Dec. 28, 2004 — -- From the classic musical "Fiddler on the Roof" to the film "Crossing Delancey" to reality TV shows, matchmakers have been portrayed as the gurus who find mates for the unlucky in love.
But the fodder for comedies and musicals is also serious business to 100 million American singles, many of whom are seriously looking for love.
That's a pretty good customer base for a new and potentially lucrative matchmaking industry that is blossoming in New York and other big cities.
"20/20" visited New York City's Matchmaking Institute, a school that bills itself as a "Cupid Academy" and sat in on a class led by Lisa Clampitt, the institute's co-founder and executive director.
"What we're doing here today really is honing in on the sort of human aspect of matchmaking," Clampitt said to her students.
Six years ago, Clampitt gave up her career as a social worker to become a full-time matchmaker. She dealt only with high-end clients -- men who pay her up to $20,000 a year to help them find a mate. She says she loved being a matchmaker so much that she decided to start a school to teach others how to do it.
"We started the Matchmaking Institute really to help people start a career in matchmaking," she said, adding that a secondary purpose is to help singles find a qualified matchmaker.
She said she realized there was a need for a matchmaking school. "What I found before I started this is people have no way to get into the industry. … It really trains people how to enter the industry and how to maintain standards," she said.
When "20/20" visited the institute, the class was a surprisingly diverse group, but all the students seemed to have one thing in common: they all wanted to reinvent themselves and get in on the ground floor of the dating industry boom.
So, what kinds of people want to become a matchmaker?
Stephanie Echard from Virginia Beach, Va., has worked in human resources for 20 years. She says she's always been an amateur matchmaker, but now wants to turn pro.