Stéphanie Tumba knows a bit about love and romance. The former fashion marketer, property investor and financial consultant turned entrepreneur is a divorcée and head of dating agency—Celest Connections. Interestingly, this latest business venture began life as a blog: while talking to other women about divorce and relationships, Stéphanie realised she had a knack for trouble-shooting relationship problems, so forming a dating agency was a natural progression for this savvy French-born businesswoman.
Now some of that expertise has found its way into her first book, 100 Dates and a Wedding, a story tracing the journey of a young French divorcée as she sets out on a new quest for love. West London Living talked to Stéphanie about her own experiences and what advice she could give to others when it comes to the often convoluted world of dating.
So, how does one begin to go about meeting the right person?
First, know what you’re looking for. Not just in the sense of the person, but the type of relationship too. Are you just looking for fun, or are you looking for something long-term? Avoiding any miscommunications between yourself and a potential partner means being clear about your goals from the outset.
At Celest Connections, we specialise in long-term relationships. We base our matchmaking strategy on two lists, which we call the ‘No-Nos’ and the ‘Must-Haves’—essentially what you want and what you don’t want in a partner. We’ve found that just one ‘No-No’ can result in a failed relationship, so we try to avoid these as much as possible and focus on the ‘Must-Haves’.
And when it comes to dating, what are the rules when it comes to flirting?
Flirting is a vital part of making any date work. If you like someone, don’t be stand-offish. Look them directly in the eyes and smile. Be aware of your body language; don’t cross your arms or legs and don’t talk about yourself too much. Show an interest and ask questions, but stay away from serious subjects. Talk about positive things and don’t be afraid to give compliments.
What can we Brits learn from the French when it comes to dating and flirting?
I don’t think the Brits are doing too badly, but British men can still be reluctant to approach females, probably because they’re afraid of rejection. French men are more direct.
Where are the best places to look for the ideal partner in London?
Visit places that tie in with your own interests. If you like art, for example, visit the Saatchi Gallery, Serpentine Gallery, Pitzhanger Manor or Griffin Gallery. Enjoy wine? Go to wine tastings or join a class, such as West London Wine School, or Wine Centre Academy. Into cooking? Try Jamie Oliver’s classes at Borough Kitchen in Chiswick.
Of course, a membership at any good London West End club, such as Alberts, SKC, The Ivy, and so on, is still a great way to meet like-minded people, as are small gig venues, such as the Roof Terrace, Half Moon, Troubadour and Bush Hall.
Do you feel there are any differences between Londoners from different areas?
Absolutely. West Londoners tend to be more traditional and conservative, while those in Northern boroughs are more mature and bohemian. East London is edgy and trendy and full of creatives and young financial professionals. Men seem to be a more approachable there. The South is up and coming, with lots of busy new pubs and cafés. Interestingly, it’s also the area with the most professional singles after East London.
What makes Celest Connections unique in comparison with other services?
While we are an elite dating agency, our fees are among the lowest for the service we provide. All members benefit from a professional photoshoot, including a beauty and style consultation.
To what extent does a dating agency provide a better service compared to an online dating portal?
A dating agency is perfect for busy professionals looking for the best match without wasting time on unsuitable suitors. Our ‘No-Nos’ and ‘Must-Haves’ lists make a big difference here.
What’s the most difficult thing about matching people? Do you have any examples of successful matches?
What we’ve found is that many clients are still only thinking about what they really want in a person when they come to us. It’s our job to get to know each client individually and hone in on those requirements to get the right match.
Our most successful story was with a client who was very selective about who she would go on a date with. Our client wasn’t keen about dating an accountant and the first date didn’t go well, but on paper, these two were a great match, so I convinced her to see him again. They’ve been together now for the past three months.
What would you say is the perfect client for a dating agency?
Our best clients are open minded and ready for a long term relationship. Getting the most from our service means doing a little bit of work in advance, especially when it comes to the ‘No-Nos’ and ‘Must-Haves’.
Tell us a bit about your service offerings?
Our Golden Membership plan guarantees two blind dates and three introductions per month, so there is the potential for as many as five dates each week, but, in most cases, that won’t be needed. However, if you’d like to trial the service offered by Celest Connections, the bronze package might be better, offering the first consultancy for free and a one month membership for just £20.
Finally, any advice for people already in relationships?
It’s important to develop a romantic routine and make time for dates—even if it’s just one night per week, Of course, good communication is key to any successful relationship, both when sharing your wants, as well as when dealing with issues. Be honest, be open and be true.