Modern-day Cyrano finds niche in online dating


Erika Ettin, founder of A Little Nudge, which helps customers trying to find romance through dating Web sites. (Evy Mages/For Capital Business)
June 3, 2012

To say that Robyn Stewart has encountered duds through online dating would be an understatement. The retired federal law enforcement agent, for some reason, kept receiving e-mails from convicted criminals looking for companionship.

“It was bizarre,” said Stewart, 55, a resident of Arlington. “I was thinking I must be putting something really weird out there to keep getting these responses.”

Before closing her accounts on PlentyofFish.com and eHarmony, Stewart came across an advertisement for A Little Nudge, a District-based dating service promising to “coach people through the first hurdle of finding love”— creating a good online profile.

For Stewart, that meant zeroing in on what she most wanted — a sailing enthusiast who enjoys attending Mass on Sundays. A simple enough request, but one she had trouble putting into words.

Then A Little Nudge added its polish.


Ettin at her home in Northwest Washington. (Evy Mages/For Capital Business)

“I let my friends read the revised profile and they were amazed at how it honed in on me,” she said. “There was a line about my law enforcement background — that seemed to get the jailbait off of my scent.”

Since signing up with A Little Nudge in May 2011, Stewart has been on six “really good” dates. No, she has not met “the one,” but has made some new friends. It’s a start.

Erika Ettin, the 30-year-old founder of A Little Nudge, makes no guarantee that she will find customers true love, or even a date. But she assures her tailored approach can improve the odds.

“People have a hard time writing about themselves, but for online dating to work, it’s important to tell a story about yourself to give someone a accurate picture of who you are,” said Ettin, who has written 150 profiles since starting the service in April 2011.

A Little Nudge offers three packages providing varying degrees of amorous assistance. For $195, Ettin pens a tailor-made profile and offers photo consultation. For a step up, customers can also get up to eight hand-picked matches sent per week, 20 ghostwritten e-mails initiating contact and unlimited dating advice for $325.

For a “platinum nudge,” at $595 a month for three months, the firm will also schedule dates, offer coaching and handle all pre-date communication.

Ettin, an economist by training, does not have a background in counseling, but stands by the methods that she employed for herself.

After perusing profiles on Match.com and JDate, a Jewish dating Web site, Ettin was struck by how many of them were “poorly written or very generic.” People, she said, constantly used “empty adjectives describing themselves as funny, happy or energetic.”

Ettin figured if humor, for instance, is your thing, then your profile should be written in a humorous way. With that in mind she labored over her own profile, tweaking a sentence here and there to “paint a clearer picture” of who she was and what she wanted.

Ettin created a spreadsheet tracking the number of responses to her initial e-mails. Well over 60 percent of the messages she sent received replies, leading to more than 120 dates — the final one being her beau of two years.

“Once I met someone, my friends started asking me to write their profiles,” said Ettin, who writes a dating blog and a monthly newsletter. “I knew I had something going when someone I used to date asked me for help.”

A Little Nudge is not the only company providing Internet-dating services. TargetLove.com in Arlington has been knocking out profiles for the past four years, while sites such as TheProfileCoach.com and E-Cyrano.com serve up prefab profiles.

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