“Over five years ago, I was out to dinner at a Vietnamese restaurant with a friend & architectural colleague and I had excused myself from the table. When I returned, my handsome dinner date had scribbled on the back of his business card, ‘Want to have dinner?’ As we were leaving the restaurant, he slid that card to an attractive woman at a nearby table. He left with a pending date. I left with an idea,” remembers Lori Cheek, a NYC based architect turned entrepreneur.
Lori’s idea would later flourish into Cheekd.com. Using her own dating missed connections Lori’s quickly turned a negative into a positive.
“It had happened to me a thousand times during my NYC commute, spotting that intriguing stranger on a train, in a café, crossing the street, at baggage claim, and nearly 999 of them got away,” she says. “Handing a business card could have been one answer, but I was entranced by the mysterious gesture of handing it to the object of your affection and removing the personal details included on a typical business card, which is simply too much information to hand to a total stranger.”
You may be wondering exactly what Cheek’d is and what makes it different than any of the many dating websites on the internet. Well it’s simple, 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.”
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 it’s members an opportunity to leverage technology without completely depending on it. Lori hit the nail on the head when she broke it down to what finding love is really all about.
“When it comes to meeting potential partners, the digital world obscures the thing that matters most, initial chemistry,” Lori shares.
Soon Lori was making plans and putting her thoughts to action, before she knew it Cheek’d was live.
“I met a couple of start-up guys at a Mardi Gras Party who also found my idea ‘genius.’ We sat down that Monday and started building what became Cheek’d,” Lori says. “In May of 2010, we launched Cheekd.com, my solution to the 999 missed opportunities I’d personally experienced.”
Unwilling to settle for working for someone else and making their dreams come true, Lori was determined to make her own dreams come true and work for herself. What started as an idea quickly evolved and unfolded right before her eyes and she was more than prepared to accept the challenge.
“I’ve always thought it was a drag getting paid to build someone else’s dream and I’ve always kind of had the itch to do my own thing, but it was an accident that it happened so drastically,” she says. “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.”
Once Cheek’d was finally launched Lori had another obstacle to overcome, she had to come up with a way to introduce Cheek’d to the world. She realized that her site wasn’t simply going to go international all on its own, so she set out to get noticed. She used her savvy creative marketing skills to promote her business on a tight budget and get the results she need needed to take Cheek’d to the next level.
“I decided to target 20 of the major editors in New York by messengering a sole Cheek’d card that read, ‘This card could change your life’ in a mysteriously packaged black envelope,” Lori says. “A few weeks later we were coined by the New York Times as “the next generation of online dating.”
A few days after that Lori received a message in her inbox from a producer at the Oprah Winfrey show inquiring about Cheek’d complete with contact info to get in touch with them to talk more about her business.
“We never made it on to the Oprah show, but I knew I was onto something big,” she says. “Three years later, I’ve got customers in 47 states in America and 28 countries internationally. I think my personal approach, passion and dedication mixed with my relentless conviction that failure is not an option has been the recipe that will ultimately lead to my success. I’ve always been extremely social and no matter the job, I’ve always been a huge networker, it’s been my most fruitful tool in building Cheek’d. I’m constantly making connections for those around me and in return I feel like if I don’t know the person I’m looking for, someone I know will.”
On Her Own Terms
Since launching Cheekd Lori has build a life lived on her own terms and it seems she couldn’t be happier. Her days flow like water from one lovely event to the next. She’s even passed her Cheekd card to some very well know celebs. Lori’s hard work and dedication to her dream have paid off big time and allowed her the luxury of enjoying life the way she’d always imagined.
“My biggest start-up challenge would be overcoming doubt,” Lori says. “Building Cheek’d has been a very lengthy marathon. After coming up with the idea, I risked everything I had and knew. I spent my entire savings account and left my 15-year career in design & architecture.”
Lori remembers many days where she didn’t know what to do. With a design background under her belt, she didn’t know much about building a business. “It’s been a major struggle over the past few years and I’ve just had to look myself in the mirror on numerous occasions and convince myself that I can do this– I can figure it all out,” Lori offers. “I’ve come this far and there’s going to be no looking back. I’ve given this my all. It may take time, but I’m not going to quit.”
How Lori Cheek’d Herself
Lori’s dreams didn’t end when her business took off. Cheek’d has even helped her find love of her own. Talk about killing two birds with one stone, Lori is her own biggest success story.
“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,” Lori shares.
He complimented her tattoos and she handed him a Cheek’d card that read: Let’s meet for a drink. That drink turned into a quick engagement and a marriage this year. After looking for love for almost four decades, this Kentucky born princess finally found her knight in shining armor.
“It’s like I’ve given birth to a child, which is my business and my child recently turned 3,” Lori shares fondly. “I was getting ready to turn 40 and my 3-year-old introduced me to the man of my dreams.This brings me a level of joy I can’t describe.”
Photo by: Helena Kubicka de Bragança