“My name is Kathy. I'm an alcoholic.”
The “Meet the Founder” page of Kathy Vandenberg’s dating app “Sober Dating … One Date at a Time” begins. VandenBerghe is what you might call an accidental entrepreneur. She is a female founder who started a business simply because she needed one at a pivotal time in her life, but the business didn't exist yet.
Turn personal tragedy into opportunity
Vandenberg's story is an inspiring example of how strong female leaders can turn tragedy into opportunity. Born in California, she married a Wall Street executive at a young age and moved to Greenwich, Connecticut, where she raised four children. She ended her marriage at the age of 49, and for the next ten years she celebrated her independence by drinking alcohol.
“There was always a celebration, there was always champagne,” Vandenberg said. Her 10-year party ended tragically in a Las Vegas hotel room. “I woke up on the bathroom floor and murdered about 20 people in a drunken email.” She asked her friends for help, and from that day on she began her journey to sobriety.
Vandenberg celebrated a year of sobriety during the pandemic and was ready to get back in the dating game. “It was important to me to date someone who was as conscious about their drinking as I was,” she said. She looked for sober dating apps, but she couldn't find anything. It was a moment when her mission crystallized: to create an inclusive dating app that builds community and connects like-minded people committed to sobriety.
find a blank
The online dating industry is huge and growing. In 2023, more than 380 million people worldwide used online dating apps. There are also plenty of options for online dating, including religious beliefs (Jdate, Christian Mingle), age (SilverSingles, SeniorMatch), and orientation (Grindr, HER).
But out of all the dating platforms, Vandenberg couldn't find one that brought together people who were committed to living a sober life (including drugs and alcohol). In other words, she discovered the void, or what Harvard Business School describes as: This is where companies may have room to maneuver in a crowded competitive field. ” And she set out to monetize that white space.
“I thought, 'Do you know what universe?' I can do it. I've got some great ideas,” Vandenberg said. “So I threw it out and the universe answered. She gave me all these people. She introduced me to app developers, former Apple employees, engineers. And people just started showing up.'' Ten months later, Sober Dating is available on the App Store.
This was just over two years ago, and the app has been downloaded more than 3 million times and has nearly 1 million active (paid) users from 59 countries around the world, including the US, India, UK, Pakistan, and Cambodia. .
It's clear that this app filled a void. User testimonials include, “I chose Sober Dating to connect with potential partners free from drugs and alcohol and fulfilled by a clear life,” and “Sober Dating quickly became mine.” It includes expressions of gratitude such as “Thank you.” Because it removes the initial hurdle of vetting a potential non-drinking partner. ”
ride the trend
VandenBerghe's motivation for starting Sober Dating was clearly personal. But she, perhaps inadvertently, took advantage of a powerful, growing, and profitable trend and market segment. Sobriety is no longer a taboo topic hidden away for fear of criticism. “We're starting to bounce back with a bang,” Vandenberg said. “It's not embarrassing anymore. People are talking about it more. I think the stigma is really melting.” Here's why.
There has been an increased focus on mindfulness and wellness.
We are in the midst of a seismic shift toward mindfulness and wellness, and that shift often includes avoiding or limiting alcohol intake.
This change is easy to see by looking at alcohol industry statistics. wall street journal We recently reported that U.S. beer shipments in 2023 are expected to reach their lowest level in a quarter century. At the same time, sales of non-alcoholic beer, wine and spirits are also on the rise, increasing by 54% in the first half of 2023 and 73% during last October's sober period, according to alcohol delivery program Drizly.
Gen Z is drinking less alcohol.
Alcohol consumption among young consumers is on the decline. Gen Zers drink about 20% less alcohol than Millennials of the same age. And many people abstain from alcohol completely. According to one study, the percentage of college students who are completely abstinent has increased from 20% to 28% over the past 20 years. This decline is believed to be due in part to increased health concerns and a shift toward legal cannabis use.
Alcohol is harmful to the body and mind.
We're gearing up for more than 40% of U.S. adults to participate in Dry January this year. today's show Recently, the health benefits of abstinence have been reported. These include a rapid reduction in chemical messengers in the blood associated with cancer progression, improved insulin resistance, weight, and blood pressure, reduced acid reflux, improved sleep, increased energy, weight loss, and skin conditions. This includes improvements such as: And, physically aside, people who quit drinking often feel more accomplished and have more mental clarity.
For many “Sober Curious” people around the world, Dry January and Sober October are solid steps toward healthier life choices. For some people, abstinence from alcohol is essential in their daily lives. Thanks to VandenBerghe and the sober community she helped build, people who want to live without alcohol now have a safe place to find connection and love in a substance-free world.
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