Christiana Maxion, 33, is known as The Dubai Matchmaker, helping successful UAE men and women meet an ideal partner via matchmaking and customised dating coach programmes.
Formerly in finance and a published children’s author, New Yorker Ms Maxion moved to Abu Dhabi in 2016 to teach before switching to Dubai to become a certified dating coach and professional matchmaker.
Ms Maxion lives with her dog Toby — star of her book Toby & The Falcon — in Downtown Dubai, where the singleton says: “I’m dating my business, right now.”
Where did money feature in your childhood?
I grew up in one of the most affluent suburbs in the US. We belonged to country clubs and private members’ clubs. My father played professional baseball for the (New York) Mets and the (Chicago) White Sox, but then kept getting injured, so decided to go into the family business.
We have more than 150 parking garages across New York City, something my uncle now runs.
My parents were also franchisees of pizza restaurants.
They had this entrepreneurial spirit and business-owner mentality, never wanted to rely on the family business. I was attracted to that.
Did you have jobs growing up?
I was a springboard diver. My parents said that was my "job"… to get a scholarship into university, which I did and travelled the world diving.
They said a job would distract me from athletics, so they would give me money whenever I needed it, but would always ask what it was for. They always provided and gave an allowance at university.
My first paid job, when I was probably 19, [enabled me] to start learning about saving money, spending money. I coached diving, for about $15 (Dh55) an hour.
How did the UAE dating business happen?
During the pandemic, everyone was using dating apps, doing Zoom dating, and I found it ridiculous. I decided to document my experience with dating and gained some popularity because people were drawn to my empowered dating standpoint of putting yourself first, being the chooser.
People started asking dating relationship questions. I decided to invest in education programmes and mentoring certifications to make sure I’m delivering the best advice.
I became a certified dating coach and a professional matchmaker in September 2021. I consulted a legal team and they told me that as long as you’re doing matchmaking for long-term commitment, you’re fine. I made it public on September 30 and it really boomed in December and January.
With dating coaching, the price point starts at Dh6,000 and with matchmaking, there are different packages that start at Dh12,000.
Who are your clients?
I mainly matchmake men ready for long-term commitment. I’ve vetted every person. Women in my database are also C-suite level executives, lawyers, entrepreneurs, models … who don’t waste their time on the apps.
With dating coaching, I love working with women and men who are divorced and maybe haven’t ever dated, let alone in the 2020s. Some people maybe don’t feel confident or don’t put themselves on a pedestal, might have low self-esteem.
I want to help build them up. You’re the chief executive of your own life.
Is there demand for matchmaking?
Dubai used to be a really transient city, but with the visa changes and the excellent way the UAE handled the pandemic, people are viewing it as more of a permanent place. And that translates into people thinking about Dubai for creating more permanent relationships.
I truly believe there’s so many quality people here in Dubai, they’re just missing one another — and I want to be the bridge that connects them.
How did you fund your business?
It might sound controversial, but the programmes that I invested in — mentoring, education, certifications — I put almost all of it on credit cards.
My parents did not invest in my business and I barely had any savings. But you need those certifications to gain some clout or respect in the area to say: “I have this kind of knowledge, this expertise.”
I am very happy and proud to say that I’ve paid down 95 per cent of it in a short time. Business is doing so well and it’s about to skyrocket.
Have your spending habits evolved?
I used to spend every single penny I made and more … clothes, going out with friends, all that fun stuff.
I didn’t start having a good relationship with money until I saw a rapid transformational therapist. Now, I send clients to her when I’m matchmaking somebody who needs help rewiring their brain about confidence.
I started saving more, spending in the right places. For the first time I created a detailed budget, an Excel spreadsheet I still use.
It was such a good time to change my relationship with money because I’m solely reliant on myself.
Are you managing to save?
As I make the money I need for necessities, everything else goes into savings because this is my first year in business and I don’t know what the months are going to look like.
Myself, my education, my certificate and mentoring programmes … that has been the best investment. I spent more than Dh75,000, but in Q1, I hit six figures.
It really paid off. Diving in headfirst is my most precious investment.
How do you feel about money?
I love, love, and I love money. I mean, how else are you going to live this life? You need it and it makes the world go round. It’s an energy. You also need to treat it well and then it comes back in bundles.
Right now, a lot of my money goes back into the business … PR, investing in new database programmes.
Growing up, my mother used to say to save for a rainy day. I flipped that and now I say I save for a joyous occasion.
Any finance advice for your younger self?
To cut up your credit card or pay it off every month, instead of carrying more debt. The money I’ve wasted on interest … I would spend, spend, spend, and not think about it.
I was frivolous buying the latest clothes and shoes. In New York, I would take myself to the top restaurants and the spa.
But life is a journey and I wouldn’t be who I was today and maybe appreciate things more without that before.
What luxuries are still important to you?
A wardrobe upgrade, I love massages, getting my nails done and I have a trip planned.
When I think about luxury, I think about investing in myself; I am my own business, my own personal brand.
So I have to invest in how I present myself; I think about that as an investment in my business.
What are your future financial goals?
I want to buy a place on West Palm Beach in Palm Jumeirah, or a town house on Old Town Island, Downtown Dubai.
I have a retirement account in the US I put money in years ago that has grown.
Right now, I’m the Dubai Matchmaker, but I want to expand across the UAE and then be the premier matchmaker across the GCC.