Chiddie Anyasodo : ‘Many people confuse infatuation with love’
A graduate of Electrical/Electronic Engineering, Chiddie Anyasodo is the co-founder of Chotayah, a high-end executive matchmaking service for professional Africans all over the world. Through the platform, Chiddie and her husband Ben, have helped many African singles discover and route out the obstacles preventing them from being in a healthy relationship. Chiddie’s career path evolved from engineering into full entrepreneurship over the years. She has worked in different phases of the Upstream Oil and Gas industry – initially as an International Mobile Field Engineer with Schlumberger, working in different countries. She also worked as Business Development Manager, later joined another company as the Global Vice President for Commercial, before moving on to build her own businesses.
In this interview with ESTHER IJEWERE, the relationship coach, professional matchmaker and mother of two shares her inspiring journey.
Tell us about your growing up and how it influenced your personality?
Well, thinking about this, I saw my mum find wives for my uncles and I found it fascinating. I also set up friends and family for fun. I grew up in Owerri, a beautiful city in the South Eastern part of Nigeria. I am the first child and only daughter of my parents; I have three younger brothers. I have always been very independent, ambitious and strong-willed since I was a child. I was also a voracious reader. I was called a ‘tomboy.’ I grew up shielded by my parents.
I studied Electrical Engineering in the University. However, what really prepared me for this was in my early 20’s, when I started dating; I had so many bad experiences and I had no one really to guide me. Such topics were a taboo in my house. My mum was very prim and proper and you do not discuss boys and love. If a man admires you, he is expected to come and meet my parents and ask for my hand in my marriage. The times I tried to tell her I was in a relationship, she got very upset, told me it was disgraceful and sinful. It was also ironic that the same mum who didn’t think I should be in the same room with a man was also going to church and prayer houses, sowing seeds and praying for me to get married.
You left your successful engineering career to become an entrepreneur, what’s the inspiration behind Chotayah?
My husband and myself had challenges in finding the right person. There were so many myths about love and relationship, which we practised then separately, but were wrong. On my side, my dating experience was quite sad and filled with heartbreaks after heartbreaks; my genotype was an issue. And for some people, the fact that my mum died of cancer scared them away.
I got rejected many times with excuses like ‘you earn too much; a woman shouldn’t earn more than a man. You are too boyish, too ambitious. Your job exposes you and makes you travel too much and you won’t make a good wife. A successful woman will never respect a man.’ At one point, some pastors and relatives told me that I have a spiritual problem. You can imagine. After praying so much and the cycle kept repeating, I decided to try alternative methods.
First, I tried to use some Western dating sites like E-harmony and Match.com, but they always rejected my application, as I was Nigerian. I also tried to hire a matchmaker in the USA then, but she didn’t work with people outside the USA. So, I decided to go on my own. That experience made me start reading and exploring what makes relationships work. I also got a relationship coach, started studying serial men and women who always seemed to have lots of attention from their love interest. I took everything I learnt and crafted my own strategy to find my man. It took me about 8/9 months to find my man and no more heartbreaks.
My friends who knew about all my negative experiences started using the same formula and it worked for them. And everyday, I see so many people like me going through the same challenges that I went through. Successful high-flying people who have succeeded everywhere but seem they are not able to succeed in the love department.
I then decided to go study Matchmaking in the UK and Relationship Coaching in New York. My husband is a Behavioral Change Expert & Therapist. We decided to join our passion and expertise to give birth to Chotayah.
What was the reaction of your family members when you decided to leave engineering for entrepreneurship?
I think it’s genetic; my grandfather was a successful businessman, he sold palm oil to the Portuguese and imported canons, tea sets, and textiles. My grandma was a textile wholesaler in Onitsha; she also came from a family of businessmen and women. My Dad is a medical doctor who owns his own hospital. I grew up seeing all these and hearing their stories, I guess that influenced me. I started my first business in SS1 (at 14 years), selling earrings to my classmates in the boarding house. I just did it for fun to see my money multiply.
Talking about Chotayah, how does the matchmaking process work?
We use a scientific process; psychology and tech. We always put into consideration their traditional African culture, which is unique to everyone that comes to us as you know African culture is rich and diverse. Finally, we use our intuition. When a client contacts us that he is seeking a spouse, we have a 1- 2 hours session to know his/her relationship history and background to understand him properly and come up with the best strategy that will give him/her results. It’s also in this session that we can figure out if he/she is a good fit for us; we are not able to help everyone unfortunately. We do a bit of background checks and if everything comes out fine, we then take him/her on as a client.
Our matchmaking always goes with Relationship Coaching and Behavioural Therapy. We first work on him/her as a person to find out what is stopping this person from finding love; is it just that he is too busy, not positioned properly or is it something from the inside? We remove those blockers and help him/her develop a unique personal plan for him/her, and then we go searching.
