Interested in starting your own entrepreneurial journey in mobile app development but unsure what to expect? Then read up on our interview with Lori Cheek, Founder, and CEO of Cheekd, located in Louisville, KY, USA.
What's your business, and who are your customers?
Cheekd reimagines online dating with a hyper-speed mobile app that makes missed connections obsolete. After setting up your profile and desired filters on Cheekd, our app will then send you notifications when a potential match is nearby. And because Cheekd uses Bluetooth, it doesn't require an internet connection to function so connections can be made on the subway, a plane… anywhere— You'll get a notification if someone who meets your criteria is within 30 feet of you. If you're near a potential spark, Cheekd makes sure you know about it. It's like online dating which starts in the real world.
Tell us about yourself
After graduating from the University of Kentucky in 1996, I moved to New York City and started as a sales assistant at a furniture company. Over the next 15 years, I climbed corporate ladders in architecture, furniture, and design firms, making my way to a six-figure income. I worked for firms such as Goldman Sachs, Vitra, and Christian Dior. Although I continued to land some pretty fabulous jobs as a designer, my days in the corporate world felt like time was standing still. I despised the idea of working 40+ hours a week to start what felt like "living" at 6 pm. I wanted to live to work and create a lifestyle instead of a "job," and that's exactly what I'd set out to do. During my career, I was constantly coming up with ideas to build my own business, but none of them were powerful enough to take the leap ultimately. One night, at dinner with a colleague, I came up with the idea that took online dating to a new level.
In February of 2008, I was out to dinner with an architectural colleague. He'd spotted an attractive woman at a nearby table and scribbled, "Want to have dinner?" on the back of his business card and slipped it to her as we were leaving the restaurant. He left with a date. I left with an idea. After over two years of brainstorming how to remove the "business" from the business card, I launched Cheekd-- a deck of ice-breaking dating cards with a unique code that leads the recipient to the privacy-protected online dating profile of the mysterious stranger who slipped them the card where the two could start communicating online. It was like online dating but backward. We've pivoted Cheekd into an app that gives singles the ability never to miss a real-life potential "love connection."
I've always had a laser-focused vision to succeed and did just about anything to keep my business flourishing. When most people would have quit, I only hustled harder. I think my personal approach, passion, and dedication, mixed with my relentless conviction that failure is not an option, have been the recipe that led to my success. I could be the poster child for the statement, "what doesn't kill you can only make you stronger."
What's your biggest accomplishment as a business owner?
Cheekd has been the most powerful thing that's ever happened to me. Building this business has been an incredible learning experience. I've taken a major risk (both financially & mentally) and surrendered my career in architecture & design, but my heart and mind have been with this project every waking moment. I've never been more dedicated to anything. Despite the occasional overwhelming stress, it's been loads of fun. I'm living the American Dream—I've given birth to a patented invention. I've gone from 15 years of helping others build their dreams to a life finally dedicated to building my own.
What's one of the hardest things that come with being a business owner?
Finding the magic behind work/life balance. My personal secret is starting each day with a thankful heart, surrounding myself with people that make me happy, and making sure I spend all day loving what I do. I also find time to work out religiously every day-- it's how I relieve my stress and get my head around the day's activities. It's the one time I feel like I don't have to be connected to the outside world, and I leave feeling healthier, stronger, and motivated to conquer the day with a fresh mind and body.
What are the top tips you'd give to anyone looking to start, run and grow a business today?
- IT'S NOT WHAT YOU KNOW; IT'S WHO YOU KNOW… My father always told me as a kid, "it's not what you know; it's who you know," and that statement has proven so true after all these years…. One of the most fruitful tools in building my business was the power of networking and taking every advantage possible to meet new people. Efficiently communicating and never dismissing a single soul-- you never know who you're talking to, who they might know, or how they'd be able to contribute.
- FAILURE CAN BE THE FASTEST ROUTE TO THE FINISH LINE… Upon taking the leap into the entrepreneurial world, I really had no idea what it took to build a business, but I took a crash course by building one. I couldn't even begin to count the number of times I've failed to build my business over the past decade. 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. I've taken a crash course in building a business, and failing has probably been the greatest lesson of all.
- FIND INSPIRATION EVERYWHERE… for a product, for growth, for work/ life balance, for literally everything. Take notes and filter them out to what becomes your ultimate startup mantra. Once you've got that nailed, then give up self-doubt, surround yourself with a positive and supportive network, and go full throttle ahead as you've got one shot in life, and this entrepreneurial leap could be the ride of a lifetime.
Where can people find you and your business?
If you like what you've read here and have your own story as a solo or small business entrepreneur that you'd like to share, then please answer these interview questions. We'd love to feature your journey on these pages.
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