Relaunch after “Shark Tank” – Lori Cheek's Story:
- Bootstrapping to Her New Business
- Shark Tank Told Her to Give Up – Lori’s Story
- What it takes to Launch a Dream Business
- “Shark Tank” Told Her NO – Lori’s Next Step
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More about our featured guest Lori Cheek
Lori Cheek is a NYC based Architect turned Entrepreneur, Founder and CEO of Cheekd— a mobile dating app that makes missed connections obsolete. Lori, a Shark Tank Veteran, was recently listed as “The Digital Dating Disruptor” and “One of the Top 10 CEOs to Watch” and is no longer building structures. She's now building relationships.
Full Transcript[00:02] Joel: Welcome to ReLaunch, your daily dose of fresh ideas, inspiring stories and practical solutions to help you build a business and life that you love. And if you are a daily listener, welcome back to the show. Thank you for tuning in, and thank you for joining in the before and the after show online conversations. And if you are new here, just know that you are among friends. And this is what you can expect: Unique insights, a-ha moments, and actionable information from self-made successes as they share their trials, their tribulations and their come-from-behind victories. And a quick shout-out and thank you to two of our listeners that have recently left reviews for us on our iTunes channel. Jennifer Cody. Thank you, Jennifer. She left us a five-star review saying that this is an inspiring and an informative podcast. Thank you for kind words, again, Jennifer. And Louis Sybillin, hope I pronounced that right. Louis Sybillin, he says that he loves our shows and that they serve as his daily pick me up. And we really do appreciate people leaving those reviews. And actually… [01:21] Pei: Yeah, those reviews are not just for us. When you leave us a comment, it actually helps other listeners to find this show better. So, please if you go to our iTunes channel which actually if you go to joelboggess.com/itc, stands for iTunes channel, that actually gonna go directly… If you use a smartphone or iPad, it's gonna go directly to that channel. [01:52] Joel: Fantastic. So, thank you for doing that. Joining us on the show today is New York City architect turned entrepreneur. She is a Shark Tank veteran and she was recently listed as the Digital Dating Disruptor and also one of the top 10 CEOs to watch. You know what? She's not longer building high rise structures, she is now building relationships through her mobile dating app. And we're gonna learn a little bit about it later on in this show. But before we get into that, let's go ahead and introduce her to today's ReLaunch show. Of course, I'm talking about the amazing Lori Cheek. Lori, welcome. Welcome to ReLaunch. Good to have you here. [02:41] Lori Cheek: Thank you for having me. [02:43] Joel: Absolutely. We've been looking forward to it. Thank you for your time. Let's go ahead and jump right into today's show. And you know what, Lori, I wanna start this show with a quick funny story if you will. Now, I know you love, love, love to talk about Shark Tank. What kind of host would I be if I didn't talk a little bit of Shark Tank with you right in the beginning of the show? So, you know what, a lot of funny, goofy, unplanned for things probably happen on the set during filming and also off the set out of camera's reach. So, just think about that for a second. What is one of the funniest things that happened to your personally, either on the set or off the set, and then we'll just go from there? [03:35] Lori Cheek: So, actually, I think one of the funniest things that happened was you know how Kevin O'Leary, who I think is the most vicious shark; he starts going into these stories about hunting. And then, once he starts talking about a gun and an animal, then you know you're going the wrong route with getting an investment from him. He started this story off about a rabid dog, and I remember completely zoning out because I knew I was going down that wrong lane with him, and I stopped paying attention. I just turned my brain off, and then all of a sudden I realized I'm on the stage of the Shark Tank, and Kevin O'Leary is telling me one of those stories, and I needed to turn my brain back on. Like what if they asked me a question about it. Anyway I didn't know what that story was till I watched the episode air almost five months later. [04:24] Joel: Oh, my goodness. [04:26] Lori Cheek: But it was bad. It was a bad story. He told me to shoot my business like a rabid dog. [04:30] Joel: Oh, my goodness. So, it was like one of those Peanuts episodes. Remember that? When the teacher was talking to Charlie Brown, and there was like, “Wah, wah, wah, wah, wah.” [laughter] [04:40] Lori Cheek: Exactly. [04:42] Joel: Is that a pretty good rendition? [04:45] Lori Cheek: Yeah, but I almost feel like I was gonna get in trouble for not listening at some point, so I had to snap back in and… [laughter] [04:53] Joel: Funny, funny stuff on Shark Tank. All right, so let's get right into today's show. And Lori, you know how we roll on ReLaunch. This show, it's all about the relaunch. And while we've all experienced numerous launches and relaunches throughout our personal and professional life, I generally ask our guests to zero in on the relaunch that has been the most significant for them or that's been the most transformational, and then we unfold the story from there. So, how do we get into talking about Lori's relaunch. What do you think? [05:29] Lori Cheek: So, I think I've just been a relaunching fiend for as long as I can remember. Something doesn't seem to work out for me, I change the game. And I grew up