Women Innovate Mobile (WIM) interviews female founders about success stories, inspirations and motivations as women entrepreneurs. By Kelly Hoey (Co-Founder & Managing Director, WIM)
Meet Lori Cheek - architect turned entrepreneur, founder and CEO of Cheek'd, the reverse engineered dating site coined by the New York Times as “the next generation of online dating.” Women Innovate Mobile talks with Lori about her site Cheek'd:
Why are you an entrepreneur?
Lori Cheek: "I’ve always had 'the itch,' but it was kind of an accident that it happened so drastically. After working in architecture, furniture and design for 15 years for companies such as Christian Dior, Vitra & Karkula, I came up with an idea that lead me into the NYC World of Tech and am now solving missed connections one card at a time."
What was the defining moment of your career?
Lori Cheek: "The most memorable story to date would probably be the call from Oprah Winfrey’s studio after they’d read about my business in the New York Times. 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 called my parents to tell them and they couldn’t even understand what I was trying to say, then my mom couldn’t stop crying which made me start crying all over again. 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."
How is your company different from your competitors?
Lori Cheek: "Despite the soaring popularity of online dating, there’s one inherent flaw: You never really know whom (or what) you’re going to get. There are 96 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.
Cheek’d introduces real-life spontaneity to online dating and the cards offer a real purpose and advantage to other online dating sites and expand a subscriber’s dating opportunities beyond the pool of people registered with an online dating service. By bringing the social aspect back into dating and moving it from your computer to your everyday life, Cheek’d is giving its members an opportunity to leverage technology without completely depending on it, while promoting a safe and playful interaction in the physical world at a time when virtual interaction is growing and online privacy is scarce. You get to pick who you want to date in person."
Where do you see your company in the next five years?
Lori Cheek: "I hope to have built some solid partnerships—my targets are a few heavy hitters in the airline, hotel and alcohol industry with huge existing communities. I’d ultimately love to have grown my team and work under an umbrella of another giant in the world of dating — like Match.com."
What is your next step with your company?
Lori Cheek: "We just signed on a developer to create the mobile Cheek’d experience where users can “flick” a virtual Cheek’d card to an intriguing stranger they spot nearby, which will officially launch at SXSW Interactive 2013. In addition, we plan on upgrading our shopping cart so that users can purchase coded clothing, pins, stickers and more that will lead to your Cheek’d Profile online."
How did you finance your business when it was at the early stage?
Lori Cheek: "Bootstrapped from Day 1."
What is your favorite mobile app?
Lori Cheek: "I’m pretty obsessed with FourSquare. I use it as an alternative to Google Maps and the recommendations have replaced my use of Yelp. I love the incentives offered with check-ins and Mayorships. And lastly, like Cheek’d, it’s an online & real world collision."
What do you do to help focus?
Lori Cheek: "Daily Extreme Cardio Workouts at Equinox help clear the clutter in my head, shake off the stress and burn off the Brick Oven Pizza and Sancerre."
Any words of advice for up & coming entrepreneurs who are trying to get their products noticed?
Lori Cheek: "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."
This was originally posted at Women Innovate Mobile. About the guest blogger: Kelly Hoey is Co-Founder and Managing Director of Women Innovate Mobile, the first accelerator program for women founded (or co-founded) startups focused on mobile technology or mobile applications. She sits on the Women’s Advisory Board for mobile and social gaming company, Stone Creek Entertainment and the startup advisory boards of Lion’esque Style and The Levo League. She is a business strategic and connector. Follow her on Twitter at @jkhoey.