The Arizona Republic: March 14, 2002
By Doug Carroll for The Arizona Republic
It’s 6 p.m. on a Wednesday, and Roseann Higgins has arrived at work. Her office for the evening is the Phoenix Art Museum and its monthly “After Hours” event, guaranteed to draw what she calls “the three A’s” – artists, architects and attorneys.
Higgins, a striking blonde of 42, begins mingling with the single professionals who have come for food, drink, socializing and maybe even art.
Within minutes, she is chatting up two women in the appetizers line, discreetly handing one of them her card and making mental notes on others she’d like to meet. This is work?
Yes. Higgins is a “romantic headhunter,” whose job involves looking for love in all the right places. Not for herself, but for about 100 discriminating – some might say unusually picky – clients who have paid $4,000 apiece to find that special someone. She calls her 7-year-old business SPIES, an acronym for Single Professional Introductions for the Especially Selective. (Call for newest fees and services info.)
If there were a black belt for networking, Higgins would have one. She just might be the best-connected woman in the Valley; when the Business Journal came up with a list of 11 ideal power-lunch companions last year, she was the only female on it. She has been featured in a book, Confessions of Shameless Self-Promoters, and she goes through about 3,000 business cards a year. She has thrown out the first pitch at a Diamondbacks game, and the list of civic organizations to which she belongs is exhaustive.
She’s as everywhere as air. “Everybody knows somebody I need to know,” Higgins says.
Higgins bags phone numbers the way Randy Johnson racks up strikeouts. Ever mindful of what her clients are looking for in a companion, she approaches men and women alike to say that she has friends who’d be interested in meeting them. The approach, when matched with her winsome smile, curious nature and keen wit, invariably works.
After 90 minutes at the art museum, she has the numbers of seven women and five men, plus a few scribbles about each of them that will jog her memory later. “Being able to recruit like this is so beneficial,” Higgins says. “I need to go out and meet people and build a reputation that I’m a nice person who has nice friends – and you might like them, too.”
Her $4,000 fee gets a client six introductions or a year’s worth of service, whichever is longer. (Call for current services and fees.) Higgins also maintains a list of “availables,” which costs $350 a year to the 3,000-plus who are on it. She says that’s the first place she looks when she has a new client. Clients range from the early 20s to the mid-50s, and approximately 60 percent are men. (The availables list is 60 percent women.)
Clearly, this is no ordinary dating service – she cringes at calling it that – and not just because of the steep price.
These are busy men who desire only beautiful, intelligent women. And busy women who wish to meet only honest, successful, good-looking men.
“The handpicking (I do) creates a selection criteria that’s to die for,” Higgins says. In a room she calls her “operations center” in her central Phoenix home, Higgins keeps a big board of her clients, their photos and their vital stats. “(It was declared off-limits to the reporter, for reasons of privacy.) She has interviewed each person extensively, taking the time to know their likes and dislikes, their must-haves and their negotiables in a potential mate.
“I built this around what people would want in a service,” she says. “They don’t want to do videos. They don’t want others to see their business. They like the privacy of this.”
They also like the results. Higgins says 40 of her introductions have resulted in marriage, including 21 who married one of their first three intros (now more). Of those, 11 were a bull’s-eye on the first meeting, she says. A full 95 percent go out again with someone introduced by her, she says. Not bad for a woman who makes a living looking for the proverbial needle in the haystack.
“The reason I have a high hit rate is that I know personalities,” Higgins says. “These aren’t blind dates. These people are informed. Everyone gets to prescreen a lot.”
- Higgins license plate is her business name. SPIES is an acronym for Single Professional Introductions for the Especially Selective.
Candy Voorhees, a “workaholic” caterer, and Bob Hundertmark, an engineer, both in their 30s, have been a couple for more than two years after being introduced by Higgins. “We had similar interests: scuba diving, hiking, biking,” Voorhees says. “I’m a native, and he’s almost a native. It seemed our paths had crossed although we had never met.”
Chuck Pawlak, 51, a corporate real estate director, says he wouldn’t have met Brenda Johnson, an artist, without Higgins’ help. They’ve been a couple for 16 months.
Higgins says the Valley’s nightlife works against eligible singles. “The nightlife here is more for teens or seniors. There’s not a lot for people in their 30s and 40s,” she says.
Enter Higgins, with a style she calls “in-your-face nice.” “To be outgoing enough to approach people takes guts. Sometimes I’m scared and nervous, but what’s the worst that could happen? Next!”
For this story, the Arizona Republic reporter shadowed Roseann Higgins while romance headhunting at one of the best monthly events for meeting single professionals. Fees and the number of clientele, marriages and relationships have changed with the growth of SPIES’ matchmaking service and success stories.