Tell us about your business … what product or service you provide and who your target audience is?
Despite the soaring popularity of online dating, there’s one inherent flaw: You never really know who (or what!) you’re going to get. There are 102 million single adults in America. Nearly 40 million of those are looking for love on the internet. After spending hours at work behind a computer, the millions of online shoppers head home to get behind yet another computer to spend the evening looking for love in solitude. While 81% people misrepresent their height, weight or age in their profiles, and hired ghostwriters that can completely take care of your profile and messaging your suitors, you really never know quite who or what’s going to show up in front of you when you finally agree to meet. Cheek’d bridges the gap between online dating and real-world romance by providing members with physical cards that they can use to entice people from the real world to flirt with them in the virtual world. It’s the 2.0 version of “Call Me.”
Please tell us what being a business owner means to you and why you became an entrepreneur in the first place?
I’d always found it beyond frustrating getting paid to build someone else’s dream and have always had a burning desire to do my own thing but the light bulb moment that spawned Cheek’d was an accident. Over five years ago, I watched my handsome friend pick up a girl by simply scribbling “want to have dinner?” on the back of his business card. He left with a date and I left with an idea. That split second inspired an idea I felt so strongly about, there was literally no turning back. It was that simple moment in time that sky rocketed me out of my career and lead me into the NYC World of Tech and am now solving missed connections one card at a time.
What or who has been your greatest influence in business and why?
OK Cupid: Founded by 4 Mathematicians in 2004, the website after many years of dedication to the concept, was acquired by Match for $50 million in 2011. Their massive user base was an alternative to subscription based dating sites and brings most of its revenue from traditional advertising methods. They’ve been extremely successful in their ROI of social media and content marketing and their popular dating blog has help instill a character behind their very strong brand. In addition, the success of their matching capabilities is dependent on the user’s honesty throughout the profile process—something we stand strongly behind at Cheek’d.
What would you say is your greatest professional accomplishment to date?
As a trained architect, having no idea what it took to build a business, I’ve taken a pretty intense crash course by actually building one. I’d have to say getting recognized after 4 very difficult years by the American Express Open Forum as “one of the Top 10 CEOs to watch in 2013.” could be a very powerful and defining moment in my entrepreneurial journey.
What’s the best advice you have received in business that you wish to pass on to our readers?
“The worst mistake anyone can make is being too afraid to make one.”
What has been the most effective marketing initiatives or programs you have used to promote your business?
My number one marketing tip is “Don’t just think outside the box; Get rid of the box!” Be creative. Think Guerilla.
A few weeks after I launched my business, I simply mailed a lone black Cheek’d card in a plain black envelope to one of the main editors of The New York Times. A few weeks later, we were featured on the cover of the Styles Section and coined as “the next generation of online dating.” and now have customers in 47 states in America and 28 countries internationally.
A few days after that article, I saw this email pop up in my inbox:
“Hello, I am a producer at The Oprah Winfrey Show. I am looking to talk to Lori Cheek about Cheekd.com. I can be reached at 312.633.**** Thank you and I look forward to hearing from you soon.”
They asked for a deck of cards and a photo of me followed by a short phone interview. I cried for nearly an hour. I couldn’t believe my “little” dating card idea had lead to a call from Oprah. My life has pretty much been turned inside out (in the most amazing way) from that day forward.
I spend a lot of my time guerilla marketing, sidewalk chalking my URL and slipping Cheek’d Cards into pockets, hoods, bags, etc. My favorite story to date would be the personal Lori Cheek’ng of Hip Hop Mogul, Russell Simmons (dropped a card in his front jacket pocket of the Chanel Soho Store Opening Party during Spring Fashion Week in 2010) and the next morning saw this article pop up on The New York Observer:
What one thing have you learned as a small business owner that has served you well over the years?
if you truly believe in your idea, give up excuses & doubt, surround yourself by a trusted and talented team, bulldoze forward and DON’T. LOOK. BACK.
Are there any resources or tools you’d like to share with other small business owners that have helped you run your business? If yes, please describe (and include links if available).
Surrounding myself with supportive friends and family during my entrepreneurial path has trumped and physical tool, book or resource. It’s been an intense struggle and I couldn’t have made it this far without these amazing people cheering me on to the finish line.
Do you have any new projects coming up (or have you just completed a big project ~ reached a milestone, etc.)? If so, please tell us about it.
Lots of exciting things are happening to Cheek’d at the moment. I was just awarded a utility patent on my product, have recently upgraded our website & shopping cart and are just a few weeks away from launching the Cheek’d Mobile Experience, where users will be able to flick virtual icebreaking Cheek’d cards to those they find intriguing nearby.
What do you do for fun/relaxation?
Socialize and hand out Cheek’d cards! I’m also relentless about going to the gym for intense stress relieving cardio sessions every day of the week.
What is Number One Business Goal you plan to accomplish over the next year?
Our biggest goal of 2014 is to begin building strategic partnerships with with existing brands in a similar flavor in the travel, hospitality, apparel, alcohol and nightlife space. We’ve got our eye on a few targets, we just need to go seal the deals!
You want to write a book on … “The Magic of Making Mistakes” I couldn’t even begin to count the number of times I’ve failed building my business over the past few years. I’ve learned to welcome the mistakes and even joke that I’ve learned so much from them that I’m going to keep making more of them on purpose.
Is there anything else you’d like to share with our readers?
After decades on my own relentless pursuit for love, one day last summer, I was sitting solo at a Crab Shack in Montauk and with no AT&T signal, I decided to toss my best friend, “iPhone,” into my beach bag and when I looked up, a mysterious, gorgeous man in Ray Bans and a baseball cap sitting right next to me said, “Nice tattoos.” I handed him the Cheek’d card that reads, “let’s meet for a drink.” We met for that drink and got engaged almost 7 weeks later.
If anyone would like to give Cheek’d a shot, they can use the code “TECH” for 50% off all card orders at http://cheekd.com
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