If you could sell a product every person on earth wants, you’d have a winning business. Right? So – other than a phone upgrade – what does nearly every single person on earth want?

Love. And happiness.

That’s the product platforms like Tinder, Bumble, Hinge, and other online dating services are selling.

According to the latest numbers out there, 5% of people on Hinge find a partner. It’s about 13% on Bumble. Tinder leads the pack with just under 30%. In other words, somewhere between 70 and 95% of people on dating apps don’t find a partner. So, is there another business model that can more successfully package and sell love and happiness? Apparently, yes, there is. It’s been around a long time and exists in various forms in lots of different cultures and countries. It’s called matchmaking.

Ann Parnes, her matchmaking company, After Hello, has grown from local New Orleans roots to a nationwide operation

Ann Parnes, her matchmaking company, After Hello, has grown from local New Orleans roots to a nationwide operation

New Orleanian Ann Parnes is a matchmaker. We met Ann back in 2020, during Covid when very few of us were going on dates and when she had a company called Match Made in NOLA. As the name implies, it was a local matchmaking business. Today Ann has a nationwide matchmaking business, called After Hello.

Okay, so you’ve met the love of your life. Now what? If you’re like most people, you’re going to put a ring on it. Along with psychological adjustment you’re going to have to make to commitment, you’re also going to have to solve the real-world problem of where exactly you’re going to put on a ring on it. And how you’re going to celebrate the biggest day of your life.

You need a wedding and a reception. Who do you turn to for advice about that? Well, how about somebody name Van Vrancken? The Van Vrancken family have been hosting brides and grooms at The Balcony Ballroom for 45 years. Since 1979 they’ve married 10,000 couples!

Vanessa Van Vrancken, carrying on a 50 year family tradition of marrying New Orleanians at The Balcony Ballroom

Vanessa Van Vrancken, carrying on a 50 year family tradition of marrying New Orleanians at The Balcony Ballroom

The Balcony Ballroom is currently owned and run by a second generation of Van Vranckens. One of them is Vanessa. Before joining the family business in 2011, Vanessa spent 16 years in New York as an actress. She’s a member of the Screen Actors Guild and its live theater equivalent, Actors’ Equity.

Whether you manage a single Chuck E Cheese franchise or you’re CEO of Apple, everybody running a business is doing pretty much the same thing – managing people, solving problems, and trying to make a profit.

It’s safe to say that most people with a business would also like to accomplish something else, something less tangible. And that is, in some way, make the world a better place. Business owners define that in all kinds of ways. For some it’s simply being able to employ people and give them an income. For others it’s controlling waste and preserving the environment.

There’s a wide range of contributions a business can make to the world. That certainly includes adding to the sum total of human happiness – which is what you do when you spend your professional life helping people find love, and get married. It’s rare to find businesses where creating and celebrating love and happiness is front and center.

Vanessa Van Vrancken, Peter Ricchiuti, Ann Parnes, Out to Lunch at NOLA Brewing

Vanessa Van Vrancken, Peter Ricchiuti, Ann Parnes, Out to Lunch at NOLA Brewing

Out to Lunch is recorded live over lunch at NOLA Pizza in the NOLA Brewing Taproom. Photos by Jill Lafleur.