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The Short Version: Online dating sites and apps often make it quick and easy to find instant gratification, but those looking for a deep connection, or high-end professionals who don’t want to be recognized on such sites, can face challenges in finding love online. To solve this problem, Theo Malherbe created The Only Social Club, an elite dating and matchmaking service for South Africans. He personally interviews and vets every prospective member while also offering complete confidentiality, and he connects singles who have the potential for lasting relationships. Although he is aware that many focus on looks, The Only Social Club focuses on various shared qualities. His techniques have led to numerous success stories and marriages.
When he was younger, Theo Malherbe used online dating sites to find instant gratification. But, after doing a lot of work on himself, he began looking for more authentic, lasting relationships, and he struggled to find them.
He said he felt like the online dating scene was a cattle market that based matches on superficial factors, and, despite being a successful and attractive man, he couldn’t find a quality relationship. So in 2005 he launched The Only Social Club, an exclusive dating service for professional singles in Johannesburg, Cape Town, and Durban, South Africa. He created the service to fill a void and not just match people based on looks or instant gratification.
His focus was on finding compatible long-term relationships, and, to ensure the integrity of the process, he personally screens every prospective member.
“When The Only Social Club was launched, it was something completely different from online dating. I found online dating made too many total mismatches or distilled people into just numbers and names,” Theo said. “The Only Social Club focuses on quality matches and provides more details. It’s about looking at all the variables, not just looks.”
Theo said many daters go from relationship to relationship without stopping to work on themselves. So, in addition to helping people connect with like-minded singles, he helps members improve themselves, so they’re more likely to find dating success. He maintains a network of relationship coaches, counselors, personal trainers, dieticians, and other experts to whom he can refer clients.
The Only Social Club has clients ranging in age from 23 to 81, and Theo said he loves helping people throughout South Africa who aren’t finding success with typical dating sites.
“I’m providing a platform, and I’m very grateful for what I have achieved with the number of people I’ve gotten into relationships,” he said.
Working professionals, especially those who have higher profiles, often don’t want to be seen on dating websites and apps. Theo is well aware of that concern, which is why his service is strictly confidential.
“A lot of times I’m dealing with high-end professionals who don’t want to put a profile on the internet because they don’t want their clients seeing them,’” Theo said. “So it’s confidential. I‘ve even had clients in successful relationships that have sent referrals to me. Often, they don’t even know that The Only Social Club introduced the couple that referred them, or that they got married because of my services — that’s how strict I am.”
Theo said 99% of his clients aren’t the type to appear in glowing testimonials on the front page of his website because they’re so serious about confidentiality. But so is Theo, and that doesn’t bother him because he said he feels rewarded that so many of his matches produce happy endings, including many weddings — some of which he has personally witnessed.
On most dating websites or apps, anyone can sign up, so daters must sort through member profiles to find out who is worth their time. The Only Social Club takes the opposite approach. Theo personally vets every applicant to ensure quality members and matches.
If he can’t meet that prospective member in person, he talks to them on a Skype video call because he said he needs to engage with the person to see how they communicate. The meeting also allows Theo to verify that people aren’t lying about their appearance.
“What people appreciate, and what they’re paying for, is the security, confidentiality, and the fact that I interview every client during the vetting process.” — Theo Malherbe, Founder of The Only Social Club
“I’m interviewing, I’m screening, and I’m doing the necessary checks,” he said. “So when someone meets another member, they know that person is professional, and they’re single, because a lot of married people have tried to get onto The Only Social Club database, and I refused them.”
During the screening process, Theo asks 23 questions, which, among other areas, cover people’s intentions. He also talks to people about their personal stories and what they’ve done to help themselves — since a desire for self-improvement and ownership over one’s past are important to Theo. If the person seems like a good fit, he gives them the opportunity to join The Only Social Club.
“What people appreciate, and what they’re paying for, is the security, confidentiality, and the fact that I interview every client during the vetting process,” he said. “They know that other members are of a certain caliber when they’re introduced.”
Theo said it’s easy to find someone to spend a night with and get instant gratification, but finding a meaningful connection takes more effort.
“You can swipe right, swipe left, and you’ll get a date today,” he said. “My focus is on finding the right match for you because I want you to find the right result.”
He focuses on finding deep, compatible matches, and he’s just as careful with setting up dates as he is with screening members. Theo feels that most online dating apps and websites can be misleading, focusing on photos and stats like age and location. When he analyzes potential members and matches, he views the entire package, including likes and dislikes, and values, such as religion, and education. He also weighs interests such as a passion for outdoor activities.
He also suggests that, although some can focus on looks, if you requesting anything when it comes to looks, make sure you are the person you want in your life.
Once he finds two compatible clients, he verbally introduces them and discusses the match. Theo doesn’t send out photos and stats before connecting two members because he doesn’t want them to judge a book by its cover.
After a date, Theo has each person submit feedback in writing so he can assess the quality of the match and learn if he can intervene to help someone. “I tell clients to try not to judge other people’s character, since we’ve all got issues, but if there’s no chemistry, we’ll move on,” he said.
He says the feedback helps him coach daters on how to improve their game.
“If there’s something constructive, I like to hear it. Maybe the feedback was about how a man was focusing on his ex-girlfriend the whole time and hasn’t moved on,” Theo said. “I can give him that feedback or give him someone to call to help unpack his baggage.”
Personally vetting every prospective member takes time, but, despite the challenges, Theo is thankful that he gets to spend his days helping people find love.
He said about half of his clients find success with The Only Social Club, and many of those success stories have ended in marriage.
“Something I’ve learned from Oprah is that part of my journey of looking within and growing is to be of service and make a difference,” he said. “I’m so grateful that I provide a service in what I’m doing. I’m grateful that I’ve made a difference in a lot of people’s lives — I wish I could do it for everyone.”
Moving forward, Theo is considering franchising his business, so that his unique platform can serve even more singles looking for genuine connections.