You may have seen the ads in the Riverfront Times, Playback or the Healthy Planet, or heard the spots on Y-98 "St. Louis' Newest Social Gathering: Creative & Passionate Singles." Described as an "alternative to dating," the group is the latest brainchild of Staci Cohen, a 24-year-old West County entrepreneur.
Cohen is also the founder of Ignite Your Passion, a motivational workshop program she teaches at companies and organizations, which encourages participants to rediscover a sense of fulfillment in their personal and/or professional lives by reconnecting to their emotions and awakening a sense of excitement in their abilities. Her interest in the motivation business began when she attended a Tony Robbins program several years ago. Soon after, she started the Ignite Your Passion program, complete with book (A Technicolor Life: Claim Yours!) and CD (Let's Talk About Passion!). Having seemingly cornered the market on exclamation points, she has begun to franchise the concept out to facilitators in other cities including San Francisco, Denver, Atlanta and Louisville.
One would think that with all that passion and business savvy, Cohen would have no problem connecting with prospective partners of her own, but in fact it was her own relationship challenges that gave her the idea to create the Creative & Passionate Singles group (CAPS). As the CAPS website says, Cohen proved to be "too much woman" for one past boyfriend, which made her long to "find a man that is on her level." (She admits that, as a self-described professional "passion advocate," she's not exactly a typical 24-year-old.) She figured there must be others out there feeling the same way about their relationships, or lack thereof, and hence, the CAPS idea was born.
The ads for the singles group began running in December, and Cohen had hoped to have the first get-together in January, but there wasn't enough of a response yet at that time.
The first group event was eventually held on March 17 at the Sheraton Hotel in Clayton. Fifty-five people attended, a mostly middle-aged group who filed into the small, quiet banquet room one by one, sampling mini sandwiches and a bar and exchanging tentative pleasantries. In attire ranging from business to creatively hyper-casual, the attendees made their way to assigned seats and partook of an introduction by Cohen and a presentation by Leah Simpson with the appropriately punctuated title "Discover Your Memory Power!"
Afterwards, Cohen expressed satisfaction that things had started slowly but surely. "I did see some connections developing, which was awesome," she said. The initial feedback has been positive, and with some minor tweaking to the formatting and the marketing approach, she hopes the concept will continue to develop.
The gatherings are scheduled to occur on the third Thursday of every month at 6 p.m. at the Sheraton Hotel in Clayton. Cohen is hoping that at the end of each event, guests will not only have made some friends but will feel empowered to set some new personal goals, and will hold each other accountable for meeting them.
The response to the ads provides some insights into the single life in the St. Louis area. For one thing, many of the people who have expressed interest are older than Cohen originally expected. "At first
I was thinking primarily of people in their twenties and thirties, but most of the people responding are in their forties or even fifties, which is cool. They're all welcome. I think maybe younger people are still going to bars and stuff."
Another demographic note of possible interest to the female populace there has been considerably more response from males than from females. "The hard part is getting more women," Cohen admits.
She has been careful not to present the group as having a "meat-market" mentality, emphasizing the opportunities for personal growth with a schedule of generic motivational speakers appealing to anyone, attached or otherwise. In fact, some of the respondents that Cohen has talked to have downplayed their own matchmaking ambitions. "One girl was like, 'I just want to find some girlfriends to hang out with. I'm tired of going to movies alone.'"
The initial wording of the ad created another misconception that Cohen is working to overcome. She emphasizes that the group is not limited to those in so-called "creative" fields. "I think everyone's creative," she says. "I changed the ad so people understand that you don't have to be an artist or something." It now reads, "open to all creative, passionate and expressive people."
As for her own ambitions, Cohen definitely has some. She's hoping to expand her business concepts into household names while pursuing a communications degree at Maryville University. "I'm not sure what to think when people are so impressed that someone my age is doing this," she says. "I just know that I want to work for myself."
As the CAPS website says, "Right-brain thinkers are known to take a different path and follow their heart."
Matt Brinkmann has followed his heart to Florida, Mexico, Costa Rica and High Ridge, among other places.