Erika Ettin helps people find love with her online dating help service, A Little Nudge, but don’t expect her to publicly reveal whether there’s someone special in her life. “I try to keep my business life separate from my personal life,” the 33-year-old D.C. resident told WJW. “There’s so much room for it to overlap but I really do try to keep that separate.” A native of Cherry Hill, N.J., who has economics undergrad and graduate degrees from Cornell and Georgetown, Ettin discusses how her business works, dating horror stories and more.
What is A Little Nudge and how does it work?
I started A Little Nudge just over 3 1/2 years ago, and I help people with all aspects of online dating. Anyone who’s done online dating knows that the two major obstacles are writing about yourself and the time commitment it takes to do online dating well. In my business, I offer services that address those obstacles to essentially make online dating easier for people, by helping market yourself and saving you time.
How did you get into this business?
I was a really early adopter of online dating, specifically JDate. I started in college, when nobody did online dating. I remember my parents flipping out, but I thought it was a fun thing to do. I always liked the concept of it. Over the years, I did JDate on and off, and had relationships from it. Back in 2009, I wanted to see, given that I am an economist, how well I could track my results. I love spreadsheets, I’m a nerd. I started keeping spreadsheets of everyone I emailed and the response rate, and my conversion rate from the responses to date. I was getting it really high. I would do little experiments. My friends started coming to me, seeing I was doing really well with it, asking, “Help me write my profile!” I started helping all of my friends. At the time, I had been working at Fannie Mae for over seven years. It was not my cup of tea anymore. I knew that was not going to be my career. All the parts kind of aligned. On one hand, I needed to get out of my job and on the other, I was doing this and loved it. I quit my job in March of 2011 and started the business.
Have most of your clients had success from using A Little Nudge?
I would say most, if not all. Success obviously is different for different people. What I do not measure as success is who gets married, because as we all know, nobody can control that, right? Success to me is a client getting more attention online and going on more dates. Ultimately if it turns into a long-term relationship and that’s what they want, that’s wonderful. I cry every time a client gets engaged. I’ve had between five and 10 clients get engaged or married, but what I see as success is really getting someone out there. Some of my clients, for example, were married for 30, 40 years and are now either widowed or divorced. Success to them is learning how to date again.
You started using JDate when it first came out. Any dating horror stories from the early days you’d like to share with us?
[Laughs] How much time do you have? When I started dating in college, I went out with this gentleman. We’ll call him Jerry. This is actually a story I wrote in my book, too, because I think it’s hilarious. So I went out with him and I was 19. I didn’t know how this whole thing worked. He asked to go to dinner and I said yes. Now, dinner is not a good idea on a first online date. He takes me out for sushi and I remember thinking, why is this guy only ordering one sushi roll. I’m petite but I can eat more than that! He was a nice guy, but just not for me. Fast forward to me living in D.C. six years later. I decided to go on JDate again after a hiatus. A guy asked me out. I’m excited and we met for sushi. And I think something is up. We’re about to sit down, and he goes, “I have something to tell you.” He tells me that we had gone out six years before and I didn’t recognize him. He recognized me, and didn’t tell me. The entire date was the exact same thing. Again, one sushi roll. This time I was like, “I’m ordering three sushi rolls.” It was just so ridiculous.
What are your thoughts on popular mobile matchmaking apps like Tinder and JSwipe?
I think the apps are great for efficiency. You can meet someone really quickly. Obviously the cons are 1) It’s very superficial; and 2) You don’t know anything about this person until you meet them, versus on OKCupid or JDate, they at least have a write-up. It makes people more of a commodity where it’s like next, next, next. It really depends on what you’re looking for. If you’re looking for something more on the serious side, I wouldn’t do the apps. While some users might be looking for something serious, you just have no idea going in.
Why should someone consider using your services?
The two main reasons people come to me are that they’ve done online dating and haven’t been successful at it, so they know something needs to change but they don’t know what. Another reason someone might come to me is that they’re so busy, they’re not going to do online dating on their own, and need to outsource it to me. Another group of people might come to me because they just don’t know how to do online dating. Maybe they were married for a long time and online dating didn’t exist before. Those are the three groups of people who come to me, and it’s really just if you feel stuck, then it’s probably time to make a change.