Innovators & Disruptors: Modern Matchmaking

by Erica Moody

Offline Society founder Rebecca Yarbrough bridges the gap in online and offline dating by curating authentic experiences for romance.

Rebecca Yarbrough in Blagden Alley (Photo by Tony Powell)

Finding love can be hard for ambitious, career-minded Washingtonians. There’s not enough time to devote to work and online dating. But thanks to Rebecca Yarbrough, 30, the District’s eligible young professionals now have a more convenient (and fun!) way to find romance.

Yarbrough was living in a Columbia Heights row house when she and her roommates thought of a dating service that would combine the best of online dating with none of the hurdles. The idea came after a particularly fun house party, when their friends were pairing off in record numbers.

“It was like a dating app exploded in our house,” Yarbrough says with a laugh. “Wouldn’t it be awesome, we thought, if you could take all the people you’re interested in meeting on these platforms and put them in a room together and meet them one time. All of our friends were on the same apps and websites and having miserable experiences.”

“With modern dating, people want a convenient way to meet other people outside their normal circle but with the current apps and websites there are lots of obstacles to actually getting in front of the person,” Yarbrough adds. “We thought, why don’t we just cut out all the stuff that people don’t like doing, that we think is inefficient, and replace it with fun parties.”

So, in 2015, she quit a lucrative job in business development to launch the Offline Society. With innovative events in unexpected locations, the service is also a low-key and exciting way to explore the city, discover under-the-radar places and meet interesting people, even if you don’t end up with your soulmate right away.

This is how it works: Every member who signs up receives five matches a week. If they’re interested in meeting the person, they move them to a “guest list” online. When a member RSVPs to an Offline Society event, those on their list know they will be going, and vice versa. “They can be really active with the guest list curation, or just show up to an event and see what happens,” Yarbrough explains.

It’s free to sign up and tickets range from $10-40 per event. A recent baseball watching party was held at Up Top Acres, a rooftop farm next to Nationals Park. There have been whiskey tastings, private tours of Cotton & Reed Distillery, an Arts Underground party and other events held at both “non-traditional venues and bars with character.” Pop-up picture parties give members the opportunity to get new headshots for their dating profiles. A summer campaign, Operation Offline, encouraged singles to get off their phones and explore the city with rewards for completing challenges; winners went home with GLAMSQUAD credits and concert tickets. For now, the age range for members is 22- 36, but Yarbrough is working on expanding to an older demographic, adding LGBTQ options and offering premium memberships that include VIP experiences.

“I love the Offline Society because they create spaces and experiences that allow chemistry to develop organically,” says member Brad Bosserman, 31, who dated a woman he met at the opening soiree. “The trademark of an Offline event is that you’re having fun and meeting people without it feeling forced or transactional.”

“The goal is to make people forget that it’s a dating event,” Yarbrough explains. “We want people to feel like they just walked into a bar and everyone there happens to be single.”

This story appears in the September 2017 issue of Washington Life.

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