in Kentucky, and I remember the day that I threw up my graduation hat, I went straight home and packed up a truck and drove straight to New York without a job. I just knew I needed to be somewhere big and make something big happen. I had a degree in architecture and I came up here and practiced architecture for 15 years. And then I came up with a genius idea that I had to build this dating business and I couldn't stop thinking about it, and again, I relaunched my life with taking this huge risk and building this dating business. I came up with this idea seven years ago and almost I guess it was almost one year ago today, I took that idea on the Shark Tank and got torn to shreds pretty much and less than a year later, I relaunched my entire business. So I'm in the midst of this relaunch and it's probably been the most exciting thing that I've relaunched so far. [06:41] Joel: Sure, absolutely. Thank you for sharing that with us. Let me ask you this. You were basically doing what you had learned in school for a long time throughout 15 years. You were doing architecture which is academically that was how you were trained but then you went into this relaunch. But let me ask you this, when did it actually become for you a relaunch of necessity for you? And here's what I mean by that. There's a relaunch of choice and you obviously know what it's like to make a choice. You make a choice to do something differently, to build something on a side or to shift the whole… A part of your personal or your professional life. That's making a choice but then when it becomes a relaunch of necessity, that's when you passed the point of no return. That's when it becomes a for sure thing for you not necessarily a for sure thing that its going to succeed because that is a risk but it's a necessity that you are moving to experience yourself in a different way and to do things differently. So I wonder, when did you reach that point when it became a relaunch of necessity? [08:03] Lori Cheek: I think there's this thing called passion and through that 15 year career in architecture and design, I'm not proud to say this but I am never late to anything but going to this job, whatever job it was, I have done pretty cool jobs in architecture. I'd show up at [9:15] and I would have my stuff ready to walk out the door at [5:59] and I just always remember thinking, this is… “I'm working. I'm not living and I wanna live and work at the same time”. And then I came up with this idea that I couldn't stop thinking about for two years and I was trying to make it happen on my own while I had this full time job and finally I built it. I got a couple of partners on board. They were the wrong guys in the beginning but still they helped me get it off the ground and as soon as I launched it… I remember I mailed one of the Cheek'd cards to a few editors in New York City and within a matter of weeks, we were on the cover of the style section of the New York Times and it said, “Move over, Match.com. This is the next generation of online dating.” [09:13] Joel: Wow. [09:14] Lori Cheek: I cried the whole next day. I was so excited and we got a call from Oprah Winfrey's studio a couple of days later. They wanted to interview with me and a deck of these cards that I'd invented. And I just I knew I had gold in my hand so I pretty much kept working but working on my own business more than I was working on my full time job and I think in a matter of six months I felt I was cheating on a partner on a way. I was cheating on my employer and I just couldn't keep doing it so I had to go full course with this thing that I had and I had worked so hard to build and I just… It's like when I threw up my graduation hat that day and drove straight to New York, I just threw it all away and I'm like, “I'm gonna figure this out.” And now it's been five years later. [10:01] Pei: Yeah. So when you… You say you had this idea for two years and when did you finally say, “You know what? Today is the day.” How did that happen? [10:13] Lori Cheek: Well, I remember I kept walking around telling people about this idea that I had and the day after I came up with it, I was telling everybody and everybody's like, “It's a genius idea. You gotta build it.” It's happened to me in million times where I've seen a stranger in a subway and they get away and that's… You may never see them again. It could be the love of your life and I heard it so many times and finally I was at a Mardi Gras party one night and I was talking to a couple of guys that helped start-ups start up and they said, “This is genius. Let's sit down on Monday and see if we can help you start it.” So we sat down on Monday, yeah. So it's that… It's weird, another chance opportunity at this party led to this ultimately becoming a real business. I had started designing the thing and I had started everything except the business portion, getting incorporated, the social media and handles and the patent applications. I had done everything else and these were the business guys that came on board and they were like, “Okay, here we go.” [11:19] Pei: Yes. So years of education in architecture and then working in that, for me to consider somebody working in the architecture field and building this online dating platform, it's almost like it takes two very different either personality or skills and what did you learn about yourself during that process? [11:44] Joel: Good question. [11:45] Lori Cheek: What I learned is that I didn't know anything about building a business and I could write the book about making every single mistake you could possibly make. But you know what happens in mistakes? They make you so much smarter. So