Scholastic Matchmakers: The Easiest Fund Raiser Of All Time

Part 1

Finding Profit in Teenage Angst

Teenagers worry about everything, and have a lot of buying power. Ruthless corporations can be seen taking advantage of this fact every time you see an ad for Gap jeans or Clearasil. I suppose our company was no exception; we just had a different product line. Love.

The idea certainly wasn't original. My high school ran the same fundraiser every year when I was a student there: a computer dating service. We'd all be given surveys asking personal questions with multiple-choice answers. Everyone filled out a survey, and a few days later had a chance to buy "Compatibility Lists." Yes, for the modest fee of $1, I could buy a list of girls in my school who had the same answers as me to questions like "How far would you go on a first date?" or "What do you think is the perfect date for a Saturday night?".

Sure, when you're filling out the survey, it seems so silly -- "Who would ever spend money on that?", I'd say to myself. But when the Lists would come in, and the cafeteria would be abuzz with girls excitedly yelling "Who'd you get? Who'd you get?", I'd never be able to resist the temptation. It wasn't just a Compatibility List, after all. It was love, or at least lust; or, at the very least, an embodiment of all my (then unrealized) hopes at either one. And for just one dollar. Who could refuse?

My high school was sending the surveys to some company for processing. At the end of my junior year of high school (April 1990), during one of these fundraisers, I had an idea. Why couldn't I be the one to process these surveys, instead of some nameless company? I knew how to program a computer, and it didn't seem too hard a task to write software that would turn a few hundred completed surveys into Compatibility Lists. That summer, I wrote the software, picked the name Scholastic Matchmakers for my pseudo-company, and then pitched my new company to the president of our student government (at that time, Justin Bekelman). I proposed that Scholastic Matchmakers do the processing for the dating fundraiser instead of whatever company had been doing it previously. Justin was thrilled, and agreed.

My senior year of high school arrived, and with it, the debut of Scholastic Matchmakers. On a Friday afternoon, our Student Government blanketed the entire school, distributing and collecting my surveys. I spent the weekend typing the data into my computer by hand, and printing the results on my brand new HP LaserJet III printer that I'd bought just for the company. By Monday, I had a box full of compatibility lists ready for the student government. They set up a booth in the cafeteria, and sold the lists by the hundred to screaming hordes of excited and sexually frustrated high school students. The student government and I split the money.

Next: A Partner in Crime

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Last updated: 3 May 1999