Being a founder, entrepreneur, or business owner can have many exciting and thrilling moments. But it is also punctuated with periods of doubt, slump, and anxiety. So how does one successfully and healthily ride the highs and lows of Entrepreneurship? In this series, called “How To Successfully Ride The Emotional Highs & Lows Of Being An Entrepreneur” we are talking to successful entrepreneurs who can share stories from their experiences. I had the pleasure of interviewing Erica Arrechea.
In 2011 Arrechea Co-Founded Cinqe, a matchmaking service aimed at singles in the US and Canada. Today it is named one of the Top Elite Matchmaking firms offered to high-net-worth singles.
Thank you so much for joining us in this interview series! Before we dive in, our readers would love to “get to know you” a bit better. Can you tell us a bit about your ‘backstory’ and how you got started?
I worked in sales throughout my 20’s and launched my own company at 27. It was a matchmaking business that stemmed from being a super-connector. I truly loved making introductions and I had cultivated a large network that really benefited me. I realized that my natural talent for connecting people, especially romantically, was something I could turn into a business. I noticed that nobody was matchmaking the way I would have in a sleek, easy, and transparent process. I told myself I would give the industry a classy new take, that was the whole idea, now I’m nearly a decade into it and the business continues to grow.
What was the “Aha Moment” that led to the idea for your current company? Can you share that story with us?
Starting out it was hard to believe that matchmaking could be profitable but then we started getting payments in the thousands. I specifically remember our first five thousand dollar client. I had this moment of realizing someone needed us. It solidified my belief in the brand and our work. I recognized I needed to invest even more into this business. My company was originally ‘Love Love’ but I took the opportunity and rebranded, rethought every detail. I took everything I had learned in business consulting and used it to grow my own company.
In your opinion, were you a natural born entrepreneur or did you develop that aptitude later on? Can you explain what you mean?
Yes, I would say I’m a natural-born entrepreneur but I don’t think I knew that till later. I didn’t even know what entrepreneur meant until I was officially starting a business and people would refer to me that way and I’d think, “doesn’t that mean you’re really successful and thriving?” I realized it was an enormous compliment by my own definition but also by the standards which imply I’m self-organized and assume all the risk of my business. I never thought twice about bearing all the burden of risk because I believe a great leader faces challenges ahead on and that’s always come easily to me.
Was there somebody in your life who inspired or helped you to start your journey with your business? Can you share a story with us?
Although it’s not specific to launching Cinqe, I watched my mother model being a successful businesswoman from a young age. Growing up my mom owned a nail salon, she had probably fifteen female employees, and they were the best team. This was San Francisco thirty years ago and the clientele were all socialites. All the wives of the Giants players would come in and our family would benefit because my mother was so intentional about forming lasting connections. I remember invitations to MLB games and beautiful galas and it was all through this amazing network my mom built. This normalized entrepreneurship for me without realizing it. I never had a parent who worked for a corporation. Childhood for me was doing homework in the salon office and watching how my mom cultivated and kept up relationships to keep her clients loyal over the years, she really set the tone for how to maintain connections.
What do you think makes your company stand out? Can you share a story?
First thing that comes to mind is that we’re constantly complimented on branding and the ease of finding information on our website. It was intentional that our social presence would be engaging, not corny, and that paid off. In the dating space, we have the highest engagement rate of any firm out there. I also pride myself on our team being available 24/7 to our clients. It doesn’t matter if it’s a Saturday night and they’ve left date and they need a quick pow-wow session; they can call one of the women on my team and we’ll be excited to talk to them. We get complimented on that a lot. Other agencies don’t do all of this, and I respect their boundaries, but we want our clients to feel like during their time with us they’re becoming our friends, that we’re all teammates.
You are a successful business leader. Which three character traits do you think were most instrumental to your success? Can you please share a story or example for each?
- For me, humor is the most important. Humor goes hand in hand with an easy-going personality and being charming with clients. In matchmaking, there are a lot of sensitive conversations with prospective clients and it’s a very emotional process. There’s also a layer of tough love, but being able to deliver that gently with a laid-back charm and sense of humor is huge. I’ve gotten out of many sticky situations by having an honest conversation and making those difficult moments lighter with humor.
- I think adaptability is critical to success as a leader. Clearly, 2020 taught us all a lot, but especially as a business it exploded the idea of ‘business as usual. Everyone was forced to adapt to the times. We took time exploring the new landscape of the world and found ways to continue to make introductions. I had learned to be so adaptable throughout my career in sales because each client I consulted with needed something unique, I realized I was accustomed to adjusting and moving quickly in a new direction when necessary.
- Tied closely to adaptability is the power of being decisive. I think it’s critical when making decisions to make the choice and move on. I strongly urge my team not to linger over decisions once they’re made. If you’re going back and forth, dwelling on the choice itself, you can’t grow or move forward.
Often leaders are asked to share the best advice they received. But let’s reverse the question. Can you share a story about advice you’ve received that you now wish you never followed?
