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Business Observer Thursday, Feb. 26, 2009 12 years ago

From Sarasota with love

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An ultra-niche segment of the matchmaking industry is proving to be a good starting point for one Gulf Coast entrepreneur.
by: Mark Gordon Managing Editor

An ultra-niche segment of the matchmaking industry is proving to be a good starting point for one Gulf Coast entrepreneur of love.


Love apparently isn't participating in the recession.

At least not for Lia Ratsutsky, whose Sarasota-based Lia's Russian Connection is finding a niche in finding wives, or at least potential wives, for Gulf Coast men.

A Ukraine native, Ratsutsky caters her business to executives or recently retired executives seeking a refined approach to finding a companion. Ratsutsky partners with a few agencies in Russia to find the women, an approach that has potential to conjure up negative images of Russian women who will do anything to get to the U.S.

“These ladies are not desperate,” counters Ratsutsky. “This is not a mail order bride business.”

The business is, however, potentially pretty lucrative for Ratsutsky. She charges about $6,000 for basic entry into the program, a fee that includes up to 10 introductions of potential mates. But for $25,000, she will enroll a client in her unlimited guarantee program — she'll set up the client with potential matches until he has a bride.

Ratsutsky declines to release specific revenues, although she did say she has already signed up more than 20 people to the service since she launched it last summer, including at least four who have joined at the premium $25,000 level. She is projecting February and March to be some of her best months, as the matchmaking industry generally sees a post-Holiday season spike in people seeking love.

Ratsutsky, 52, spent about 15 years working in the matchmaking business, mostly with some large agencies in New York City. She came to Sarasota in 2006, recruited by Tampa-based Romance Pros Matchmaking Service to an open an office in the area for the company, which focused on local-to-local relationships.

But through networking to grow the business, Ratsutsky ran into several people in Bradenton and Sarasota who asked her about how they could find Russian women. So Ratsutsky spent a portion of 2008 traveling across Russia, finding agencies she could utilize as partners if she were to open a Russian-based matchmaking business in Sarasota.

Her main goal was to find agencies that could supply a pool of sophisticated, personable and educated women that would be willing and able to move to the U.S. for the right man. Of course, the women would have to be single and be able to speak English.

Says Ratsutsky, who found a trio of Russian agencies she now works with: “These are quality women that men would have no way of meeting, except for me.”

The pool of candidates, some of which can bee seen on Ratsutsky's Web site, www.liasrussianconnection.com, include a lawyer who enjoys jazz clubs and tennis; a pharmaceutical company manager who likes skiing and the ballet; and a cosmetician who lists classical music and literature as two of her favorite things.

On the flip side, in the U.S., Ratsutsky says she goes to great lengths to meet specific customer requests, such as working with a man who seeks a woman who loves small dogs or a woman who won't get seasick on a cruise.
“When people come to me they are very selective,” says Ratsutsky.

Matchmaking is a calling that came to Ratsutsky by personal necessity: She moved to the U.S. when she was 19 to study fashion, but by the time she was 35, she found herself divorced and a single mom in New York City.

The services Ratsutsky used to help her find dates were ineffective, she says, as it lacked a personal touch and a focus on finding a specific mate. Says Ratsutsky: “That's why I got into this business.”

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