The Covid-19 pandemic has affected nearly every aspect of our lives today. Many of us now have new challenges that come with working from home, homeschooling, and sheltering in place.
As a part of our series about how busy women leaders are addressing these new needs, I had the pleasure of interviewing Amber Lee.
Amber Lee is the Founder & CEO of Select Date Society, a boutique matchmaking firm, representing high caliber singles throughout the United States. Amber has been a matchmaker and relationship expert since 1998.
Thank you so much for doing this with us! Before we dig in, our readers would love to “get to know you” a bit better. Can you share with us the backstory about what brought you to your specific career path?
Asa student, I excelled in school, and I went to college when I was 16 years old. After two years of college, I began working at a Matchmaking Agency as a summer job. I was simply answering phones and doing office work there, but I was fascinated by the matchmaking process. I felt like I had found my calling! I took a full-time position there and quickly worked my way up to taking on my own clients.
That was in 1998. I have since lived all over the country, working for some of the largest Matchmaking companies in the United States. I always knew that I could offer a better service to my clients if I wasn’t held back by a large corporation, so in June 2020, I launched Select Date Society!
Can you share the most interesting story that happened to you since you started at your company?
The most interesting story is the one that pushed me to start the company! On May 10th, 2020 I died. I was driving when I went into sudden cardiac arrest… there were no warning signs… I just suddenly died behind the wheel. I have no recollection of that day at all. My significant other, his mother, and our daughter were in the vehicle with me.
I drove my SUV into a brick home. Both front airbags deployed, and the SUV began to smoke. Thankfully, everyone else in the vehicle was ok aside from some bruised ribs.
My significant other pulled me from the vehicle and a good Samaritan who stopped at the scene began performing CPR. An ambulance arrived within minutes as we were just 1/2 mile from a fire station. I later learned that only 5% of people who go into sudden cardiac arrest survive and the key to survival is getting your heart shocked with the defibrillator within 10 minutes.
The paramedics were able to shock my heart and bring me back. I underwent surgery to repair my liver and spleen and was placed on a ventilator for the first day in the hospital. I became conscious a few days later and learned what happened. After 10 days in the hospital, I went home (in a lot of pain with broken ribs on both sides and a permanent defibrillator placed in my chest.)
Prior to the accident, I was the Vice President of Matchmaking for a matchmaking agency. I have always wanted to start my own matchmaking firm, even reserving a domain name. Surviving a near-death experience was the push that I needed. I resigned from my position and hired a web designer to get my website up.
I have always been hard-working and determined and this was no different. My loved ones warned me not to work too hard and encouraged me to take time to heal, but I think that working passionately at what I love has been what has helped me heal. On June 1st, 2020 Select Date Society was officially launched! I have been blessed with a second chance at life and I am determined to make the most of it!
Are you working on any exciting new projects now? How do you think that will help people?
Yes! We just launched the SDS Premier Network, which will allow members to be considered as a potential match for our amazing clients without making significant financial investment to hire us. Essentially, our premier network members are at the top of the list when we are recruiting matches for our clients. We also offer them great tools to support them in their journey to find love.
It’s just $500 and these members have been so excited to work with some of the country’s top matchmakers and get results! Our clients love it because the matches we have for them also have “skin in the game” and are so much higher quality than someone who is not willing to make any investment in their love life.
None of us are able to achieve success without some help along the way. Is there a particular person who you are grateful towards who helped get you to where you are? Can you share a story about that?
Absolutely! My significant other, Mike, has played a huge part in getting me to where I am today. We have been together for 10 years and he has helped me to grow both personally and professionally over the last decade. Mike was the one who pulled me from the car after the accident. He was there when I woke up in the hospital. He watched over me as I recovered, washing my hair, helping me dress, and preparing my meals. Our relationship has always been a delicate dance, where we keep each other balanced.
I tend to work way too much, and Mike often helps me to achieve balance, pulling me into an impromptu dance in the kitchen or convincing me to shut my laptop and enjoy the sunset from our back patio. I think our relationship also keeps me motivated in my career. I believe the right partner makes you a better version of yourself and I want so badly for others to experience the type of love that Mike and I share!
The Covid-19 pandemic has affected nearly every aspect of our lives today. Can you articulate to our readers what are the biggest family related challenges you are facing as a woman business leader during this pandemic?
I believe that being a working mother is one of the most difficult tasks that women take on. The biggest challenge as a CEO and mother that I am facing right now is taking on both roles from home simultaneously, while also taking on the additional role of home-school teacher. Last year my mornings and evenings were filled with balancing work while parenting and overseeing homework.
The daytime hours, when my daughter was at school, allowed me time to focus 100% on work. Now I face the challenge of playing all roles at the same time… CEO, teacher, lunch lady, and mom.
Can you share what you’ve done to address those challenges?
I’ve always been organized, but life during Covid has forced me to become even more efficient. I schedule every part of my day on my google calendar, which I share with my family and my team. I delegate work that I previously took on myself to capable team members, so that I have time to assist my daughter with her schoolwork. I outsource personal chores like house cleaning and grocery shopping. I pay for convenience now to free up more of my time.
Can you share the biggest work related challenges you are facing as a woman in business during this pandemic?