I was told to follow the conventional standard of business and get an office. A full twelve-month lease in Newport Beach, California, and I did not see one client. Not one person came to the office. That was $20k down the drain. Other business leaders felt I would be taken more seriously and convinced me I needed to meet every client in person. I knew that my knack for connecting people and the technology available would lend me to being able to do this with clients no matter where they were located, but at the time I doubted my instincts and did what was expected.
Which tips would you recommend to your colleagues in your industry to help them create a work culture in which employees thrive and do not “burn out” or get overwhelmed?
Speaking directly to the sales aspect of matchmaking, you have to figure out a way to qualify leads before getting on the phone. Otherwise, you’ll spend hours draining your energy with people who want to talk to you because they recognize you’re a great listener, incredibly business savvy, and well connected, as all the women who work at Cinqe are. I’ve hired people who are great networkers but I can’t let our matchmakers burn out talking to people about their challenges without a slight guarantee they want to work with us. It’s easy to teach them the healthy way to start a new client relationship. Limit your time as the process evolves, that’s one of the best pieces of advice I give every woman who works for me. If you want to give them more information, you can reschedule another call, you don’t need their entire story in one go.
What would you advise other business leaders to do in order to build trust, credibility, and authority in their industry?
It’s critical to create friendships with peers inside your industry and especially with other business owners in your industry. By staying in conversation with your peers you build your credibility and could potentially cross-promote. It may be that you each have a niche matchmaking style or maybe a more specific clientele and can help each other out when a client doesn’t fit in your roster but you want to help both the client and your peer. I know that clients may be speaking to other agencies, so I’m always quick to support and encourage “oh ‘so and so agency’, I know them they’re great!” To be the biggest fan of your own brand means getting on board with others in your industry so you’re a positive influence in the industry as a whole. Also in regards to being a business leader in general, what stands out is never being late. Being reliable to consultants and employees shows that you respect everybody’s time and that is trust and credibility to your word.
Can you help articulate why doing that is essential today?
Nowadays you can Google, write reviews, or look people up at any time, for any reason. Being transparent and forthcoming about your business and relationships is essential when access to information is constant. I don’t want to wonder how I’m being portrayed by others in my industry. I want to know we have a great working relationship because I’ve put in the effort to be trustworthy.
What are the most common mistakes you have seen CEOs & founders make when they start a business? What can be done to avoid those errors?
Something that comes to mind, because I didn’t do this immediately in the beginning, is to get organized on day one. Don’t lose one lead. Secondary to that, I know CEOs and founders tend to overthink everything instead of creating actionable steps to move forward. I say just get started. Spending money on certifications or classes is a form of stalling. You don’t need them to create your own model, get moving, and test it. You can always take those certifications or classes later if you need them to scale the business. The best way to make the jump into your own business is to practice asking for money, work on the skills necessary, and get testimonials. Just get started.
Can you describe to our readers why no matter how successful you are as an entrepreneur, you will always have fairly dramatic highs and lows? Particularly, can you help explain why this is different from someone with a “regular job”?
Assuming the title of entrepreneur brings on an enormous amount of personal ownership. You take full ownership of problem-solving and final decision making for an entire business, whereas at a regular job you don’t carry those burdens on your own. As the head of a company, you are responsible not only for problems and finances but for protecting your employees. Especially since my team is all women, I do feel it’s a priority to protect them. For example with Cinqe, one day we’ll have a client who has signed their contract, said he wired the money, but he’s lied and then completely disappears. After negotiating, adjusting contracts, after all your hard work, the deal is dead. But then we’ll see a client come in the following week and wire the money hours later. That’s a very typical experience within the span of a month, a six-figure contract that drops and a six-figure contract that’s signed the next day. If on day one of a contract the client shows me some unfavorable red flags, I would wire all of the money back and still pay my employees for their work. If I can see this person is a liability I have to be willing to pull the plug so we’re not stuck in the relationship for a year. I’m accountable for making our matchmakers feel like their work is valued no matter what a client decides. I don’t think there’s anything comparable in a regular job, it’s a crazy roller coaster, and you have to be able to say “we’ll get the next one!”
Do you feel comfortable sharing a story from your own experience about how you felt unusually high and excited as a result of your business? We would love to hear it.
Setting up my business partner with the man who is now her husband and father to her child. If I had never started the business they wouldn’t have been introduced. It validated what we’re doing in a deep way. Their connection shows that our system works, that expanding your network and using your super connectors can pay off fiscally and emotionally and the ultimate positive result is this beautiful relationship of a close friend.
Do you feel comfortable sharing a story from your own experience about how you felt unusually low, and vulnerable as a result of your business? We would love to hear it.
I’m sure it’s a lot of people’s stories, but Covid really took the wind out of us at the start of 2020. During early quarantine, people assumed no one was dating. But each week our team had a call about how to approach new ways of meeting and connecting people. The first steps were navigating the initial shutdowns and getting PPP loans to help my staff. I focused on educating myself specifically to assist the women who worked for me at Cinqe. I had two CPAs tell me I was wrong and the women were ineligible for the loans but I rejected the advice and worked on figuring the system out. I tried to stay out of self-doubt about financial fluidity and got educated about my options.
Based on your experience can you tell us what you did to bounce back?
