Based at Club Workspace Southwark, My Friend Charlie is a free-membership site changing the way London falls in love, one event at a time. With singletons in their 30s and 40s in mind, Founder and Director Charlotte Spokes hosts a selection of intimate meet-up events that cater to every dater's taste: from boozy brunches and poker nights, to paddle-boarding, sunset cycle rides and zorbing in Sussex.
"It's something I've been thinking about for a couple of years now," says Charlotte, who decided to take a leap of faith and launch the dating start-up with a friend in January this year, before taking full rein of the business shortly after. "I don't want to tell my grandkids that I was sat on a Sunday night with a glass of red wine flicking through Bumble. That's not the story I want. It's very superficial; it's very transactional."
Unlike most dating platforms nowadays, My Friend Charlie is not an app. The dating tool lists a range of exciting events on their website and gives everybody the chance to signup and attend — profile pictures and height measurements take a backseat in this pre-internet approach to pursuing “The One”.
"I couldn't find anywhere that was offering the same thing," says Charlotte. "At our events everybody is in the same situation, everybody is a bit nervous but people are able to foster a more genuine human connection with people around them and lay the foundations for a serious relationship."
Soon after launching the company from home in January, Charlotte was on the lookout for the right space to migrate into. “Working at home on a startup is certainly exciting, but it can get lonely,” she says, “You want to be able to share the downsides and upside that go hand-in-hand with starting your own business.”
Coincidentally, Charlotte spotted Club Workspace at The Print Rooms just a few weeks after launching. She remembers, “Walking down the street, seeing the sign outside, and thinking, ‘That's a really cool building! I like that.’” And it wasn’t long before the start-up had re-located to Southwark and Charlotte had started working from the co-working space three days a week.
“Being a member of Club Workspace means that there's always somebody to share exciting news with; there's always somebody to grab a coffee with and have a chat. That makes a big difference,” she says. “The Print Rooms has also made for the perfect base location-wise. We’re a stone’s throw away from Borough station which is ideal because lots of our events take place around here and I don’t have to travel long distances for meetings.”
The start-up is currently self-funded, but as the company’s social reach is expanding faster than expected, Charlotte hopes to look to serious investment soon, and aims to go through a formal funding round within the next three months. This extra funding should allow the start-up to hire another much-needed member of staff. Charlotte explains, “Very, very quickly it will get to the point where I will be organising, booking and hosting more events than I can handle on my own, so funding should enable me to get another person onboard to help me with the workload.”
In fact, her visions of expansion don’t stop there. Charlotte aims to be active in three or four other UK cities within the next year. Edinburgh, Bristol, Liverpool and Leeds are currently top of her list, and New York “would be very cool place to be in the next three years or so,” she says. There is also talk of increasing the age focus, with a range of events spanning different age groups, and thought has also turned to entering into the LGBTQI market.
The Print Rooms
Much like a majority of newly fledged start-ups, My Friend Charlie has, in the words of its director, been “paddling against the current” with the hope of being taken up by a wave at some point. “As my friend describes it, setting up your our business is a bit like trying to assemble a bike, while riding it down a hill, while somebody else is taking it apart behind you and, on top of all that, setting you on fire!” Says Charlotte.
But, despite all odds, My Friend Charlie seems to be enjoying the ride. And, as it gathers pace, it looks as though it’s on track to pop the dating industry’s online bubble. Gone are the days of frivolous online exchanges and disappointing hookups, face-to-face interactions are being placed above a swipe of a finger. It’s all about offline dating now.
Fancy joining companies like My Friend Charlie? Why not see what Workspace can offer from one of our 69 London locations? You’re sure to find ‘the one’.