My biggest challenge has been leading my team with a balance of empathizing with their feelings about the pandemic and keeping them focused on getting results for our clients. We are in the matchmaking business and there was a lot of uncertainty around how people would date in March and April.
Many people in the industry were wondering if their jobs would be secure, so I couldn’t ignore those fears. We launched our firm in the middle of this pandemic and we did not let those fears get in the way. I had to be a confident leader and offer my team reassurance. I believe in having transparent conversations and tackling issues head-on, so we didn’t shy away from those tough conversations.
Can you share what you’ve done to address those challenges?
Our human need for love and connection ended up addressing the challenge for me. The summer months took everyone in the matchmaking industry by surprise as suddenly we ended up busier than ever. It became apparent that singles who had been self-quarantined were now seeking connection more than ever.
My team members have not had to worry about losing their jobs. Instead, we have all faced the challenge of being incredibly busy working from home. We have all had to learn strategies to navigate the dating world in 2020 as we have found ourselves in the unique position of coaching singles through how to date safely during a pandemic.
Can you share your advice about how to best work from home, while balancing the needs of homeschooling or the needs of a family?
I have a 12-year-old daughter and her school will be virtual in the Fall. While she is an excellent student, I have found that she needs individual attention and I think that the need for attention and connection has increased during this time. I tend to get so enthralled in my work that I could easily spend all day and evening in my home office. Calendar management has become a huge priority for me. Now I put everything on my calendar, including lunch and dinner.
It’s important for me to block out family time and for my team to see that on my calendar so that they know I’m unavailable during that time. I’ve also made a decision not to feel guilty about utilizing services to make life easier during Covid. We order meals through Uber Eats often and I have groceries delivered. Less time spent trying to run errands and cook meals, allows us to enjoy more family time.
Can you share your strategies about how to stay sane and serene while sheltering in place, or simply staying inside, for long periods with your family?
The ability to laugh often has helped our household to stay sane as we have been spending all of our time together. When you don’t take yourself too seriously and you are able to laugh at yourself, stressful situations become much easier to manage. We are also conscious of the information we’re consuming. We make sure that we’re each reading a good book and we don’t have cable TV. Mindset is so important! We try to make decisions that will protect us from negativity and keep us all in a positive mental space.
Many people have become anxious from the dramatic jolts of the news cycle. The fears related to the coronavirus pandemic have understandably heightened a sense of uncertainty, fear, and loneliness. From your perspective can you help our readers to see the “Light at the End of the Tunnel”? Can you share your “5 Reasons To Be Hopeful During this Corona Crisis”? If you can, please share a story or example for each.
- If you are single and want to find love, this is a great time! This pandemic has put things into perspective for a lot of people and singles are shifting their priorities in order to make room for the right person in their life.
- Dreams can be created and fulfilled, even in times of crisis. If you have a dream you have been putting off, stop procrastinating. Life is short and tomorrow is never promised. Don’t wait for a Covid vaccine or for a world without masks. Pursue your dreams now! I have successfully launched a service business in the midst of Covid and you can do it, too.
- Work/life balance will look different moving forward. My clients are CEO’s, Entrepreneurs, Physicians, and Attorneys. They are the people you are used to hearing about working 50+ hours per week. The positive thing Covid has taught us all is how to work in a new way. More people are truly making their personal lives a priority. Companies are realizing that their employees can work remotely and get the job done. I think remote work will be the new normal moving forward.
- There has been a renewed sense of community. Neighbors are checking on each other. In Richmond, VA our public schools continue to provide meals and resources to students and their families. A national health emergency is not a political issue; it’s an issue that everyone is concerned about and people are coming together to care for each other.
- Every experience is a learning experience that will make us better. On an individual level, many people have learned that they need to have an emergency fund and be better prepared for an event like this in the future. As a country, we are learning our blind spots and making adjustments to be prepared to face future health emergencies. We will all come out of this stronger.
From your experience, what are a few ideas that one can use to effectively offer support to their family and loved ones who are feeling anxious? Can you explain?
Check-in with your loved ones often. Ask them how they are feeling and genuinely listen to their concerns. Allowing them to talk through their feelings can be a great way to give them support.
Can you please give us your favorite “Life Lesson Quote”? Can you share how that was relevant to you in your life?
“The trouble is, you think you have time.” This has been my mantra since having my near-death experience. Life is short! Do what you love NOW. This is also something I remind my clients of often. You don’t know how long you have on this earth, so stop putting your personal life on the backburner. Make finding love a priority NOW.
How can our readers follow you online?
You can find me company at www.selectdatesociety.com and we’re also listed as Select Date Society on LinkedIn, Facebook, Instagram, and YouTube. You can connect with me on LinkedIn at www.linkedin.com/in/amber-Lee-matchmaker or on Facebook @Amber Lee-Matchmaker
Thank you so much for sharing these important insights. We wish you continued success and good health!
About The Interviewer: Karina Michel Feld is the Owner and Executive Producer of Tallulah Films. Karina has 20+ years of experience in TV, film, and print and is a respected member of The Producers Guild of America. The mission of Tallulah Films is to bring together directors, entrepreneurs, film investors, and screenwriters to produce award-winning TV and film projects. Tallulah Films continues to be drawn towards films that are meaningful, influential, and uplifting. Karina is also Co-Owner and CFO of Fresh Patch LLC (as seen on ABC’s “Shark Tank”).