By Tina Safi
The new online dating site Heart and Hobby (heartandhobby.com) connects people through their common interests. La Jolla resident Alice Vysata, 32, started the site after spending years working in real estate.
“I’d been thinking about creating an online dating site for nearly 10 years and the idea was born in Miami,” Vysata said. “I was sitting on a jet ski in the middle of crystal clear water, thinking that it would be great if I could find someone who enjoyed boating and exploring Bahamian islands as much as I did.”
But it wasn’t until the construction market stalled that Vysata had the time to sit down and develop her idea.
“As a child, I helped my father restore our 1890s Italian Renaissance house in New Jersey,” Vysata said. “He was very good at carpentry and I always helped him by carrying materials, stripping paint down from the original millwork, helping to re-wallpaper each room, etc. This is where my interest in and love of historic homes began.
“When I had the opportunity to see how custom homes are built after college, I jumped in and felt right at home.”
Vysata’s work in real estate continued for a decade and took her to Las Vegas as a developer in 2004. When the market took a downturn, she moved to La Jolla and began contemplating a new career path.
To begin with, she considered the void in the online dating world that she witnessed.
“My experience (in addition to my friends' experiences) in online dating has been that you pull hundreds of profiles in your Zip code without an initial way to see if you actually have anything in common with the person,” Vysata said.
“I wanted to focus on bringing people together on a deeper level than physical characteristics, which unfortunately is the way that many people narrow down their dating choices online.”
Vysata maintains that common interests and hobbies are important in keeping a relationship going after the “honeymoon phase” is over. At Heart and Hobby, the goal is to create longer lasting, deeper bonds between partners.
The site, which had to be coded from scratch due to lack of precedence in the market, took about eight months to create. The finished product allows users to search for their interests first, ultimately finding profiles of other singles who share those same interests.
“Initially, I could not figure out how the site should be laid out,” Vysata said. “It’s not like other dating sites where people just submit profiles. I had to draw out and then re-draw out the way it was going to be organized, and I eventually decided the site was going to be organized by the interests and hobbies themselves, with user profiles inside.”
Vysata has faced some setbacks along the way.
“Some people sign on, create a profile and don't go beyond that because they are so used to other dating sites operating that way,” Vysata said. “On Heart and Hobby, you actually go and choose the Interest Groups you want to be categorized in, and some people miss that step.”
To alleviate this problem, the site now features explanation buttons.
Vysata will be spending Valentine’s Day in Florida, promoting her site and attending parties. Is she too busy to
“I poke around the site when I have some time, yes!” she laughed.
Did you know …
• The U.S. Online Dating Market is expected to reach $932 million this year — that’s almost one billion dollars worth of online dating services.
• There are roughly 20 million monthly users.
• There are 1,500 Internet dating sites.
• 31 percent of adults in America say they know someone who has used an online dating service.
Pew Internet & American Life Project Report, 2006. Social Media Network News