Even though she uses Twitter, Facebook, and a website to promote her business Kari Adams, founder and CEO of Princeton Elite Club, a high-end network of singles, is the first to admit that you really need to go off-line to find the perfect mate. “Internet dating, especially for men, is frustrating and expensive. They have to commit themselves to dinner and drinks. If their date is 30 pounds heavier than her photo, they have to figure out a way to get through a whole dinner. At my events, you can really work the room.”
Adams, a California girl who grew up in the Bay Area, the middle daughter of an AT&T executive and an executive administrator for a CEO, hatched the idea for Princeton Elite Club quite by accident. After earning a bachelor’s in interpersonal communications at Arizona State in 1992, followed by a master’s in the same at the University of Denver in 1998, Adams married and began teaching third grade in Five Points, an inner city section of Denver with a high homeless population. “It was brutal,” she says. Adams and her husband moved frequently due to his work in pharmaceutical marketing, and Adams stayed home with her two children, a daughter, now 9, and a son, now 7. They settled in Princeton when her husband got a job with Bristol-Myers Squibb as the director of marketing for the prescription drug Coumadin.
But in mid-2006 the couple separated, followed by “a difficult divorce,” and on top of that her husband lost his job (he is still unemployed). “All of a sudden I’m thrown into this life,” Adams says. “How do I define myself? I’ve got a master’s degree but no resume. What am I going to be hired to do?” A naturally social creature, Adams found herself going out frequently with girlfriends, only to discover that Princeton, which she describes as “wholesome and idyllic but family-oriented,” has a dearth of places for singles to go, particularly in the summer. One day she was sitting in a meeting with Karen Law, her divorce lawyer, when Law said to her, “Kari, how do you do it? You’re always meeting people. I have so many attractive, intelligent, upscale clients who can’t meet anyone.”
“It was like a lightning bolt,” Adams remembers. “What’s my joy? Bringing people together. It was like a runaway freight train. I was just waiting for the right thing to find me. I love people, I love socializing. In my personal life, my husband used to get mad at me for fixing people up. But I have college friends (I fixed up) who are now married. It brings me so much joy.”
To build a database of attractive, intelligent professionals who are single, Adams did what comes naturally: she networked voraciously and hand-picked people. She started going to venues like Triumph Brewery and literally walking up to people, men and women, and introducing herself, giving them her card, telling them about Princeton Elite Club. “I went up to random people and I would say, ‘I’m single and I’m hosting a singles event and I’m in the process of building my database.’ About 95 percent of them were receptive.”
In addition to Triumph, Adams frequented Salt Creek Grille, Witherspoon Grill, Princeton’s Communiversity event, charity events, women networking events hosted by Mercer County Woman chief editor Terry Petry, and Rats Restaurant. In Princeton shops including Zoe, Soup Man, Stephen Seo, Small World Coffee, Nick Hilton, and Cool Vines wine store, she would talk to customers and sales people and leave business cards
“Believe it or not, I did a lot of networking each morning when I went to get coffee at my local Wawa. It’s a little unharvested location amongst my single female counterparts for scouting professional and attractive businessmen (especially at lunch time). I also met with Princeton Scoop owner and founder, Melissa Klepacki, who gave me excellent tips and advice for how to utilize Twitter to reach out to more members and clientele. The very first step I took after my website was created was to email blast its URL out to everybody I knew. This spawned a snowball effect and because people were so interested and intrigued by it, it literally became like the six degrees of separation phenomenon, where one person told two people, they told several more people, and so on and so on and before I knew it, Princeton Elite Club was off and running.”
Adams says she purposely keeps Princeton Elite Club geared towards upscale people. “I weed, screen, find out the person’s story. I find out what they do.” If she doesn’t meet them in person, she has a phone conversation with them or they send her a picture. Friends and PEC members recommend other people to join. “A lot of it is friends of friends of friends.”
Adams has hosted five events in as many months. In April she hosted a mixer at the former JL Ivy; more than 50 people attended. In early May she held a “casting call” for women attended by 25 to 30 women, who came either by appointment or drop-in to be interviewed and have their photo taken by a professional photographer. She has held a walking wine tour, hosted by Mimi Omiecinski of the Princeton Tour Company, starting with a historical look at the Nassau Inn’s venerable Yankee Doodle Tap Room and ending with a tasting at CoolVines, with about 20 people attending. In June she hosted a patio party at the new outdoor lounge at the Westin and in early August she held a very successful mixer at Eno Terra.
