Aisle help! How three women make one successful proposal
- 13 February 2014
- From the section Business
Daisy Amodio is searching for turtles.
"The client is at this moment flying in from Australia to propose. She's told me turtles are important to both members of the couple, so I'm on to London Zoo to see if we can work with them to include them in her marriage proposal."
This is nowhere near the most exotic request Daisy and her business partner, Tiffany Wright, have been asked during their two years of running their business, The Proposers, which helps people to make their bid for marital status stand out.
There was the "Bollywood Proposal", involving a young banker's girlfriend, who was obsessed with dancing and Bollywood.
They arranged a Bollywood flashmob, where the proposer joined in the dance halfway through.
It wasn't straightforward. The tiny hitch was that he was, Tiffany says, a "very straight-laced, quiet, shy banker and he openly admitted he hated dancing, couldn't dance and hated being the centre of attention.
"I questioned why he was wanting to propose using a very public flash mob and he said it was because he knew how much it would mean to his girlfriend. Sweet!"
Tiffany and Daisy are based in London but work anywhere. The vast majority of their clients are men, with those being proposed to women.
The idea for the business came as they were walking through a park one evening, and spotted a man writing out his marriage proposal in tea lights.
"It was supposed to say: 'Will you marry me?'" says Daisy, "but he had spelt it wrongly, so we rushed to help. Not only that, the wind kept blowing out the lights so we were running round with him relighting them just as his girlfriend came into view."
They hid behind a tree and after the proposal was successfully made, headed to the pub, where the idea of a lifetime of making money out of helping proposals was formed.
Tiffany says: "Something just clicked when, after the proposal, the guy said to us 'You literally saved my proposal.'
"It made me think: 'This is just one man who needed help, but there must be thousands more out there that just don't know where to turn.'
"After all, women have wedding planners so why shouldn't guys have proposal planners?"
The two sent out questionnaires to all their friends, eventually canvassing 900 people about the strength of the idea.
"Some said if a bloke didn't already know what would make his girlfriend say 'Yes' he was marrying the wrong person," says Daisy.
"But these days we all star in the story of our own life. It needs to stand out on Facebook, for example. Memories are so much more visible and durable now."
They started the business in May 2012, with start-up costs of just £1,200, but within five months there was enough money for Tiffany to work full-time on the business.
Daisy left her day job a year later.
Despite what appear to be few hurdles to starting up a similar business, there are surprisingly few competitors, certainly in the UK.
Daisy says: "We see rivals pop up here all the time, but they seem to disappear after a few months."
There are a handful of proposal businesses in the US, but the idea there, too, is in its relative infancy.
Michele Velazquez, the chief executive of Los Angeles-based The Heart Bandits, has been in business for just two years longer than The Proposers.
She got the idea after she received a proposal that fell rather short of hopes: "I found the proposal a bit underwhelming - I'd have preferred to be the centre of attention.
"When I asked my boyfriend why he hadn't had pictures arranged and taken me somewhere good to celebrate afterwards, he said he simply had no resources to turn to. There wasn't a website or a company or even a good book out there that he knew of that would help him with proposal ideas."
Ms Velazquez still married him anyway, but turned her mind to making sure others had a more exciting proposition.
She now handles 20 to 30 proposals a month.
In the UK, Daisy's background - a business and marketing degree and a career as an advertising account manager - may have something to do with the company's success.
Search engine optimisation - getting your name to the top of an internet search - was a skill she had already mastered.
Cost control was not a problem either, after she had spent years practising the account-manager standard of strictly costing every 15 minutes of working time.
As a former columnist and agony aunt on men's magazine Nuts, Tiffany had gained plenty of insight into the gap between men's and women's views of romance.
The media background has helped to land a TV series featuring proposals arranged by the company.
Was it a brave move giving up the day job?
"No," says Daisy. "I was so passionate about it, I couldn't imagine doing anything else.
"Any idea we were being brave went straight out of the window."
The basic service costs £100. The customer gives a set of personal details - what did you do on your first date, what are her dreams, favourite things and so forth - and, in return, receives two personalised proposal ideas.
The firm always ask for the Facebook and Twitter accounts of the person being proposed to, so "we can spy on her".
If the customer wants to go further, the next step is to name a budget, and The Proposers set to work.
The two people Tiffany and Daisy have not given specific ideas to are their own boyfriends.
Tiffany's had got his proposal out of the way before the business started, so has escaped the ignominy of falling short of standards.
As for Daisy, she did give her boyfriend some advice: "I told him I just wanted to come home one day, turn the key in the door and be asked the question."
That, with the addition of strewn rose petals, tea lights, and lanterns, was what happened.
Luckily, the slogan he chose: "Is this how you want your future to look?" proved spot on.
Just as well. Daisy told her boyfriend that if he hadn't come up with a good enough proposal she would have had to have dreamt up a better story to tell her friends and family.
In under two years, The Proposers say they have arranged 160 proposals with a success rate of 100%.
Marriage is, of course, a less certain business.