PrettyFab: Bela Gandhi, Smart Dating Academy
We at PrettyQuick know there are many, many reasons you need a personal beauty concierge. You need to look flawless for your big presentation, need to relax between meetings with a massage, have an event to go to or (obviously!)…DATES. We all want to look fabulous on a date, so when we met the Smart Dating Academy‘s founder Bela Gandhi we knew we had to chat. With a company that can boast having an average of one engagement per month, Bela has solved the dating mystery. She dishes her secrets on love, business, and happiness and how she stays sane through all the match-making, family-time, and work.
PrettyQuick: Your path from getting your finance degree at U of I to being dubbed “The Fairy Godmother of Dating” by the Huffington Post and founding the Smart Dating Academy must have been quite the adventure. Tell us a bit about that wonderfully winding road.
Bela Gandhi: I was always that girl who was setting people up on gut. It started in college at U of I. I was responsible for setting up my roommate with her now husband. I said to her, “I found your husband. Small issue, he has a girlfriend right now.” Three years later at my engagement party they met again and both knew I thought they should be together. After that, I checked in with them every month to see if they had gone out yet. Then at my wedding in 1997, I saw them slow dancing. Apparently they had gone out nearly every day of the previous week.
I turned to my husband of one month and said, “I am supposed to do this. I am supposed to bring people together.” I had the opportunity in 2009. I was at Global Chemicals and left to start Smart Dating Academy. I gave myself a year. I didn’t want to live with the regret of not having tried it. I told myself I am not going to be true to myself if I don’t try this.
PQ: What sets Smart Dating Academy apart from other dating tools? What makes it “Smart”? And how did you come up with this idea?
Bela: We get people to date smart by stopping and asking “What have you been doing?” I get people that have an end goal in mind (i.e. married with children) then ask them to tell me about the last 3-5 relationships. Most people have been making bad choices that will not get them what they want.
Everything is one-on-one, and it is very extensive and confidential. There are 3 surveys/questionnaires the client must complete. Once we get to know each client, we then suggest 2-3 dating websites on which we think they should re-launch themselves. People want to date the person in the picture. You want to look like the best version of yourself. It is an exercise in first impression. We want you to optimize who you are, and give you feedback on how you present yourself.
PQ: In your career, you have been and still are a part of many different projects. You’re on the advisory board of the IADT Fashion Design Program, were a part of The Cara Program, trained with Rachel Greenwald, and were a top executive at Akzo Nobel to name a few. Are there any characteristics you’ve noticed and skills you’ve used in all of your projects? What do you think ties them all together?
Bela: I think I definitely have a sixth sense with people. The big mistake women make, is that they tend to look for higher voltage versions of themselves…it’s not always a good choice. I took out all the things I am best at and put them together to bring people together. We want people to show the best version of themselves, so I have stylists, hair people, and we do a photoshoot so there profile picture reflects who they are.
PQ: Along with your full work schedule and all your projects, you are also a mother and wife. How do you make time for yourself and how do you spend your “me-time”? What’s your sanity secret?
Bela: Six months ago I found a personal trainer. Now that hour to an hour and a half has been cathartic. Once I say I want to do something I am all in, and I approach it the same way our best clients approach dating: with honesty. If I cheat and eat three slices of bread, I tell my trainer and we do what we need to do to work it off.
PQ: When you finally get the chance to go to a salon or spa, what’s your favorite beauty service to get (facial, manicure, massage, etc.)?
Bela: If I get my hair blown out there is nothing that puts a better spring in my step. When I have lashes on then I feel fabulous. If money was no object, I would get a blow out and my makeup done everyday. It is always better when a professional does it than if I do it, and I feel great.
PQ: What’s your favorite beauty tip?
Bela: I tell women all the time, go in with pink or red lipstick to a date. Men have a visceral reaction to it. They also love long touchable hair.
PQ: Picture this: You have had a week full of meetings and presentations but find out one of your meetings have been cancelled, what do you do during those precious hours?
Bela: I would call a friend. Female relationships are really important. I don’t get to talk to them as much as I would like to, but it is therapeutic. I try to call a friend a day. If I can’t do that, then I try to shoot for every other day.
PQ: Is there anything you would like to add?
Bela: There are great men in this city, and if you are not meeting them, something is up. There is a lid for every single pot. Every person deserves love. I believe in love and everybody deserves it. We [Smart Dating Academy] average one engagement per month. That is something we are proud of and shows that you just need to reevaluate the situation and do what works for you.