Photography By: Steve Ragland | MUA: Erica Bessinger
Gina Hendrix is the secret weapon for some of the world’s most eligible bachelors who are looking for true love. She is today’s renaissance woman. An accomplished matchmaker and founder of Exclusive Introductions, she is also an author, speaker and dedicated animal lover. But, it’s Gina’s passion for connecting people that has now led her into the world of tech with her new breakthrough dating and social app JONES. Never one to fear a new challenge, this mover and shaker opened up to us about matchmaking for billionaires, being a business woman in the tech world, and what she has in store for the future.
Q: What is your background as an empowered woman in business?
GH: I have had three careers in my lifetime. I was a flight attendant for Delta Airlines for 9 years, which brought me to Los Angeles from Memphis, Tennessee. Flying was great, but I became curious about fashion. I had good style, and many people would often ask me if I was a stylist. I wanted to do it, but I had no idea how someone became a stylist, though I didn’t let that stop me. I got business cards printed up and started telling everyone I was a stylist. One thing led to another, I did small styling jobs while assisting other stylists and I ended up becoming a well-known celebrity stylist for ten years.
While I was a stylist I discovered online dating. I was one of those girls always talking about my own relationships and talking to girlfriends about relationships. I have also always been a good connecter my whole life, I even had success with setting up friends who went on to get married. But, online dating really made me think about how wonderful it would be to connect people whose paths might not cross otherwise. It was in that moment that I wanted to start my own online dating site. However, I had no idea how to do that, so a friend said, “Gina, you’ve been really good at matching people you know over the years, you’re so personable and love talking to people, why don’t you think about being a traditional matchmaker?”
So, I literally took a leap of faith and reinvented myself again. I turned a flight attendant into a celebrity stylist, and a celebrity stylist into a billionaire matchmaker. For me, it always starts with an idea that turns into a passion. I make up my mind that I’m going to figure out how to do it and then I just refuse to take no for an answer. I use that same approach in my matchmaking business and that’s why I’ve had the success I’ve had.
I started my business, Exclusive Introductions, in 2008. It is truly a personal boutique matchmaking service, I only work with 7-10 male clients at a time and rule number one for me is, I will never work with anyone that I don’t feel like I can help or who I don’t think women will like.
Q: As a matchmaker, what do you find to be the most important quality which you possess?
GH: I think as a business person, and as a matchmaker, it starts with integrity. I have a very, very high level of integrity. I’m very particular about the men I work with. Even if someone offered me a million dollars, if I didn’t feel he was in the right place for a relationship or his expectations were unrealistic, I’m not going to take that guy’s money.
Los Angeles is built on people’s hopes and dreams. Every day in Los Angeles people offer you many things, opportunities, money, etc., and you can either take the high road or the low road, and there are shortcuts you can take if you’re willing to sell your soul. I have lived here since 1989 and I have never been interested in taking a low road or a shortcut. That’s why people trust me. If the women don’t trust me and the men don’t trust me, I wouldn’t have a business. My business starts with trust; people trust me with their secrets, they trust me with their hearts and I take that very seriously. I am very protective of all my clients.
Q: What would you say has been your greatest achievement in your professional life?
GH: I am in awe sometimes when I stop to think how much my life has changed in the last 10 years. Now, I have conversations with billionaires who I call friends, and I have this beautiful home in Venice on a beautiful walk street. I am able to support various charities and when anyone has an animal in need, they call me to help and more than anything, I’m glad I’m in a place to be able to help. But, in the business of matchmaking, when couples are moving in together and getting married, then the babies come along… to think that this baby exists in the world that may not have existed if it had not been for me, that’s a pretty big achievement. It is a surreal feeling.
Q: Looking towards the future, what other business aspirations do you have?
GH: In the beginning, I thought being a matchmaker was going to be similar to being a stylist, you just did the job and you didn’t have to be much of a business woman. But since becoming a matchmaker, I have written books and have had two popular radio shows and I have become a savvy business woman. And in the process of becoming a business woman, I know there’s nothing I can’t do.
