Architect Turned Entrepreneur- Building the American Dream
After working in architecture, furniture and design for 15 years, I came up with an idea that led me into the NYC world of technology and dating. I completely threw away my design career and I’m no longer building structures, I’m now building relationships.
Cheekd was born because of a lucky pickup. Eight years ago, I was out to dinner with a friend & architectural colleague and I had excused myself from the table. When I returned, my handsome friend 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 left with a pending date. I left with an idea… that I couldn’t stop thinking about. In May of 2010, I launched my dating site, Cheekd.com, which was soon coined by The New York Times as “the next generation of online dating.”
Cheekd users would use a set of clever cards to introduce themselves to individuals they encounter in the offline world who sparked their interest. If the interest was mutual, the card recipients used the card’s unique code to reconnect easily with the person via a private online profile viewable on the Cheekd website. It was like online dating, but backwards.
As a trained architect, I really had no idea what it took to build a business, but I’ve taken a crash course by building one. I couldn’t even begin to count the number of times I’ve failed building my business over the past few years. I’ve learned to welcome the mistakes and even joke that I’ve learned so much from them that I’m going to keep making more of them on purpose. I’ve taken a crash course in building a business and failing has probably been the greatest lesson of all.
And finally, after four tumultuous years of building my startup with the wrong partners, lots of bad decisions and some major rookie mistakes, I was determined to find a way to take my business to the next level. With so many online dating services available for free, we found it difficult to break into the market. Struggling to support the company, in September of 2013, I decided to take it to the Shark Tank. Although the Sharks all brutally rejected my idea, I found a partner and angel investor that invested over five times the money I’d sought on the show. The experience triggered us to completely revamp and reinvent the app in 2014 with a new technology that wasn’t available when we launched many years ago. The app is designed as a solution to missed connections for smartphone-addicted singles, who might spend so much time looking down at their screens, the love of their life could walk right past them. Cheekd prompts people to pay attention to what’s happening in the real world.
Cheekd has been the most powerful thing that’s ever happened to me. Building this business has been an incredible learning experience. I’ve taken a major risk (both financially & mentally) and surrendered my career in architecture & design, but my heart and mind are in this project every waking moment. I’ve never been more dedicated to anything. Despite the occasional overwhelming stress, it’s been loads of fun. I feel like I’m living the American Dream — I’ve given birth to an invention. I’ve gone from 15 years of helping others build their dreams to a life finally dedicated to building my own.
Six years into the entrepreneurial hustle, I’ve learned that entrepreneurship is being on a mission where nothing can stop you. It will take twice as long as you’d hoped, cost exceedingly more than you’d ever budgeted and will be more challenging than anything you’ll ever try but if you give it your all and refuse to give up, you can trust it will be the ride of a lifetime. No matter what… this has been the most rewarding journey of my life. My advice to other aspiring entrepreneurs is to be brave and follow your instincts. You can’t cheat the grind, but if you give it your all, you can trust that the payoff will be worth it.
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