Jason Joseph Photography

Love at the Top

Everyone needs love, and so there’s a reason why certain people are gonna need people like Nicci Sprouse. Despite the wellspring of dating apps and websites over the last decade, Sprouse has remained unplugged, searching for love offline for the city’s most connected individuals.

With Tinder, Match, OkCupid, eHarmony, and others out there offering dating connections at your fingertips—for a minimal cost—traditional matchmaking services like Sprouse’s might appear to aim at a dwindling market.

Except hers isn’t an everyday clientele.

A far less brutal version of Bravo’s Patti, Sprouse is Columbus’s “millionaire matchmaker,” and between Cincinnati and the capital city, she has interviewed more than 500 people in an attempt to match up the busiest successful business professionals.

She took some time out from running her A-List Connections outfit to school (614) on love at the top:

How did you get started doing this? When was the moment that it clicked that this was what you wanted to do? Before moving to Columbus five years ago, I ran a millionaire matchmaking service in Cincinnati. I always had an intuitive nature and natural skill set for connecting people, whether it was professional or personal. I found their stories/struggles incredibly compelling. I wanted so badly to help them fall in love…yeah, I’m a hopeless romantic.

What are the unique aspects of dealing with A-list clients? Anonymity is a big one. Many clients that I work with are very successful so being profiled on an online dating site simply won’t work. My clients definitely value the fact that my service is confidential, customized, and offline.   

Are there more women that need this service than in years past? Successful single women are savvy and aren’t afraid to pursue different modes of finding a partner who matches their relationship contributions (spiritual, emotional, mental, physical, financial). Like men, women also value the importance of finding someone who not only matches their search criteria but also possess the ambition, awareness, and emotional connection they desire.

With the way online dating services have lowered the entry point cost-wise, does it make a service like yours make more sense? I don’t consider dating apps or online dating sites to be competition. I personally meet, thoroughly vet, and hand-select each person I work with. There is real value and comfort in knowing that everyone is on the same page in terms of relationship goals, core values, and emotional receptivity—you don’t have that with apps and online sites.

Have online dating services made it tougher to recruit clients or matches? Online dating services have actually made my efforts easier. Historically, online dating sites have been a rite of passage—some find success, many don’t. Knowing that, I personally interview and assess everyone I work with, people know they are meeting a legitimate person who is a true potential match for them.

Have online dating services created any bad habits for your daters? I believe they’ve created more horror stories than bad habits. My clients find it comforting to know that working with me eliminates the fear of that first meeting.

Do you feel “offline” matchmaking has a better success rate? Why? Are people getting too caught up in the instant gratification of Tinder dates, or perhaps the lack thereof? Everyone measures success differently in the dating world. Some feel that meeting someone worthy of a second dates deems success, while success to someone else could mean exclusivity or marriage. My clients know they aren’t wasting their time meeting the wrong people. You don’t have that with online services or apps—you’re left to do the vetting and filtering yourself. And many people do not have the gauge or intuitive nature to be unbiased and recognize what works and what doesn’t. Many also find that their lifestyle is not conducive to online dating as the time requirement can be equated to a part-time job.

What is your definition of “high-end?” For my company, high-end means first-class—high-caliber members, supreme service, and unsurpassed personalization.

You have years of experience giving dating advice. Do you feel that it’s more that people don’t know how to date, or don’t know what they want? It’s definitely both. Many singles could use a simple refresher course on the basic dos and don’ts. But, knowing what you want is essential. I advise my clients and my friends to make a list of exactly the qualities they want in a partner (i.e. outgoing, affectionate, open-minded, fit, financially independent, etc.). This list should be very long, detailed and consist of positive characteristics. By creating this list you’re self-actualizing what it is you want, and for those who understand the law of attraction it can bring you one step closer. Singles who are open and receptive to learning and evolving within themselves will be successful in finding a partner.

Over all the years of experience you have, how has dating changed, either in general, or how was your personal philosophy about it changed? For the first time, there are more single adults than married adults in America. That, in and of itself, is redefining what it means to be single—not to mention the implications on our economy and society. While innovation is leading us forward, there is something to be said for old-fashioned, tried-and-true dating philosophies.

Do you ever have a lasting relationship with people you’ve matched? I mean, when it’s a friend, the story “I met him/her because of so-and-so” becomes part of the narrative.  Absolutely! Countless singles I have worked with have turned into dear friends. Befriending clients is inevitable for me, especially those I’ve connected. I hosted a huge singles event with the Columbus Blue Jackets last spring, and a couple I introduced (who are now married) came to the event together just to say hello.

Do you get invited to weddings? I do. It’s an incredibly rewarding experience to know you were a conduit for two people meeting.

What is your romantic life like? Is that something you share with clients? My romantic life is just like everyone else’s, actually. Although, I have learned it’s best to leave my dating advice/relationship expert/introduction service owner’s hat at the office each night. I am a business professional, so I tend to keep my personal life private from my clients.

What are the specific challenges of dating in Columbus? I mean, it’s not small, but it’s not NYC, and it seems that, especially with this method, you might have a smaller pool to work with… Sure, Columbus could be perceived as a “small town” in the sense that people tend to know each other and run in similar circles. However, I probably have my finger on the pulse of our city’s amazing eligible singles more than most, and I assure you there are no shortages.

You never want anyone to settle, but do you find some clients are just too picky? Specificity and knowing what you want is key, sure, but do people get in their own way by wanting too many boxes checked off? People can definitely be too picky and superficial. When this happens, it’s a great opportunity for me to ask questions, dig deeper, and discover why it is they feel the need for specificity. Typically, once I have a better understanding of them, it’s not that they’re picky; I find that they are repeating patterns or simply have a comfort level with a certain type. It’s my job to bring this to the surface and push them outside their comfort zone.

For the people who have seen Millionaire Matchmaker, in what ways does your service differ? First and foremost, I am not as brutal as Patti—that is all for television. While I do ask tough-love questions and host mixers tailored to attract and identify select matches for my clients, what ultimately differentiates me is my methodology. It is true that there is science behind creating chemistry and fulfilling our emotional needs, and by aligning science with emotional intelligence I’m able to customize and measure an introduction strategy for each client.

I think the show loves to portray wealthy men as this stereotyped version of a guy who has everything—just not love. Is part of your goal to remove that stigma a little? For lack of a better term, I think some see the Type-A executive guy as a little douche-y or someone who only cares about material things…. This is real life, not television. While I have met some “DBs,” I am very selective with whom I choose to work with. Part of the mutual fit I look for in a client relationship is authenticity.    

The show’s clients often came across as spoiled. Doesn’t having someone else do the work of filtering through potential matches for them just further that sense of entitlement? People hire financial advisors to manage their investments, realtors to sell their homes, personal trainers to become healthier, and so on. Enlisting an expert who connects and introduces the city’s most eligible singles each day is smart.

For more about Nicci, visit alistintroductions.com.

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Travis Hoewischer

I’ve been working in journalism in central Ohio for more than a decade, and have been lucky enough to be a part of (614) Magazine since the very first issue. Proud to live in a city that still cares – and still reads.

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