Our Mission: Faith Focused Dating For Over 15 Years
It was at a 1999 church picnic in Pittsburgh, Pa that Jason LaFosse and Brian Barcaro began their conversations about the struggles singles were facing in the dating world. There was a clear need for a community environment where men and women serious about dating for marriage could flourish.
Before long, their new online dating website SaintRaphael.net was launched from a Pittsburgh apartment. They would join up with Mike Lloyd a couple of years later, on the road to creating CatholicMatch.com. And, oh, how things have changed
Humble Beginnings, Clear Goals
Initially, with Jason working full time and Brian in law school and before the whole concept of online dating had really taken off St.Raphael.net was nothing more than a fun side project. Working on it in the evenings and on weekends, there was not a strong sense of direction, but we really enjoyed doing it and believed in what we were trying to accomplish.
The main goal at that time was to have a good website. We were always looking for ways to use technology to help people communicate, and all of the dating sites back then were disappointing. Our second goal was to provide community: We wanted people to feel like they belonged and that they weren't alone. And finally, all of it was built upon a strong Catholic identity.
From Tough Times to Surprising Successes
A few years later, Brian and Jason joined forces with Mike Lloyd, launching a company to develop websites and software. Jason and Mike were able to quit their jobs, and Brian decided not to practice law. Acolyte did well in the beginning, but then lost many clients due to the dot.com crash in 2001. Much of the investment money was drying up, and it was a scary time trying to figure out how to keep the lights on.
One option that emerged was to take the SaintRaphael.net website which had about 2,000 registered users and begin charging a subscription fee for members. We decided to give a free one-year membership to existing members, but begin charging a subscription fee for new users on the site. What a response we received! SaintRaphael.net continued to grow and grow, and we began to realize that maybe what we considered to be our side business was going to play a much bigger part of our future.
We weren't a very mature company, so every step we took to grow the company in personnel, marketing, and even the site itself was with a bit of trepidation. We had never started a business on this scale before. Each move was brand new, and we just never knew what tomorrow would bring.
In 2004, we changed the name to CatholicMatch.com because people were having trouble with the SaintRaphael site name. We were surprised that the domain name was even available, because online dating had taken by that time. We immediately got a huge boost with the new name and it changed our business forever.
Growing and Changing
We continued to grow the site, and about two years later things really started to take off. We began to hire more people because the work was multiplying and we just couldn't do it all ourselves. Long gone were the days when there were just three of us in a room a bittersweet realization, but there was no going back.
By 2005, it felt like we had finally established ourselves as a legitimate company and a legitimate service, not only in the Church, but in the online dating world as a whole. We moved into new offices and started to expand into many different areas, focused on providing an exceptional service for our customers and doing something we believed in.
We began to understand the bigger problems that singles were experiencing with dating, as well as how they were using online dating sites, including our own CatholicMatch.com. We decided to share what we were learning to help educate others and work to solve the difficult issues of dating that plague singles today.
We now recognize that we're truly able to make a difference for Catholic singles. For most of our history, a lot of people have looked down on what we do because online dating was considered by society to be a last resort for many years. And it took even longer for Catholics to accept the idea of online dating. But that has changed, and now we feel like we can be ourselves.
What do we do? We help single Catholics be in a better position to find their spouses and have successful marriages. And we feel very blessed to be a part of it all.
So Where Do We Go From Here?
In 2013, we reached our millionth registered member on CatholicMatch.com! Though we have consistently set goals for ourselves along the way, the total number of users was never one that we were focused on. Yet, its an exciting milestone and a humbling one. A million people have decided to create an account on our site and trust us enough to give CatholicMatch a try that's pretty cool.
We're hoping that over the next 15 years we will continue to grow and make online dating even easier and more successful for those seeking marriage. And through the CatholicMatch Institute, we will strive to better educate Catholic singles, firmly believing that the better dating experiences they have, the better spouses they will become. We want to reverse the marriage decline by helping more Catholics get married in the Church.
In the early days, we never thought we would end up building the largest and most successful website for single Catholics. But here we are. And it never gets old. Every single time we receive the story of a happy couple, photos of newborn babies, or a thank you note for fostering a community through our website, it is both moving and humbling. We love what we do and we hope youll join us on this journey.