris, Miami, Palm Beach, Connecticut and New Jersey, and no matter where, no request is too much. “We give everybody a code of conduct before the dates — one for men, one for women, and it just kind of outlines some basic rules that we have,” she says. “Don’t talk about matchmaking on the date, wear something you’ve worn before, that you feel amazing in, for the guys we say arrive a little bit early and get situated and get seats, if it’s a drinks date, so you aren’t arriving together and scrambling. And if they have a fashion question or something, I’m always taking those calls.”
And though working with such small numbers might seem like a harder likelihood for success, Holmes Hahn reports it only takes around six weeks to find a client “the one.”
“I always loved connecting people, but I never thought that it could be a job,” she says. Now, her job has her fielding engagement calls and smiling through toasts: “I go to a lot of weddings.”