Specific to Covid, we got really motivated and made waivers for daters, so everyone could safely date. Overall, knowing when you hit hard times that your choice going forward is to hustle harder. Twice as many phone calls to double your outreach, working twice as hard to bring in new clients. I feel comfortable that as a team we know how to extend ourselves because we’ve ridden the lows before. We are comfortable being at the bottom because the reverse is equally as possible, zero to one hundred. I was comfortable increasing sales and marketing because I trust we’ve done it before and we’ll do it again.
What are your “Five Things You Need To Successfully Ride The Emotional Highs & Lows Of Being An Entrepreneur”? Please share a story or an example for each.
- Having a good partner is crucial. Knowing your right hand is loyal, they’re gonna withstand the lowest of the lows with you, ride through it, whether that’s a significant other or business partner, they have to know there will be tough times and be ready to walk through it with you.
- A great CRM. It’s your best friend during the lows, you’re going to go to it and see all your notes in one place and know who you can bring in as a client. During a high, it broadens your outreach and you can work even more efficiently.
- Know what your strengths are. These strengths should come with ease in the highs, hyper-focused moments of strategy, easily flowing growth. In a low you’re aware that you have the skills needed to thrive in your industry, that’s why you built the business you did. You’ll evolve and grow within your areas of strength and expertise.
- Find your zen. Find what makes you feel good. Whether that’s meditation or a form of workout. I found Bar Method in San Francisco four years ago and it changed my life. It helps me conquer the day no matter how high or low I may go. It’s an intentional 45 minutes without my phone to focus on my body and how I feel. How you feel is how your presence comes across. That matters enormously when you’re leading your own business.
- Staying present. Especially when it comes to not dwelling on the lows. When bad things happen I hear a lot of people talk it to death. You have to let it go, learn from the experience, and move on. Don’t bring it up again. This goes for the highs too, can’t continue to celebrate the win, you have to celebrate and move on. Seek a bigger win, your next win. Don’t let the high or the low be the final say. Don’t concentrate on the event once it’s passed. Keep moving.
We are living during challenging times and resilience is critical during times like these. How would you define resilience? What do you believe are the characteristics or traits of resilient people?
This is definitely tied to the idea of staying present; you need the capacity to know when it’s time to move on, don’t allow things to bring you down. It’s important not to dissect a low point past usefulness. Recognize when a situation is not the right fit and accept that not everything is going to go your way. Resilient people know when it’s time to let go. If you start to feel down, give yourself a pep talk. Simple reminders are best, ‘you are better than this, you can handle this. If you want to do better moving forward then you have to know you’re continuing on no matter what. I believe in welcoming the highs and lows, inviting them both equally, because they’re coming whether or not you face them directly.
Did you have any experiences growing up that have contributed to building your resiliency? Would you mind sharing a story?
Growing up both my parents were business owners so I watched them through all their businesses’ fluctuations. A lot of their strength came from prioritizing their employees and the health of the team. If there was a dip in business they would find a way to make more work available for their employees. I learned that stability from leadership helps build trust with your team. Personal ownership was also modeled as a form of resilience. If something goes wrong with a client, or a system you work with, I learned that you fix the issue yourself even if that means late nights and overtime. Everything should be fixed with a sense of urgency, not putting off the problem to grow or fix tomorrow, but showing up for the business when it’s required not when it’s convenient.
In your opinion, do you tend to keep a positive attitude during difficult situations? What helps you to do so?
Absolutely. Every day there’s some variation of a difficult situation. As an entrepreneur, you have to love these situations. I tell myself to buckle up and address the problem head-on. You’re solving a puzzle without instructions constantly, you have to love it, it’s the only way to be successful.
Can you help articulate why a leader’s positive attitude can have a positive impact both on their clients and their team? Please share a story or example if you can.
So many business owners never amount to anything because they harp on the negative. They’re stuck dissecting things that no longer matter, losing time that could be spent moving forward by replaying situations that have passed. Once you have a few years of experience within your industry you’ll have weathered enough situations and can tell your team how to thrive in difficult moments. Your employees will feel confident in your leadership because you’ve been through this before and have chosen to embrace the lows without fear. You’re offering your team a moment to relax by not getting personally overwhelmed because you’ve embraced highs and lows with equal preparedness and can now lead them through it.
What is your favorite inspirational quote that motivates you to pursue greatness? Can you share a story about how it was relevant to you in your own life?
There is a Tim Ferris quote on growth and weathering situations that’s very simple but I love it, he says, “conditions are never perfect.”
People are always putting things off, whether it’s taking a new headshot because they want to lose weight first, or waiting for the perfect website, but you’ve just got to take the leap. I leaped into an industry based solely on love to connect with others. It’s been a decade now, but when I first started I wasn’t even dating anyone! Who was I to tell people who and how to date? You have to be confident in how to get yourself and your team there regardless of your imagined perfect set-up. As long as there is genuine care, and you’re ready to ride the waves for yourself and with your team, you’re going to learn and grow as you go.
How can our readers further follow you online?
Connect with Erica:
Discover Cinqe Matchmaking:
This was very inspiring. Thank you so much for the time you spent with this. We wish you continued success and good health!