Some KSU students making their money with

Photo courtesy of Brandon Wade.

Photo courtesy of Brandon Wade.

Jennifer Shore

When The Huffington Post detailed the sexual exchange between a 22-year-old college student and a much older man, who met on, a media storm criticized the website, which many consider to promote “glorified prostitution.”

But that’s not the case, according to Brandon Wade, CEO and founder of SeekingArrangement, although the website states it is a “matchmaking personals for successful and wealthy benefactors, and attractive guys and girls.”

“The funny thing is once you take the money aspect into the dating equation, then all of the sudden, you get the opposite sex, mainly the women, become a whole lot more excited,” Wade said.

Wade created the website in 2006 after having trouble meeting people on other dating websites. He found the challenge with “regular dating sites” was the overwhelming amount of men in contrast to women.

“All the guys are used to writing to the more attractive women, and of course, they’re getting bombarded with tons and tons of emails, and you’ll never get a response from them,” Wade said. “I figured there should be a different website where guys could be successful and generous, and women would be attracted to that.”

Wade, who has a bachelor’s and a master’s degree from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, realizes it is a facet in human nature for successful people to want younger and more attractive partners, and that is how SeekingArrangement sets itself apart from other websites — along with the involvement of financial status.

There are three terms used on the website: sugar daddy, sugar mommy, sugar baby. The first two are individuals willing to give financial help or other gifts to their “sugar babies.”

“I think the misconception that the world has is that there is only one type of sugar daddy, and that’s the Hugh Hefner type. But not everyone is like that,” Wade said.

Wade noted that typical sugar daddies genuinely want love and companionship, are interested in acts of monetary kindness or want to spoil someone.

“If you’re going to date someone, why not date somebody who is successful and can help you in the process — whether it is to help you with your college bills or if it is to help you in networking ­— so you can get a better job after you graduate or to find somebody who can actually give you some advice along the way,” Wade said. “I think the benefits are plentiful.”

The number of college students on the website has doubled since its debut. Those registered with their .edu address get a free premium membership and become a certified “college sugar baby,” which leads to more hits, and more traffic. When the website was first founded, roughly 25 percent of the users who joined were college students, and now that number has ballooned to more than 40 percent, Wade said.

Kent State ranked as No. 15 on the top 20 list of universities with sugar baby sign-ups in 2011, according to a press release from SeekingArrangement. As of the press release, there were 65 registered email addresses, and Gina, a sophomore at Kent State whose name has been changed to protect her identity, is one of those students.

After seeing the website featured on MTV’s “True Life,” she and a friend decided to register out of curiosity. Gina wasn’t aware that she could register her university email and get a free upgrade, so the cost of the website deterred her from meeting up with anyone.

“I found it weird that some people are willing to basically pay for friends, but I guess if you really are lonely or you don’t have time for actual friends, I’m not surprised that people are willing to do that,” Gina said.

Some people on the website are looking for more than just friendship, Wade said. Users have found their future spouse, someone to pay their tuition bills or help start a business and been able to pay for surgery or rent after participating in a SeekingArrangement.

“Most people I came across just wanted someone to have sex with them, and I didn’t want to do that, so I was specifically looking for someone who wanted to hang out,” Gina said.

SeekingArrangement has a “strict code of conduct” about which practices are not permitted on the website, and they heavily monitor traffic with employees and bumpware services, but some people take their conversations outside the website, which makes it difficult to track.

But say two people meet at a bar, and after they finish drinking, the guy offers his companion $500 to spend the evening with him.

“I mean, that’s an indecent proposal that is going to happen between them whether they met on our website or whether they met at a bar anyway, so it’s just impossible to monitor that,” Wade said. “It does set out a bad name to the entire lifestyle in general.”

After the negative attention the website received in response to The Huffington Post’s article, SeekingArrangement was featured on Dr. Phil, CNN and 20/20, and Wade’s business thrived.

“Such media attention has actually helped our website tremendously because it has given us a lot of free marketing,” Wade said. “It has certainly increased our userface as well.”

SeekingArrangement was the first step for Wade after publishing a book and expanding his business, he’s happy the website has “turned out much better than originally planned.”

Contact Jennifer Shore at [email protected].