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Have you ever seen that show Shark Tank, which pairs entrepreneurs with potential celebrity investors? Tonight's episode features Kentucky native Lori Cheek, whose NYC-based startup Cheek'd is the next big thing in online dating. Lori graciously sat down for five questions with HerKentucky.
HK: Tell us a little about yourself.
LC:I was born and raised in a tiny, one stop light town in Taylorsville, Kentucky, which I thought was the smallest place in the world. As early as I can remember, I knew there was something out there I had to find and it felt far, far away. I eventually stumbled into a bigger city and studied architecture at University of Kentucky. During my studies, I guest interned at a New York City firm for just one week and was immediately hooked on the magic, diversity and energy of the city. On Graduation Day, in May of 1996, I tossed my royal blue tasseled hat into the air, sped home to pack up my Ashland Avenue apartment into a U-Haul and without a job or much of anything lined up, I headed straight for the big city to start building my dreams.
After working in architecture, furniture and design for 15 years for companies such as Christian Dior, Goldman Sachs and Vitra, I came up with an idea that lead me into the NYC World of Love and Technology and am now solving missed connections one card at a time. I completely threw away my design career and am no longer building structures… I'm now building relationships.
HK: How does Cheek’d work?
LC: 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 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. Cheek'd, coined by The New York Times as “the next generation of online dating” has gone global with customers in 47 states in America and 28 countries internationally. And I know it works because after decades on my own relentless pursuit for love, one day a couple of summers ago, 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 now we're engaged!
HK: Cheek’d is such a great concept — it adds a personal edge to online dating. How did you come up with the idea?
LC: Six years ago, I was out to dinner 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... 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, etc. and nearly 999 of them got away. 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. A person’s name on a card, alone, could potentially lead you to their front door. My solution to the problem would apply a personal approach to online dating by moving the initial encounter offline with a smooth physical introduction. In May of 2010, I launched Cheekd.com —my solution to the 999 missed opportunities I’d personally experienced.
HK: What was it like to be on Shark Tank? It had to be so exciting and surreal.
LC:The journey leading up to the Shark Tank has been the most exciting year of my life. With 8.5 million viewers, I've finally been given the opportunity to share my million-dollar idea with the world. Deal or no deal, this experience has been life changing. For weeks leading up to my pitch, I suffered a lot of anxiety and panic. I’ve put everything I have into this business and the stakes are just about as high as they can get when you’re in front of the Sharks. I’d never been more nervous in my entire life as I walked down what seemed like an endless hallway into the Shark Tank. My heart was about to beat out of my body. You’ve only got one shot and you can trust that I gave it my all.
HK: Here at HerKentucky, our motto is “Follow Your Dreams.” What is your advice to female entrepreneurs, especially those who have been told that an idea is too quirky or “unique” to work?
LC: My advice for other women in the entrepreneurial world is 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. And if you’re single, you might even just find yourself a husband while you’re at it. I did.
Thanks so much to Lori for taking the time to chat with us! Be sure to tune in to Shark Tank tonight at 9PM EST on ABC.
You know when you see something that is so brilliant you wonder why you didn't think of it? That's exactly what happened when I saw coveRumps by Kentuckian Adrienne Jones. They literally cover your rump when you want to layer or get extra length from your top. They're super cute and can be worn so many ways from workout to weekend. Check out our interview with Adrienne below, and then enter to win your own coveRumps!
HK: Tell us a little bit about yourself? Are you native Kentuckian?
AJ: I am a native Kentuckian, born in Pineville. I currently reside in Lexington where I moved after graduating from Eastern Kentucky University. I am a wife and mother to two beautiful daughters. As long as I can remember, I’ve wanted to have a career in the fashion industry and own my own business. I still can’t believe I’m finally doing both & I couldn’t be happier.
HK: What exactly is a coveRump? What inspired you to create them?
AJ: A coveRump is a layering piece for women. I like to refer to it as an accessory, or ASS-essory! It functions in so many great ways, not only by helping women achieve a layered look without all the bulk, but also provides just the right amount of coverage to the rump area when wearing leggings or workout pants with tops that are a little too short. coveRumps complete an outfit, by adding dimension and color. They are fun, fashionable and functional! I was inspired to design coveRumps from a need of my own. I was tired of tunics and wanted to wear shirts with my leggings, but found them to be just too short, making me feel self-conscious and too exposed. I just knew there had to be a product already on the market, but found there was not. It didn’t take long to get my business plan together and turn my idea into a business.
HK: What’s the best part about being a business owner?
AJ: The best part about being a business owner is the freedom. I make all the decisions that work for me and my business; I love that! I also love having enough freedom in my day to pick my children up from school, as well as attend school parties. I absolutely love being able to surprise my kids once a week and join them for lunch… priceless.
HK: What advice would you give to Kentucky women wanting to start their own business?
AJ: My advice to all women is to go for it! You only live once. Believe in yourself and have passion about what you’re doing. The passion will drive you through the struggles, and there will be struggles in starting a new business. Keep a positive attitude, even when facing obstacles… tomorrow is another day.
HK: What can we look forward to in 2014 for coveRumps?
AJ: 2014 is going to be a great year for coveRumps! I’ve been testing out a new avenue: in-home trunk shows. Our test markets have proven successful and we are very excited to add this fun way to shop. We are also attending more retail shows in 2014; check our website, www.coverumps.com and our coveRumps Facebook & Twitter accounts for event information. I’ve been sourcing new fabrics also, we want to focus on some fun prints to add into the line. I’m excited about the potential 2014 holds for us.
- Bourbon, martinis, or beer? Martinis
- One bucket list item: Visit Paris, France
- Favorite way to spend a Friday night: My favorite way to spend Friday night is at home eating pizza and watching a great Disney movie with my little family. We do this every Friday night and it never gets old.
- Celebrity/Personality you’d most love to see wearing coveRumps? Well, I’m not going to be picky… I would LOVE for any celeb/personality to be seen wearing coveRumps. But if I did have to choose one, I would say I would love to see it on Bethenny Frankel or Kelly Ripa. Both are strong working mothers with talk shows that reach millions.
Want some coveRumps of your own? Enter below to win 1 of 2 coveRumps. Winners can choose their preferred style. Enter before midnight, 12/21/13.