now, five years later, that I'm in this relaunch, I feel like I'm starting a new business and I pretty much have an MBA. [12:08] Joel: What were some of those mistakes that you learned from? [12:15] Lori Cheek: So I think the number one most important thing that I wish I had known then that I know now is to get the right people around you. Like I mentioned, I met these two guys at a party and we're just like “Okay, let's build this business.” [chuckle] [12:30] Lori Cheek: And I thought “This is gonna be the easiest thing now that I had these people doing the business side,” which I had no idea about. But the bad thing was they were two business guys. They were the same backgrounds. I didn't need two of them, and I gave them both the same amount of equity. I should have just had one of them, and they should have had this one portion of equity. What I was missing 'cause I had a technology business, I needed a CTO. I needed a technical person on my team from day one, and that's five years ago. And I feel like what I pitched in front of the sharks was a failure because of that very decision. And when you go in front of them, they say “The five most important things in getting into this accelerator or building a business is number one, team. Number two, team. Number three, team… ” [chuckle] [13:19] Lori Cheek: “Number four is idea and five, market.” I forget which is four or five, but still… [chuckle] I'm like “Okay, you've made your point and you're right.” [13:29] Pei: So Lori, I wanted to ask you this earlier but I wanted to hear your personal journey first. I wanna know about this dating platform you're building 'cause there are many… What I know about is I guess eHarmony or Match.com. What's different, yours than others? And how did you… How come Oprah wanted to feature you? [13:57] Joel: Because she's a Digital Dating Disruptor, of course. [laughter] [14:00] Lori Cheek: Yeah, duh. [chuckle] [14:02] Joel: Yeah, go ahead. [14:03] Lori Cheek: So the way I came up with this idea was one night I was out to dinner with another architect, he's a friend of mine. And I had excused myself from the table. And when I came back, I saw that he'd scribbled on the back of his business card “Wanna have dinner?” And as the two of us were leaving the restaurant, he slid that to a woman. And that was a light bulb moment that changed my life forever. I could not stop thinking about this intriguing stranger walking up and handing a note to someone that he was attracted to. It was very kind of cocktail napkin from back in the day with the lipstick and the phone number. It reminded me a little bit of second grade, when you're passing notes saying “Do you wanna go with me?” [14:44] Lori Cheek: But I just thought there was something so real life and romantic about it, and it was in the midst of when everyone's so online all the time. This was actually seven years ago, when this happened, so we weren't so technologically dependent. But over the years, I had built this business where there's a deck of cards and you could slip someone a pre-written note. So they have these funny lines on them. One of them said “Act natural, we can get awkward later.” [laughter] [15:14] Lori Cheek: And there was a code on it. So the recipient of the card could type in the code, and find your profile on the Cheek'd website. So I basically wanted to remove the business from the business card, and the personal information that he slipped her. Because it's strange handing your business information to someone that you wanna date. [15:33] Joel: Right. [15:34] Lori Cheek: So that's how all of this started, and that's the idea that I pitched to the sharks. And I think they kinda got it, until I started talking about my numbers. And my numbers were so bad because my website was a wreck because I had no technical person helping me and all my money went into building this website. So the second I told them about these numbers, they just started going nuts. So I left the Shark Tank and within one month, my partner and I found one of the hottest development agencies in New York City to build this new app. And it's been one year later, and we're out the door with this launched app. [16:10] Joel: Awesome. [16:10] Lori Cheek: So that when you're at work, you no longer slip a card to someone that you see. But this is all about real life dating. And if you're on Match.com, even if you're on Tinder, which is the hottest dating app out there right now I think, you could still be home flipping through strangers on your phone or your computer, and you're not paying attention to what's right in front of you. The app that we built, if I pass by someone with the app on the sidewalk, which is where people don't speak, there's no way on the street corner somebody's gonna be like “Hey can I get your number?” And if you do, they think you're a freak. [16:43] Lori Cheek: But it will tell you that you're both nearby each other. So that means you're within a 30-foot radius. It's a Bluetooth technology, so it works in a subway or a plane. So maybe I've just been sitting across from an intriguing stranger and I've gotta get out at my stop. And when I get out, it'll show me that James M was just there with me and I can see his profile. And if we both like each other on the app, then we can start communicating and learn a little bit more about each other 'cause you open up a whole new page once you like each. [17:14] Joel: Right. Yes, indeed. Let me ask you this, as you were going through the development of this, what was the strongest part of your personality? Your gifts and talents that you were able to harness and then build upon as you were seeing this through the