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Matchmaking Web Site Ready to Take Next Step

Hobbymatch.com founder and Chief Executive Gwen Chambers discovered San Diego can be a pretty lonely place for newcomers.

When she learned other people had trouble making friends too, she got the idea of starting a social networking Web site that seeks to link adults with common interest.

“When I first moved to San Diego three years ago, I found it difficult to connect with the social scene,” recalled the 40-year-old Carmel Valley resident and stay-at-home mother of two young children.

She knew there was a marketing niche after seeing a note on the bulletin board in her health club by someone who was looking for a buddy to walk with or to get coffee.

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Thirteen months after starting Hobbymatch.com out of her home with a shoestring budget of some $5,000, the site now draws some 700 registered members between San Diego and Los Angeles and more than 50,000 visitors a year, she said.

“Anyone can join for free,” Chambers said. “But if we search the database and find matches, we will send you an e-mail and in order to communicate with them, you need to become a subscriber,” she said.

Subscribers pay $9.95 per month or $29.97 total for six months, Chambers said.

So far, Chambers has relied on outside contractors to help run the Web site, which costs about $400 a month to operate.

Now that her children are a bit older (daughter Toni is 2 and son Gregory is 6) and people tell their friends about the Web site, Chambers plans to expand it.

Among her near-term goals is to line up advertisers and local businesses, such as coffee shop and cigar store owners, and cooking schools, she said, would benefit when people meet at their venues.

She also plans to expand her Web site’s technological abilities to get feedback from members about their networking experiences. Success stories will be posted on the Web site as testimonials as a way to draw more visitors.

As a result of word-of-mouth advertising, she said, the Web site now gets about 300 new members a month.

If that trend continues, Hobbymatch.com will be on track for profitability this year , a first , Chambers said.

“We’ve been running at a loss; when you first get started you need enough people to match up with one another,” she explained.

A Hodgkin’s lymphoma survivor, Chambers donates 20 percent of the net revenue from subscribers to the American Cancer Society.

As more subscribers sign on, she wants to donate money to other cancer organizations.

She considers it her way of giving back to the many people who helped her when she was diagnosed with cancer 11 years ago.

“I was shocked to see how many strangers came to help me and cooked for me,” she said.

At the time, she was pursuing a master’s degree in business at the University of Michigan.

After graduating in 1992 with her M.B.A., Chambers worked in the marketing departments of several companies.

She said she learned to build a Web site by taking courses at community colleges, but relies on contractors to operate it.

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Local Ad Firm Lands Korean Client:

San Diego-based marketing firm Oster and Associates announced Oct. 18 that it landed the South Korean-based Face Shop, a retailer of body, bath, skin care and makeup products aimed at both women and men, as a client.

Oster and Associates designed materials for Face Shop’s first retail store opening in the United in the NoHo area of New York City, in late September. The first store on the West Coast is planned to open in Newport Beach’s Fashion Island.

“The budget for 2006 has not been established yet,” said Barbara Howington, an account executive for Oster and Associates.


Send media and marketing news to Marion Webb at marionw@sdbj.com or call her at (858) 277-6359, Ext. 3108.

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