The saying goes that “love doesn’t cost a thing,” but sometimes love does pay the bills, and these three professionals are proof of that. From romance novels to matchmaking to wedding planning, there are lots of ways to earn an income when it comes to matters of the heart. Just like with any other profession, it takes time, practice and dedication to stay in the black in this industry. One thing all of these pros have in common is that they offer more than the basic services/products and hence, they have each found ways to diversify their income streams within their respective fields. — Demetria Irwin
THE MATCHMAKER: PAUL CARRICK BRUNSON
The Beginning: Known to many as the “real life Hitch,” Brunson says he’s the only black male matchmaker in the U.S., among full-time professionals in the industry. In 2008, he was seeking business advice from a friend and decided to meet up with her at a matchmaking conference. At the time, his day job was working as a financial adviser. He never ended up meeting with his friend, but he did stumble upon an interesting discussion.
“There were about 250 matchmakers from all over the world—all blond women over the age of 40,” he says. “It hit me: ‘Black people love too.’ ” Taking notice of the lack of diversity, Brunson decided to tap into a niche of his own.
Diverse Income Streams: Between his eponymously named company (which handles all the entertainment-related ventures) and One Degree From Me (the company he founded with this wife in 2009), Brunson stays very busy. The Washington, D.C. resident frequently appears on Dr. Drew’s Life Changers show and has already been on a worldwide tour, with more dates booked. He’s also filming Lovetown, USA for Oprah Winfrey’s network, serving as one of two matchmakers who will guide Georgia singles to find love in 30 days.
Brunson is unveiling a new social networking site on Feb. 20 that he says is something like MeetUp.com—but kicked up a notch—and is also working on a book.
For the married father of one, his career path is about passion and purpose. “It’s much more than just matching two people. I’m an evangelist for being our optimal selves.”
THE ROMANCE NOVELIST: BRENDA JACKSON
Brenda Jackson, author of 91 books, is the first black romance author to make The New York Times Best Sellers list. Her book A Silken Thread(Kimani; $14.95) is nominated for an NAACP Image Award.
The Beginning: Jackson started re-writing endings to Harlequin books for fun. Early in her career, her books were rejected because publishers didn’t believe black romance novels were needed. Eventually, she’d land a deal for her romance novels tailored for black audiences.
“My first advance in 1995 was awful,” Jackson says. “I was making over $80,000 at my job in the insurance industry, so I wasn’t dependent on income from my books. “Eventually, the publisher offered me six figures to write full time, so I decided to quit my day job.”
THE WEDDING PLANNER: LESLIE SHORT
Founder and CEO of K.I.M. Media L.L.C., Leslie Short has facilitated everything from branding and marketing to public relations and advertising for clients, all the while creating award-winning events as well.
The Beginning: Short’s career has included quite a few diverse paths, from globe-trotting dancer, producer and choreographer to FUBU advertising exec. She would eventually start K.I.M Media, but it took some convincing to finally add wedding planning to the roster.
“I would dress couples, help out friends with rehearsal dinners, serve as translator for destination weddings and things like that, but I just refused to accept the fact that I was actually planning them,” Short says with a laugh.
The Work: As someone who is accustomed to handling events and marketing strategies for multi-million dollar companies, it’s no wonder Short sometimes uses boardroom language when describing her wedding planning strategies.
“It’s about branding the couple. What’s the story your guests will tell when they walk away?” Short says. “[It’s my job to] anticipate what couples will want and tell them before they ask.”
As for those “Bridezilla” types who get so much screen time on reality TV, Short says she has no patience for them. “We’re not having that,” she says. “It doesn’t happen often since most of my couples are referred to me from trusted people, but I will say ‘no’ when I need to.” Short has even built friendships with some of her clients well after the honeymoon tan lines have disappeared.