International Luxury Matchmaking is anything but a fool’s sport. With clients willing to spend upwards of €250,000 to find their significant other, it takes nerves of steel to embroil one’s self in the middle of the relationships of the rich and famous.

It is fortuitous, therefore, that Inga Verbeeck, the founder of luxury matchmaking agency, Ivy International, has steel in her blood. Before helping the wealthy and successful to find love, she was the chief executive of her family’s Antwerp steel trading business.

But, according to Inga, the steel industry is not the place to meet eligible bachelors. “The different kinds of people you meet are, limited” she explains. “No matter where you go, you keep bumping into the same people.”

Inga was both married and divorced before she was 30. As a gracefully beautiful, tall blonde, she certainly doesn’t seem to need the help of a matchmaking agency. Nevertheless, in her search to find the right man she became the regular client of a premium matchmaking agency. “I travelled a lot,” she tells me “and I thought it was very hard to find interesting people or interesting dates so why not meet some interesting people in London?”

In fact, Inga became so enamoured with the world of luxury matchmaking that she actually crossed the aisle and went from being a client to working for the agency.

A little over a year ago, however, Inga left her job and set up a rival agency with a “different philosophy.” “I had views about how the business should grow, and how to give more value to clients” Inga says, describing the split. “I have a business background and a lot of people in matchmaking do not.”

With 22 members of staff and offices in Paris, Antwerp, Geneva, and now London (not to mention plans for 3 new offices in New York, Miami, and San Francisco), Ivy International is a very complex business.

“I chose this business because of
the personal connections, and most importantly to help make people happy,” Inga says, “but, at the same time it’s a business and it has to be driven and proper structures and communication are the only way to keep a client truly happy.”

The philosophy that sets Ivy apart is, as Inga explains: “We are not just an introduction agency. We are really a partner for their personal life.” As well as offering a bespoke dating service, Ivy International also has a team of external consultants, including: dating coaches, psychologists, stylists and personal trainers.

“We help people throughout the process of meeting people,” Inga says “some people just need to have a refresher session with a dating coach to get comfortable with dating again,” whereas others “really need to look at their lives because they don’t have the time to even meet someone let alone have a relationship.”

“We are not just an introduction agency. We are really a partner for their personal life.”

“We have an expression in Flemish,” Inga tells me “there’s a lid for every pot.” Charmingly quaint as this romantic saying is, it belies the practicality at the heart of the matchmaking business.

I ask Inga about the type of people who visit Ivy, and she tells me “a lot of them don’t know what they want, and if they do, they might not know what’s best for them.”

Some people find the premise of ‘luxury matchmaking’ uncomfortable. I ask Inga candidly, isn’t luxury matchmaking just a more discrete term for helping rich people meet similarly well off partners? “No, it’s not, not at all,” she says “relationships are hard enough as they are, so when you have a very big social or financial gap things can be very complicated.”

“If you have a successful woman who has worked hard to obtain a certain level of life, it is hard to fall in love with someone that doesn’t have the money to
allow that.”

“Either the woman ends up paying for the man and that goes to hell,” or the man ends up resenting the fact he can’t provide the lifestyle his wife has become accustomed to.

This strand of conversation inevitably turns towards the roles of men and women in relationships. Despite the fact that 21 of her 22 members of staff are women, Inga proudly declares: “I’m a very independent woman but I am not a feminist.”

“I know this is dangerous territory,” she says, “but we have to be honest; men and women are different.” Perhaps it is a consequence of the clientele that Inga caters for, but the romance at the centre of Ivy International is rather conservative.

Using her own example, Inga explains: “I’m not going to cook for my husband every night, when I have the time, yeah sure, but otherwise he can cook.” But “at the same time I want to feel like a woman, and every female client we have has the same idea.”

The traditional, perhaps even twee, elements of Inga’s philosophy are what make Ivy International so attractive to her clients. As Inga says, “people come looking to make a commitment, and the assurance they get fro]]m us is that the person opposite them will want the exact same thing.”

Towards the end our interview, Inga asks me with a characteristically European, entrepreneurial forwardness about my own dating life. As a bashful, British gentleman my first instincts were, of course, to mumble the word “no” three or four times in a bid to change the subject. But the question really belies what makes Inga tick.

She is an impressive businesswoman, a hopeless romantic, and, most of all, Inga Verbeeck is the type of woman who enjoys getting you to gossip about your love life.

Written by: Henry Tobias Jones

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