cheekd, the story exchange, dating, flirting, businessYour Name: Lori Cheek

Business Name: Cheek’d, an online social connection service

Type of Business: High Tech/Dating

Business Location: New York, United States

Twitter @loricheeknyc

Reason for starting
A few years ago, I was out to dinner with a guy friend of mine. I had excused myself to make a phone call and when I returned, he had written on the back of his business card, “want to have dinner?” and handed it to a woman at an adjacent table as he and I were leaving the restaurant. There was an immediate light bulb above my head. Two years later, I launched, which has been coined as “the next generation of online dating” by the NY Times. It’s like online dating, only in reverse and the flirtation is performed via a business card sized introduction minus the personal details.

How do you define success?
There have been days where I just don’t know what to do anymore. I’m kind of an accidental entrepreneur, so really didn’t know anything about building a business. I’ve just had to look myself in the mirror and numerous occasions and convince myself that I can do this. I can figure it all out. 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. Throughout all my learning hurdles, mistakes, financial struggles and efforts to create a business based on behavioral change, I’ve managed to rally up customers in 47 states in America and 27 countries internationally. Success to me, will be when Cheek’d becomes the norm all over the world.

Biggest Success
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.

What is your top challenge and how have you addressed it?
My biggest Startup Challenge would be overcoming doubt. 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. I’m no longer building structures; I’m now building relationships and it’s the most powerful decision I’ve ever made.

Who is your most important role model?
I recently heard Jennifer Gilbert, Founder of and Author of “I Never Promised You a Goodie Bag,” speak at a Marie Claire Magazine Power Lunch. I left pretty floored by her shocking, yet encouraging story. She turned an appalling catastrophe into motivation, determination and inspiration. When most people would have completely given up on life, her desire to rise above the tragedy is what propelled her to work harder than ever before. She’s a glowing symbol of success.