Anyone looking for a mate will know what a dearth of them there is in Cyprus. With this in mind one woman has set up a speed dating service. ALIX NORMAN goes along
We may live on the island of love, but when it comes to affairs of the heart, Aphrodite seems to be MIA. At any bar, dinner party or restaurant, one of the hottest topics (after politics, of course) seems to be the lack of available, approachable potential partners. And even if you’re not looking, the issue of where and how to find a new man/woman is bound to be hot gossip among your circle.
In this country, the Dating Game is never taken lightly; especially when, to many ‘Single = Fail’. And let’s face it, with such a small population, the pool of talent is never going to equal the seas of opportunity one might find abroad. But – stop the press – there is hope for those on a quest for their soulmate, and it comes under the auspices of ViroVirino.
ViroVirino is a speed dating service, the brainchild of Annie Sofocleous, a psychology and management graduate whose career thus far has been in event management. Full of life, an excellent conversationalist and a sympathetic listener, Annie is a born matchmaker.
“I always thought I’d end up in a job that combined psychology and event management,” she smiles, “and with speed dating everything fell into place. I’d been thinking about a couple of my colleagues at the office who were both sociable and attractive, but still couldn’t find someone. And it occurred to me how hard it is in this society to meet a potential mate. Men are not great at approaching women; women who are approached are worried they’re being taken advantage of. There’s such a lack of communication and openness in most social settings that it’s almost impossible to meet that special someone.”
For most people, the train of thought would have stopped right there, but not Annie. Enlisting long-time friend and marketing executive Loucas Mavrocordatos as her business partner allowed her all the skills necessary to set up a service catering to the lonely at heart.
“It took several months to set up the first event,” she says. “I even considered starting with something more general than a speed dating event, maybe social drinks with a comedian – something to break the ice, give people an excuse to go out and meet. But on reflection, I realised that even though we’re a small country, society is slowly becoming more open-minded, and people are ready for speed dating. From that moment on, I didn’t look back!”
Enlisting the services of web developer Elias Eliades allowed Annie and Loucas to create the platform needed to create events. “We spent weeks researching the market, asking for opinions, getting feedback. People seemed to be very excited about the concept – and we were surprised to find the idea of a speed-dating service appealed to all ages.” With her customer base steadily increasing, Annie has recently held the first ViroVirino speed dating event.
“Although lots of people had signed up, we decided to limit numbers and host a group of 20 guests between the ages of 45 and 55 for our first evening.” This ‘Full Bloom’ group consisted of 10 men and 10 women, all single and in search of love or companionship. “We don’t limit our guests’ options,” Annie explains. “You might meet someone who you don’t click with as a potential partner, but could see as a friend.” In that the majority of people encounter their partner through friends and acquaintances, it’s a sensible concept: even if guests don’t meet a potential soul mate during the event, they’re still expanding their social circle.
With the details and process of each event masterminded by Annie, Loucas and their team of hosts – who welcome guests, ensure they are comfortable and are on hand throughout – the first event was a great success. “The comfort – both mental and physical – of our guests is paramount,” Annie explains. “Most of our clients will never before have attended a speed dating event, so it’s up to us to ensure everyone is relaxed.”
Welcome drinks, snacks and a romantic atmosphere at the chosen venue – Chateau Status– ensure the arrivals are chatting away to each other even before the actual dating process begins. Annie gives a short welcome address and explains how the activity will work, the ladies take their seats and the gentlemen (who move from table to table) are off…
The room is full of lively chatter and laughter as each couple get five minutes of conversation about whatever takes their fancy. Between dates, the guests fill out a form, detailing their preferences (‘yes / no / maybe / friendship’) before moving on to the next table. There’s a midway break to catch one’s breath (several couples heading outside together for a cigarette, which bodes well for their chances!) before the final few rounds commence.
At the end of the evening when the dating is over, several guests move on to the bar, deep in conversation, and as Annie collects all the forms, she’s thrilled. “Just a quick glance at the data tells me what a success the evening has been!” she grins. The participants certainly seem to have enjoyed the process: as they leave, many stop to express their gratitude.
“It was a totally new experience,” enthuses one elegantly-clad lady, as she thanks her hosts. “I thought I would be nervous, but actually I was very comfortable and had a really good time.”
Rightly proud of ViroVirino’s first successful evening, Annie is already planning the next event. This time it will be a bigger affair, aimed at the 35 – 45 age group, and will take place in the autumn. So if, by September, Aphrodite hasn’t blessed you with summer love, don’t despair. Your perfect partner is still out there, and they could be signing up right now…
For more details of ViroVirino’s upcoming events, visit www.virovirino.com or call Annie Sofocleous on 96 684095