Joan Hendrickson is a modern business marvel.
In just five short years, she has gone from unemployment to working as a successful business executive and occasional $1,000-a-day consultant. Along the way, she has helped literally hundreds of Washingtonians put more into life and, she hopes, get more out of it.
Henderickson is the founder and president of Georgetown Connection, Washington's premier matchmaking video-dating company. Joined a couple of years ago by twin daughters Susan and Karen, she has built a bankrupt firm based on the video-date premise into a self-contained conglomerate of endeavors all springing out of Georgetown Connection.
"We're really doing great!" exclaimed Hendrickson recently from her town house headquarters at 1656 33rd St. NW. "The videodating concept is an outstanding idea. It works becauyse personality comes through on the tapes. I knew I could make it profitable."
The latest indicator of Hendrickson's success was the opening last Wednesday of Georgetown Connection of McLean. Advertising for the new "Connection," located at 6764 Old McLean Village Drive, already has resulted in an avalanche of calls to the Georgetown office.
Hendrickson bought out her former employer -- a local, bankrupt dating service -- in 1977 for back taxes. She realized she had to change the common image of dating services, which she frankly said was "sleazy," into one that would attract "the professional single." Hendrickson began operations with a lot of free advice, an office that offered low rent along with a leaky ceiling, "bare bones advertising," a catchy company name and a lot of nerve.
Today, Georgetown Connection covers a career that includes matchmaking, writing, consulting and personal appearances on television and radio.
"Over the next three years," Hendrickson said, "I hope to open at least a dozen Connections around the country. I'n not out to make a million, but money is a measure of my success." Her flagship in Georgetown grew about 30 percent a year for a first few years, and last year expanded "over 50 percent" yielding a profit of more than 35 percent.
Hendrickson claimed 23 marriages, two babies and scores of happy couples almost a year ago. She's since stopped counting, but her fat portfolio of eligible singles has the potential to produce more of the same. Hendrickson currently has about 450 active members at the Georgetown Connection, more women than men. Each paid $350 for a six-month membership.
That $350 entitles a member to select six videotapes of prospective dates a month. Hendrickson then notifies the chosen ones of that expressed interest, and they individually review the tape and the selector. If the chemistry clicks, both parties are sent a "rendezvous slip" including the other person's phone number. All that's left to do is make that first call.