Danielle Dietzek & Julie Griggs of ‘Fourplay Social’: They Told Us It Was Impossible And We Did It Anyway
Know your values. Be acutely familiar with what actually matters to you. We know that friendship is of utmost importance to us. We also know that hard work is important to us. Because we know with certainty that those two things are true, we can ignore the naysayers who say best friends can’t do business together. It’s not one or the other for us. We hold space for both.
As a part of our series about “dreamers who ignored the naysayers and did what others said was impossible”, I had the pleasure of interviewing Danielle Dietzek and Julie Griggs, the co-founders of Fourplay, a double dating app for singles.
Originally from Connecticut, Danielle is a nurse practitioner in New York City. She splits her time between Fourplay and working in Maternity at NYU Langone Health.
Julie is a physician assistant practicing primary care at a federally qualified health center in Westchester New York, where she treats a largely Spanish-speaking population. Julie grew up in New Jersey. The two met while in college at Penn State University and now both reside in Manhattan.
Thank you so much for joining us Danielle and Julie! Our readers would love to ‘get to know you’ a bit better. Can you tell us your ‘backstory’?
Well, we didn’t exactly intend to make a dating app. In January 2019, we lived together for a short period of time while completing a medical rotation for school. It was our first time under the same roof since college, and we didn’t want to spend any time apart. But, we also were both very much single and very much involved in the dating scene. We decided to create a shared dating profile on a well-known dating app. We uploaded photos of the two of us and wrote, “Swipe right if you and your awesome friend want to double date me and my awesome friend.” It was such a success that two weeks later we were brainstorming names for an app, and a month later had become an LLC. It all happened too fast to even question our own judgment. Both working in demanding healthcare roles, we spent many nights and weekends building a new business. But as it turns out, we were onto something. Today, we run Fourplay, a double dating app that lets singles team up with their friends and match with other pairs.
Are you working on any new or exciting projects now? How do you think that will help people?
We know firsthand how isolating it is to be alone during a pandemic. Right now we are working on building video chat functionality into the app. As clinicians, we always have public health in mind; as single women, we always have mental health and physical health in mind. Video chatting will allow our users to double date virtually, find ways to be social, and at the same continue being safe in every sense of the word.
In your opinion, what do you think makes your company or organization stand out from the crowd?
As it is now, the “meet market” is saturated with the same disjointed ways for people to meet. If someone is looking for love, they open a dating app hoping sparks will fly with a total stranger. Not surprisingly, the ensuing first date usually fails to deliver on the romance the user was hoping for. Conversely, if a person wants to socialize, but without an emphasis on romance, they may use Eventbrite, Meetup, or Facebook to find an event. But, if a single person wants to be social AND wants to date, until now there were no good options. Fourplay changes all that by letting users do both at the same time in a more fun, anxiety-free, and safe way.
Ok, thank you for that. I’d like to jump to the main focus of this interview. Has there ever been a time that someone told you something was impossible, but you did it anyway? Can you share the story with us? What was your idea? What was the reaction of the naysayers? And how did you overcome that?
Loaded question for us. We’ve had several people question our potential along the way. Firstly, being that we’re not formally trained in business, many have said we should stick to healthcare. We started off making lots of mistakes, and it seemed like there were plenty of I-told-you-so-ers. Although, what’s different about us is that we are fast learners and coach-able students. We are enrolled in every online course, mentor program, and conference related to entrepreneurship and tech.
Also, our app launched at the perfect time for two medical professionals. We’re being facetious; a global pandemic threw a wrench in our plan. Most of our friends and family thought we wouldn’t be able to manage both our day jobs and Fourplay, but we actually found it to be a welcomed distraction. A way of diverting our attention with a passion in the midst of such distress.
Lastly, and more personally, we experienced a major challenge when Danielle needed to receive 2-month residential treatment for an eating disorder. It really didn’t feel like it was what was right for the business at the time, as it meant Julie would be left to launch the app alone. But friends first, we decided treatment was a priority… Friends first? Well, that’s not gonna work for a business, right? WRONG! More to explain on that one.