Coming full circle, I now have a new app called ‘JONES Social’. Basically, it’s about connecting. So, I came up with JONES and now I am a tech entrepreneur. Being a woman in tech with a tech start up, this, so far, is the hardest thing I have ever done.
Q: Could you tell us more about JONES Social?
GH: Since I have become obsessed with connecting people, I want to be able to connect as many people as possible. But having a boutique matchmaking service is about personal service and that can only happen if you work with a limited amount of clients. It’s a great business and I will continue to do it on a personal and private level. However, I was determined to come up with something that could help people everywhere. And I am proud to say, I have done that with JONES. The way I see it, meeting new people should be effortless, fun and should happen every day. But, these days even with so much technology we have somehow become a society that tends to hide behind our phone and we rarely go out and meet new people. JONES Social helps create serendipity using technology. First you decide what you are in the mood to do in the next hour, then you see people nearby and you can invite them on the app to join you. When one of them pucks you back, JONES curates a fun location and sets the plan. All you have to do is confirm and show up. Some people say it’s Interaction On Demand (IOD) but I like to call it “social doing” because so many people are on dating apps or social networking apps, but they rarely ever actually meet in-person. This is about DOING. It’s the first ever real-time social doing app of its kind.
I have integrated elements from my own matchmaking business, such as not letting people communicate before first meeting because I believe until you are face-to-face there is no way to tell if there is real chemistry for love or even a friendship. And hey, you wanted to do the activity anyway, this way however it turns out, you didn’t have to go alone.
Q: With so many different things that you are doing right now, how do you achieve a balance between work and home?
GH: There is no balance! I am really devoted to my business and my clients and that is what makes me successful. Between work, my six dogs and one cat, that’s all I do. I am either helping people or helping animals. And I am actually helping myself in the process because it all makes me happy and very fulfilled. I have a fabulous life, better than I ever imagined.
Even though I am a matchmaker and am in the business of love, I think happiness is even more important than love. I preach happiness over anything else. I feel that as long as you are happy, whether that is in a relationship or on your own, that’s the most important goal. A balance for a woman in business might be possible, but there will always be some sort of sacrifice, you just have to know what matters most to you and then put all of your time and energy there depending on the level of success you want to achieve.
Q: Do you have any advice for women aspiring to follow in your footsteps?
GH: I have written one book so far, and have two more in the works. My first book is called ‘Stop Being a Bitch and Get a Boyfriend’. It is not as literal as it sounds, it’s actually just me giving my no-nonsense advice, but I do it in a playful way. I came up with it because I see so many mistakes women make with men. Successful relationships are about balance – not being a pushover but not being some crazy loose cannon either. The title is just meant to get your attention, but what I’ve written is very relatable and I wanted readers to be able to look at themselves and to laugh about what their issues are and help them fix them. It is filled with tips about not just getting a boyfriend, but things both women and men do wrong in relationships and how to maintain a healthy balance and keep the relationship going strong.
I think that as we go through life, we can get stuck on our stories. You move through the world with that story thinking you can never be anything more than what you are or have more than what you already have; whatever the story may be. If you carry those stories with you, you can never move forward because you’re stuck in the past, stuck on old beliefs. If you want to change and improve your life, you have to be aware of what you are talking about and what your story is. Your story changes, so you always have to be mindful of it. Reset your story and clear it out, get rid of it and start talking about great things for the future, look to the future and never stay in that negative spot. You’ll hit times where you go six steps forward and three steps back, and three steps forward and six steps back, and then suddenly it’s ten steps forward. You have to keep going and going and never give up. To achieve a great life, you have to be passionate about it enough that you will never give up and you are willing to fight for what you believe in, no matter what the cost. Someone once told me something that changed my life when they said, “Because most people settle for mediocrity, the middle is always over crowded, that’s why there is always plenty of room at the top.”