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{ live it } The Matchmaker KickStartLove founder Elana Averbach helps forge love connections all over Northeast Ohio. I n 2009, Shaker Heights native Elana Averbach, 27, was at a crossroads in her personal life. Af- ter graduating from Reed College in 2007 with a degree in psychology, she worked as a teacher in New York City for two years before moving back home. Quickly, she realized that making new friends — and finding people to date — was much harder as an adult than during college years. She sought advice and learned many friends had met their partners online. “I quickly had to become an expert in online dating and on where to meet people and how to connect,” she says. “I started dating online and had suc- cess with it.” Averbach even used her skills to help friends by editing biographies, se- lecting profile pictures and helping them write to eligible matches. She was elated when, thanks to her matchmaking efforts, many of her friends found love online. With encouragement from her newly coupled friends, Averbach launched matchmaking service KickStartLove in 2010 to help others in Northeast Ohio find true love. “Love is a basic need, just like food or shelter,” she says. “With it, people feel whole and secure. Without it, people can feel fragmented and lost.” Originally, Averbach, who is completing her Master of Education in Clini- cal Mental Health Counseling at Kent State University, founded KickStart- Love to help people navigate the often-overwhelming online dating process. Now the organization offers one-on-one coaching sessions, dating seminars and a variety of popular themed speed-dating events. So far, Averbach has organized speed-dating events for book lovers, mu- sic lovers, theater fans, oenophiles, Jews, members of the LGBT community and more. All of the events have sold out, and Averbach says 95 percent of the people who have attended her events left with a match — someone they con- nected with at the event and planned to see again. Averbach even offers clients pointers on how to make themselves most at- tractive to potential mates. For instance, Averbach says a common mistake people make when filling out their online profile is trying too hard to sound funny. “Most people are not good at being funny in writing,” she explains, “so they tend to sound overly eccentric or strange. Unless you are a highly skilled comedy writer, just be sincere.” Averbach lives for her clients’ success stories. “I love when somebody e- mails me and says they found love through one of our events,” she says. “Or at least met someone cool [to date].” And though she does admit to hav- ing found love herself, she says she doesn’t discuss her love life when talking about her work. For more information on KickStartLove and to sign up for future events, visit kickstartlove.com. — Elizabeth Weinstein How to find love Know what you are seeking. Ask yourself what you need and want most in a partner. Accept that dating is messy and complicated. Keep a positive attitude, and treat each date as an opportunity to enjoy spending time with someone new. “Even if they are a terrible match,” Averbach says, “they might be an amazing person.” Get out there. Accept invitations to parties and events. When you have a mutual friend or a shared interest, connections are more fluid. Be approachable. Make eye contact, smile and strike up conversations, not just with people you are attracted to — with everyone. You never know how you will meet the love of your life. Create space in your life. “We all have busy lives,” Averbach says, “but you really have to prioritize. You have to put yourself in the right place at the right time.” 6 fall 2012 • westshoremag.com DON PAVLISH