Juliette Prais: We Wanted To Offer A Dating Company For Love, Not Simply Hook-ups
The founder and CEO of Pink Lobster Dating & Matchmaking talks to us about running her own LGBT business.
Name: Juliette Prais
Current job: Founder and CEO of Pink Lobster Dating & Matchmaking
Work history: I used to be a history teacher, then I worked creating educational outreach projects for the BME & Deprived Communities, I also worked in housing & homelessness as well as family liaison. I have also been an events organiser and even worked as a professional singer/songwriter.
DIVA: You’re one of the founders of Pink Lobster. Why did you feel that a femme dating site was important?
JULIETTE: When we created Pink Lobster Dating, the femme angle was not the only important aspect.
Yes, we needed a place for femme women to find and meet one another free from the judgment of the heterosexual and gay communities. What was also important in our aims was to provide a heightened safe and secure website. With our experiences online we saw how easy it was for people to create fake profiles as well as scam and spam people. Also, we were fed up of all those awful websites, which we discovered were white labelled (basically the same database of members over hundreds of thousands of websites). As women looking for women it can already be a daunting experience without having to worry about whether or not you’re speaking to Jane or Jim. Another important aspect to us was to ensure that our members were supported. Online dating can be very isolating, confusing and a minefield, which is why we have always had real LGBT+ professional advisors on hand who can support you in your journey. Also, we wanted to offer a dating company that was focussed on love, not simply hook-ups or just targeted at women in their twenties.
Would you say that the perception of femme lesbians has changed over the years?
Absolutely the perception has changed, but it is still confusing to many. Yes, with the advent of more awareness in the media people know we exist. Nonetheless, there are still many within all the communities who misjudge our presence. There are still those who don’t believe that we are “real lesbians” and many continue to be rejected from gay bars. It is still hard to be accepted in the gay community. Celebrity femmes and those who have excelled in business are all great advocates for our cause and we need more to come out!
Have you met any resistance to the idea of Pink Lobster from inside and outside the LGBTI community?
The word resistance is such a horrible idea in this context. We always like to see the good in everyone. So, if someone questions the concept of a femme company we will always explain the need for our service and people then get it! We are not and never have said that we are better or worse than anyone else, we just know how hard it can be as femme women to find one another. Also, we never refuse anyone. We are well-known now as one of the most sexually inclusive companies as we understand that sexuality is not simply straight or gay.
At the end of the day we know as therapists, coaches and counsellors that when someone resists something that it is often a personal battle and therefore patience and understanding is key.
We choose to focus on those who want to succeed with us. Partnerships in the community globally have always been key and we love to work with others. We have ambassadors who run events for us in cities all over the UK and USA, as well as finding us matches for our clients.
What challenges did you face when you were setting up the business?
Women are complex and can be challenging. People always say to me, “Oh, how lovely working with women all the time” and I always say well men are probably a bit easier actually and just because I’m a woman doesn’t mean I understand all women. We are all individuals and wonderfully dynamic. I spend a lot of time defending women from other women as sadly although the LGBT community is one it can be disparaging. It would be so wonderful if we all just accepted one another regardless of our varied sexualities, personalities and individualities. After all we are all just human beings and if we stopped hating, love would happen so much more easily.
Another challenge has been the need to constantly adapt to our demographic. An online dating site was never going to be enough to meet the needs of all women looking for love. We therefore created events, dating coaching, personalised matchmaking and a support network for women so that they can find love in any way they wish.
What advice would you give to young gay or bi women who are thinking about starting their own business?
I would say it doesn’t matter if you’re gay, bi, heterosexual or any other letter of the rainbow alphabet, it’s about your business concept and if it’s any good.
It’s so important to listen to advice and get mentorship from other entrepreneurs and business owners.
Also, starting your own company takes a great deal of work so be prepared for years of little sleep and it is always going to be an unpredictable career choice.
Nonetheless when it works it’s an incredible feeling of pride, especially when you are catering for those within the LGBT community.
What’s the best thing about running your own business?
The best thing about running our own business is that we have the flexibility to adapt and develop when we see the necessity. When you work for other people you may see opportunities and you may see flaws that you cannot adapt. However, when you run your own company you can make those changes and you can constantly make it better.
It’s a wonderful way to make a difference to the community and to individuals by providing work opportunities. And, of course, in our business the best feeling is when our clients find the love of their lives and we get those wedding invites!
And the worst?
It can be exhausting!!
Who has been your greatest inspiration, and why?
My wife-to-be Emma is my constant inspiration. As a successful and accomplished business woman, her expertise and insight are astounding and her input in the company has strengthened it significantly (and this is not because I’m biased, it’s a fact)!
My mother and my sister have also been my inspiration and they encouraged me to start the company. Although neither are gay, their work for the community has been overwhelming and their support never fails to amaze me.