Lori Cheek, an architect by trade, aims to turn online dating upside down. Her bootstrapped venture Cheek’d sells decks of “calling cards” to its members, designed to be used as icebreakers in offline social situations. The cards encourage interested parties to contact Cheek’d suitors through their online dating profiles.
The Intuit Small Business Blog recently chatted with Cheek about her company, which she claims has saved nearly 4 million people in 34 countries from cheesy pickup lines since May 2010.
ISBB: What inspired you to start Cheek’d?
Cheek: Nearly five years ago, I was out to dinner with a friend and 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’d found a solution to my inability to approach people. It had happened to me a thousand times during my NYC commute: I had spotted that intriguing stranger on a train, in a cafe, crossing the street, or at baggage claim — and nearly 999 of them got away.
How does Cheek’d work?
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.” I’ve built a product that’s disrupting the world of online dating where offline is the new online.
What has been your biggest challenge?
The biggest dilemma so far has been the decision to continue self-funding Cheek’d instead of seeking angel or venture backing. It’s definitely been a struggle, but my gut tells me I’ll be successful without it, because I know exactly who I’m investing in — me.
Who comes up with the cheeky sayings on the cards?
Since Cheek’d is my only child, it’s all I really think about. After growing up with a father who had a very [David] Letterman-ish sense of humor, it comes relatively easy to me to write these one-liners.
We currently have a standard deck with 50 different cards, a Doggy Deck with lines like “Can I buy your dog a drink?” and “My dog wants to see you again,” and a Wall Street deck which includes “Your jet or mine?” and “My AmEx is also this color.” I’ve mocked up a fitness deck of cards that includes “You’ll like my downward dog” and an NYC Deck with cards such as “I don’t have bed bugs” and “My season tickets are next to Spike’s.”
One afternoon, I was working from NYC’s Soho House, a member’s-only club, and Spike Lee walked in. I immediately remembered I was toting that deck of cards and went up and handed it to him. He [nearly] died laughing and grabbed the rest of the cards wanting to know who else was in the deck. He then introduced himself as “Spike,” and I was like, “Uh, I know. Nice to meet you.”
What was your most daring marketing move to publicize your business?
My favorite story to date would be the personal Lori Cheek’ng of hip-hop mogul Russell Simmons. I slipped the Cheek’d card that reads “I’m hitting on you” into his front jacket pocket at a Fashion Week party a couple of years ago, and the next morning I got the Google alert from the New York Observer that he’d been Cheek’d!
Photo by fatchett.com