As we search, we do a lot of data analysis using proven scientific methods combined with emotional intelligence to see if they match each other. We then go through every match with our client till we both agree on ‘the one.’ We coach them, guide and provide emotional support while dating and sometimes till they get married. Some still come back after marriage and we keep helping them navigate early married life.
Based on your experience, who really needs to hire a matchmaker?
Matchmaking is not for everyone. However, the most common reason for seeking a matchmaker is that most of these people are very busy; they are highly selective and have certain criteria they are not able to find ordinarily around them; they love their privacy, many of our clients do not even have a social media account. Some are highly placed people in the society or very busy highflying professionals who want to protect their confidentiality.
They come to us, because they need an expert to handle their dating life. They are the sort of people who will hire a personal trainer, personal stylist and personal chef. They always want bespoke and personalised services with someone they can trust to deliver excellence, while being extremely discrete. Some have tried so many times to find love, gotten disappointed several times and then decided to use us.
Again, we love the diversity of our clients. We have people from 28 to 70+ years old. While we cater to a mainly African niche, we also get requests from people of other races who want to marry Africans. When it comes to the kind of thing they do, we get approached by them – top CEOs, royalty, politician, sport stars, celebrities, highly celebrated and sought after professions. We have people in research, oil & gas, tech, specialist medical doctors… these people are usually the best of the best in their fields, but seem to have a challenge finding love.
One thing they all say is that they are busy; most ambitious professionals don’t have the time or resources to commit to finding the kind of person that they want, but the Chotayah team does. This I understand very well as I have been in their shoes.
What are the challenges of being a matchmaker?
Trying to find out if a person is being honest and truthful about whom they claim to be. And depending on the client, this costs a lot of money as we work with the best hands in background checks and they don’t come cheap. In the beginning, we have met all types of people and you know human management isn’t so smooth. The journey of taking people from the life they are used to, to a new transformed life that will enhance them for success, was challenging in the beginning, as humans will usually reject change. But with time, I devised means to make the transformation process easier for them.
What do you enjoy most about your job?
My greatest joy has been helping people who felt their case was hopeless find happiness. I love seeing people transform and become better versions of themselves.
Could you name three women who inspire you in what you do today and why?
My mum, she was a very peaceful person who loved helping people and seeing them succeed. Her influence made me develop the kind of mindset I have towards helping others. Oprah Winfrey – She is iconic. I admire her doggedness in accomplishing her dreams and also helping others do the same. I love Indra Nooyi, former CEO of Pepsico – she is showing how a woman can be powerful, successful and balance family life.
As a professional matchmaker, do you really think people understand the meaning of true love?
I think many people confuse infatuation with love; infatuation usually happens earlier on in the relationship and is driven by strong emotions. That period when you have all those hormones running through your head and colouring everything you see about the other person. You have those intense feelings, the butterflies… you only want to be with them 2-4-7, neglecting every other thing in your life, and they can do no wrong. The good thing is that infatuation doesn’t last and if you are patient, the hormones will stabilise, and you can then see if you truly love this person and they love you back – which is true love. Emotions are not enough to keep a relationship for the long term.
On the other hand, True Love is more stable, more like deep friendship where you have seen each other’s negative and positive sides and truly decide to stay together in mutual respect and deep admiration of each other. True love always has good intentions; it’s trusting, honest, accessible, responsive, loyal, consistent, and always growing.
You can always feel some of the passionate characteristics of infatuation in a true love relation, but it’s healthier and infatuation will always wear off; expert psychologists say it can take 2-3 years to wear off.
How do you balance work with family?
My husband is my support system. He is highly organised and helps me manage my projects. Most times when I am down, he takes up the wheel 100 per cent. When it comes to everyday work, I also delegate a lot.
If you could change one thing in the matchmaking and dating world, what would that be?
I will change the process and mindset. I feel its shouldn’t be first about connecting people, but about them finding real, healthy, lasting love.
Focus should be more on people having the right mindset for love, understanding how to have a happy and fulfilling relationship. If all businesses put this first, then they will change their business models.
What’s your advise to that woman who has given up on love?
I will first ask her why. Is she giving up because she has a new vision and direction for her life and she genuinely thinks that a loving relationship isn’t what she wants? If yes, that’s fine and I wish her Goodluck. Is she giving up because of endless disappointments? If yes, then she has to examine herself to know why the kind of love she wants isn’t coming. And ‘No’, it’s not because all men are bad or that all the good men are taken; they are there. And she can definitely find and attract them, if she can change her mindset and strategy.
Could you share with us some matchmaking nuggets? What are the red flags?
Always be clear on what you want in a relationship. Make sure you are willing to give your best to the person you are seeking to love. Be open-minded and positive. As for red flags, always listen to your intuition; if it says something isn’t right, investigate it.
How does it feel like being a woman of Rubies?
I am a very compassionate person who loves people and loves to see them succeed. I believe in using my talent, knowledge, and time to empower people around me so that they can improve their lives.