OPW INTERVIEW - Oct 1 - Cherry Blossoms is a hallmark international dating brand. They’ve been around for years. Its time we captured their story. - Mark Brooks
What is Cherry Blossoms founding story?
The company started in 1973/4. There was a gentleman who wanted to find a wife from another country, and then another guy said: "Hey I can help you do that." They placed personal ads in countries such as Philippines and Japan. They got very good responses from those ads, and started thinking that this could be turned into a business. This is how Cherry Blossoms started.
I was living in Houston back in the 90s. One of my neighbors met his Philippine wife through Cherry Blossoms. The company got me very interested so I got their magazine and started to write to some ladies.
I've always been interested in computers and communication. I thought that this would be a perfect thing to have online. I contacted the company about that and they were very interested. So I put together a little plan and decided to move to Hawaii and see what I could do.
How quickly did Cherry Blossoms move online?
Because they had a good revenue stream coming from the magazine, I didn't want to cut that off. So we created an online magazine. There wasn't a lot of communication. It was in 1995 and there were maybe just two companies that had an Internet personals presence at that time. Then people started to register, and we started to develop communication devices, such as sending emails. It grew quite quickly.
Andrew Conru started Web Personals back in '94. What were the sites which you admired back then?
There was, like you mentioned, Web Personals which Andrew sold to some company and started FriendFinder. Another friend of mine, Lee Zehrer, had a company called Foreign Relations for Russians. He later moved on and started Kiss.com. But I stayed focused on the international business.
How would you define Cherry Blossoms fit in the market?
There are a lot of companies out there doing good stuff. The business is growing because the Internet is making the world smaller. We have been in the business of love for over 38 years. We are responsible for over 5,000 marriages every year, so it's very exciting.
What does the future hold?
We continue to enhance and improve our website. One of the improvements is a better communication software.
What's your thoughts on video?
It is probably one of the best improvements that we have on the Internet, and it will continue to be of great value for people.
What's your mobile offering at this stage?
We are in the middle of our work for RWD (Responsive Web Design). We have another 2-3 months before we're ready to release this. When you log onto Cherry Blossoms, our software recognizes that you're on a mobile and you are going to use different pages than if you're on a laptop.
What do you offer in the way of on-the-ground services?
I would say we are strictly idating. We did tours back in 70s/80s and even 90s. Then IMBRA was introduced to regulate international matchmakers. We're really not a matchmaking company. We never felt like that was our place. We got away from the tours because the companies that are doing that in Philippines are walking a fine line. The Philippine government is not that keen on international matchmaking companies because of the problems they had way back in the 70s.
What countries are you in now?
We are in well over a hundred countries. We still have our greatest presence in the Philippines, followed by China and South America. We also have a presence in Russia and Ukraine.