development? Strongest part of you? [17:38] Lori Cheek: Well I think one of… The hardest part probably would have been leaving the Shark Tank. And I remember just walking around New York City thinking everyone in New York knows who I am. [chuckle] And they saw what happened to me on that show. And it just felt like there was such a gloom around this brand that I had worked so hard to build. At this point, it's like my four-year-old daughter and then it's like she's been maimed or something walking around the streets. And I'm known for always wearing my tee shirts and I just… My branded tee shirts and I just kept thinking people are gonna be like, “Why is she still doing that?” So, there was something about me that was not about to stop and I was gonna figure it out. I was either gonna keep doing these cards… But, the good things is that I have that new partner on board that was like, “Let's sit down and talk about how to potentially rebrand this.” Which is what we did. [18:30] Lori Cheek: I think, ultimately, the strongest part of my character is being so stubborn and I think to be an entrepreneur… Many people would have given up by now and this thing in me that's not willing to give up is what's gonna take me to the next level. And it keeps going there and I just say this has been the most rewarding journey in my life no matter how bad it's been. I do not care. I could get hit by a bus tomorrow and this has just been an amazing, amazing journey. [19:02] Pei: Yeah. That reminded me a quote from one of the experts on our show earlier, Jay Baer, I think. He said, “A decision to succeed comes before a plan.” So, you're commitment to this definitely is taking you far. [19:21] Joel: Let me ask you… [19:25] Lori Cheek: Yeah, go ahead. [19:25] Joel: Oh, sorry, Lori. I'd just wanted to ask you one other thing maybe two as we come in for a landing on this. Really appreciate your time today. But, a lot of the people that listen to the ReLaunch Show, they have very similar struggles. They struggle with information overload. And you know what information overload… There's new answers and there's new ideas that are constantly coming at us and so sorting through that is a challenge. People struggle with time management and nothing new there. But that's a common struggle that a lot of people that are tuning in face and then also direction. Well, what do I do next? What kind of advice or tips or some insight can you offer us today as it relates to dealing with information overload, time management, or direction for the aspiring entrepreneur or for the relaunching entrepreneur? What do you think? [20:31] Lori Cheek: So, time management has been a definitely been a major issue for me. And even through my hardest struggle building this business, I was boot strapping the business forever. [20:42] Joel: Right. [20:42] Lori Cheek: And I rented out my apartment on Airbnb and I was basically running my business out of a suitcase. So, I was just hauling my stuff around, hanging out at friends' apartments for 14 months while I rented out my own apartment. And talk about time management. I was moving all over the city dragging my stuff through the subways trying to bring my bicycle with me. It was nuts. But then I tried to find where was my place where nothing could interrupt me and I think it varies for everyone. So, in a way… [21:17] Joel: Sure. [21:17] Lori Cheek: If you could just find your haven and you put on blinders. Like I usually find like a really awesome Pandora station that doesn't have any words and I just get in front of this MacBook and I just get into it. And I sit here for hours and get so much stuff done and then I think you gotta step out for some breaks here and there. But, time management has been a major struggle for me and I feel like after all these years that I finally nailed that. But, other than that, I would drill through that whole team thing and make sure you're divvying up responsibilities between the other talents in your business and make sure you got only supportive people around you and people that cheer you on and say yes. These people that are like “When you gonna give up?” I'm like, “Do you know who you're talking to?” [22:07] Joel: I love that. So, not only did you share with us some tips about time management and I love the word that you used, “Find your haven.” Which is the advice you gave there but you also talked about talent management and how you were… How you figured out rather, how to divide up the different tasks among your peeps based on what they were good at, what they understood how to do. [22:34] Lori Cheek: Exactly. [22:36] Joel: Okay. Time management, talent management. Excellent, excellent stuff. Lori Cheek is our guest today. Of course, we're going to put directions and the links to the social media hot spots and the go-to-places in the blog article that accompanies this episode and this has been for a delight having you on… Pei, did you have your hand up? Did you wanna add anything? [23:01] Pei: I'm good, I'm loving this story. Thank you, Lori. [23:04] Joel: It's a great story. [23:06] Lori Cheek: Thank you so much for having me. It's been nice speaking with you. [23:09] Joel: It's been great having you on. Lori, we really appreciate your time today on the ReLaunch Show, The Digital Dating Disruptor. Triple threat. Triple D. Also know as the amazing Lori Cheek. Have a wonderful, wonderful rest of your day. Thanks for being here. [23:30] Lori Cheek: Thank you. [23:31] Joel: Thanks so much for tuning in. You can also access our show from many mobile apps and by visiting our website. Just go to joelboggess.com./276. 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