Featured on May 23, 2011
"Life is like a game of cards. The hand you are dealt is determinism; the way you play it is free will. - Jawaharial Nehru"
Lori Cheek, Founder & CEO of Cheek’d. Prior to launching Cheek’d, I worked in architecture, furniture and design for 15 years for companies such as Christian Dior, Vitra & Karkula. Trained as an architect, I began my career with multiple project management roles in New York City focusing on architectural interiors. A few years ago, I came up with an idea that lead me into the NYC World of Tech and I'm loving life more than ever.
- Title: Founder/CEO, Cheek'd
- Age: 38
- Location: West Village
- Contact: @loricheeknyc
In your recent interview on Startup Princess you mention that there was a two year gap between when you had the idea for Cheek’d and when the website was launched. What was going on during those two years?
The Saturday afternoon after coming up with the idea of Cheek’d, I gathered a group of friends at the Soho House, added many bottles of wine and we spent the day brainstorming about lines, designs and ideas for the (soon to be named) “Cheek’d” cards. I continued this concept and branding process for a few months while working my full time job at Vitra, the Swiss/ German furniture/ design company. I’d never started my own business and struggled with the actual“business” side of creating the company. I found myself walking around in circles with this great idea for almost a year until I was introduced to my now Co-Founder, Locke Raper, at a party, who suggested we sit down the following Monday morning and bring the idea to life. We met, as suggested, and by the end of the week had a Business Plan and started the process of incorporating, patenting, trademarking, gathering vendors, building the site, etc. Nearly one year after my initial meeting with Locke, we launched. We both had jobs through the entire process, so we couldn’t focus our efforts 100% until we both went full time with Cheek’d in November of 2010.
What has been your toughest challenge while making the switch from architectural interiors to being a tech startup?
After an extremely social 15 years in the world of architecture and design, I ended up with a rolodex of contacts in the industry that I could most likely sell-- I knew everyone and where to go for just about anything design related. Suddenly finding myself in the tech world, I felt very new in town. Finding reliable resources for everything we needed to help design, code, build and test the site was probably the biggest challenge. Managing them was the next biggest challenge. Bootstrapping Cheek’d also added to these barriers in that we initially outsourced all of these tasks to individuals all over the world from Amsterdam, New Zealand, Bolivia & England. I found it extremely difficult to coordinate efforts via email and skype coupled with the various time zones and languages involved. These challenges have all been a major crash-course for me and ultimately, a very rewarding experience. We just beat out 63 other starts and won the TechStars Startup Madness Tournament for the Next Big Idea of 2011— I feel like we’ve come a very long way.
You attend startup and tech mixers in NYC often. What are some of your favorite events or types of events that you enjoy going to?
I love creativity, hearing new ideas and watching other startups present their companies. I also like pitching Cheek’d at Tech Mixers and Meetups to spread the word and receiving invaluable feedback. There’s such an incredible buzz around the startup world and I’m motivated every time I leave an event surrounded by other entrepreneurs. It’s been great to begin creating a rolodex of contacts in my new industry. I just attended the TechStars for a Day Event in NYC and was blown away with the interesting individuals and incredible ideas being spread around the room—it felt a bit like a genius camp.
The New York Times called Cheek’d the “next generation of online dating.” What are some of your favorite places to go on a date here in New York?
I live in the West Village and work from the Soho House, so I don’t stray far from the neighborhood. Some of my favorite spots for a romantic interlude range from Malatesta Trattoria, an inexpensive, cash only Italian Restaurant on Washington and Christopher Streets or Fat Cat for Jazz and Ping Pong. I also love Keith McNally’s Italian spot, Morandi, on Sunday afternoons and the Spotted Pig or Corner Bistro for late afternoon Scrabble games at the bar. I usually hand out Cheek’d cards to intriguing strangers while my date is in the bathroom. Joking(ish). : )