In the end, how were all the naysayers proven wrong? :-)
Well, first we’ll start with the whole “you can’t [expletive] where you eat,” thing. Being friends first has been a foundational philosophy in our business, and that has only helped us. The decision to prioritize treatment for an eating disorder was rooted in a deep understanding of one another’s needs. Knowing each other THAT intimately provides us with realistic expectations of one another especially when it comes to ability to perform within the business space. In the end, the personal development that Danielle gained has been instrumental to our success. After completing 53 days of residential rehab, she has never been as productive and invested. We wouldn’t have reached our potential without taking that step. Knowing when the other needs a mental health day, an extra two hours of sleep, and a lunch break has contributed to us meeting critical objectives.
We’ve proven everyone wrong who said that two people who only have healthcare experience, who are women at that, couldn’t build a successful business. AND, that it especially couldn’t be done while working as front liners during a pandemic. In fact Fourplay grew exponentially over the past 10 months. We’re proud to say we have exceeded our goals for the number of users on the app, we have received international PR coverage, and we have been accepted to more than one accelerator program.
None of us are able to achieve success without some help along the way. Is there a particular person who you are grateful towards who helped get you to where you are? Can you share a story about that?
Julie’s brother and sister, Ian and Alison, and our dear friend from college, Dani, have been a tremendous help along the way. When Danielle had to temporarily suspend her duties, Julie was left to manage Fourplay alone, having just started a new job as a physician assistant. Ian, Alison, and Dani all stepped in and split up the outstanding responsibilities amongst the three of them. Julie’s siblings, who both live in Israel, worked erratic hours to ensure that we’d be a success despite this bump in the road. Dani, who had substantial communications experience in the sleepaway camp industry, took all the online “street cred” she had to build our social media, an arduous job yet one critical for a new app. We are so grateful to have been supported by this very special trio!
It must not have been easy to ignore all the naysayers. Did you have any experiences growing up that have contributed to building your resiliency? Can you share the story with us?
This one is all Julie’s. It may sound trivial but it was quite significant. Growing up playing basketball, the coaches said Julie was too short to play well. Eager to please and quick to learn, she figured out a way to use her strength instead of her size. She was small, but also agile, vigorous, and fast — all things she knew were valuable. She put her that heart into playing defense and ultimately won player of the year. She wouldn’t allow for others to believe her stature as a weakness when she knew it brought strengths.
Based on your experience, can you share 5 strategies that people can use to harness the sense of tenacity and do what naysayers think is impossible? (Please share a story or an example for each)
- Manifest others’ confidence in you. You’re in control of it. We go into every conversation with the posture that our working in healthcare is an asset, although unrelated to the dating industry. When we believe it, we are more likely to convince others that it’s true. We try not to say, “well, we’re only trained in healthcare, but…” because that minimizes the experiences we have had and the role they play in our work.
- Don’t waste your time arguing. A lot of people just have a propensity to poke holes. No matter how good an idea is, they’ll find a way to present barriers. We take that time to get to work instead of engaging in rebuttals!
- Know your values. Be acutely familiar with what actually matters to you. We know that friendship is of utmost importance to us. We also know that hard work is important to us. Because we know with certainty that those two things are true, we can ignore the naysayers who say best friends can’t do business together. It’s not one or the other for us. We hold space for both.
- Read read read, listen listen listen, learn learn learn. Have data that proves you can do it. Show the evidence of you doing your homework. You’ll surprise people with how much you know. We are constantly thirsty for more information that can shield us against those who say we don’t know enough. Nothing is better than being able to cite a source while you’re in the middle of being doubted!
- Say what you’re proud of, OUT LOUD, regularly. We have a weekly meeting that we close by going around and saying what we are proud of from the previous week. It builds self-efficacy and also shows us how capable the other is week after week. Our pride in our work is the ultimate armor.
What is your favorite quote or personal philosophy that relates to the concept of resilience?
“So far you’ve survived 100% of your worst days. You’re doing great.”
You are both people of great influence. If you could inspire a movement that would bring the most amount of good for the greatest number of people, what would that be? You never know what your idea can trigger.
We would inspire a movement that de-stigmatizes being single. In today’s world, going to an event without a significant other garners pity. It shouldn’t! Friendships and other social bonds are really powerful! We want to see a world where not being in a relationship doesn’t mean not feeling connected; Where single people feel just as included, fulfilled, and emotionally safe as their non-single counterparts.
Can our readers follow you on social media?
Absolutely! We are most active on Instagram and Tik Tok. Our Instagram handle is @fourplaysocial — Also visit our website www.fourplaysocial.com
Thank you for these great stories. We wish you only continued success!