PEC’s database now has about 300 members, with a mean age of 40 to 50. Adams continues to do a lot of networking through Facebook, she says, despite the fact that in January someone hijacked her name and started IM’ing her friends with the message “I’m trapped in London and being held at gunpoint.” “My girlfriend wired $600,” says Adams. Relying on her own natural networking abilities, however, Adams found the solution. “My sister is a business recruiter and one of her clients worked for Facebook.”
Although she admits, “I never wanted to go back on Facebook,” she did and is now a huge proponent. “The great thing about Facebook is it has pictures, and it’s very interactive. People can post things on the Princeton Elite Club Facebook page.” PEC’s Facebook page currently has 268 fans. It’s not surprising that a couple of days ago Adams took the quiz “What’s Your Myers-Briggs Personality Type?” on Facebook and got the result extraversion/intuition/feeling,/judgment.
She also Twitters constantly: Less than an hour after our interview she posted the tweet, “Had GR8 interview with editor at U.S. 1. Check me out next week in Preview.” She says, “I Twitter about my galavanting, and give people little tips.” Recent Twitters told her 95 followers about a fashion show at the BLC shop in Forrestal Village to benefit HomeFront and auditions for MTV’s “True Life” show being held at Triumph Brewery on Thursday, August 20. Another day, she tweeted, “Hey boys! A ‘new’ term for you. R u a ‘tiguere’? Def know a few! http://bit.lyF53om.” (We were curious, so we hopped on the link, an article on askmen.com that talks about tigueres, alpha males who ooze masculinity, a term first coined in Latin American in the 1940s.)
It wasn’t long before people started asking Adams if she would help them find that special someone. “These people have discerning taste,” says Adams, who does a full profile analysis of each client. Her fees are based on how many introductions she sets up for a client — $800 for four introductions, and so on. She has had clients pay up to $5,000. “It can take a year, up to two years, to find the right person,” she says. As an example, she cites a male client, 46, who works for a land developer. “He had been divorced twice. He was pretty picky. I would send him pictures and descriptions. He’s still dating the third introduction.”
Adams says she often acts as that go-between we all remember from high school. Speaking about the same client, she says this third match “did very well in her divorce settlement and my client was a little insecure about that. I had to reinforce to him that she really did like him. She was insecure because he wasn’t calling her and thought maybe he didn’t like her as much as she liked him. He told me he wasn’t calling her because he was insecure about her money. Each of them was able to come to me and voice their insecurities. On the flip side I’ve had clients who say, ‘I don’t want to go out with this person again.’ It takes off so much pressure.”
In addition to her matchmaking fees Adams gets a fee from every venue where she hosts an event (“because I’m bringing them so much business”) and she charges members to attend the events. In the fall she plans to start relationship coaching workshops. While some might say Adams has a gift for interpersonal communications — which she believes comes from moving so much and having to make friends in all those new places — she says this skill can also be learned. Remember, she also has a master’s degree in this stuff. “It’s kind of an art, you have to be able to interact, you have to have insight and pick up on cues. At my events, if I see that someone isn’t talking to anyone, I will literally go and hand-pick someone for them to talk to. If I know someone is a Red Sox fan, for instance, and someone else has a kid in Little League, I’ll introduce them.” She is also planning to produce a brochure and start targeting divorce lawyers so they can tell their clients about Princeton Elite Club.
Naturally we wanted to know if all this social networking has yielded a new special someone for Adams. “I am not in a relationship,” she says. “I have to take my own advice. People who are recently out of a divorce need to detox. Right now I’m finding out who I am and building my business.” Meanwhile she says she is “constantly amazed by human behavior. That chemistry — you just can’t manufacture that.”
VIP Happy Hour, Princeton Elite Club, Yankee Doodle Tap Room at the Nassau Inn, Palmer Square. Thursday, September 3, 6 to 9 p.m. Must register via website. $20 entry fee at door. 609-454-3183 or www.princetoneliteclub.com.
Also, Cocktails for a Cause, Princeton Elite Club, Hopewell Valley Golf Club, Thursday, September 17, 7 p.m. Proceeds will benefit HomeFront. Ladies FREE, gentlemen $25 at door. Cocktail attire; no jeans allowed. Connie Mercer, CEO and founder of HomeFront, will be in attendance.