By Lori Cheek

For as long as I can remember I have been fearless, and at a very early age discovered there’s a certain magic that comes from living an adventurous life. Although a recent appearance on Shark Tank shook me to my core, it reinforced my belief that what doesn’t kill you makes you stronger.  Here’s what happened:

As an architect practicing in NYC for 15 years, my life was all about building. Until one night at dinner with a colleague, I came up with an idea that took online dating to a new level. My belief in this new concept was so wholehearted that I quit my job and traded in the world of bricks and mortar to pursue my new passion… building relationships.

 

It had been four tumultuous years since I started Cheekd.com on a shoestring budget. The wrong business partners. Lots of bad decisions. And some major rookie mistakes. But being my cheeky self, I was determined to find a way to change the game… and what better way than to apply to ABC’s Shark Tank.

Even though the naysayers in my life told me that there was no way I’d get on the show because 50,000 other entrepreneurs apply each year, six months later I got the call. It turns out one of the producers loved my idea. And within a couple of months, I found myself walking straight down that hall, through the doors, and face-to-face with five tough investors.

ABC

By nature, I am a very fun, brave, brash and incredibly confident gal. But there was something about the journey down that high-stakes hallway that freaked me right out. After all, my business and my passion were on the line…and I was throwing myself to the Sharks!  As I stood there waiting for the gigantic wooden doors to open, my heart was beating in my throat and suddenly panicked that my “numbers” were going to make me look like a total idiot for putting as much time and money into this business as I already had.

The truth is, I didn’t believe I’d walk out of there with a deal. I didn’t. What I did know was if my episode got selected to air, 8 million people were going to know about Cheekd and how determined I was to see it succeed no matter what.

My episode aired in February of 2014 and even though I had known the outcome since shooting six months before, I decided to throw a huge bash to celebrate.  Yes, I invited over 200 people to watch Lori get eaten alive on national television. 

When I proclaimed, I was going to change the population with my reverse engineered online dating business, serial entrepreneur and Dallas Mavericks owner, Mark Cuban, rolled his eyes, called me delusional and immediately snapped, “I’m out.” Billionaire investor, Kevin O’Leary, demanded that I quit my “hobby” and shoot my business—my passion– like a rabid dog.  Finally, after getting shot down by all five Sharks, I looked them in the eye and said, “Trust that you’ll all see me again.”

Although those final bold words of mine ended up on the cutting room floor (adding insult to injury), in the 48 hours after the broadcast, Cheekd.com received a record-breaking 100K unique visitors and our inbox filled up with thousands of emails insisting that the “Sharks” were “out of their minds” for not investing. A little shy of 50 of those emails was from interested investors.

Since the Shark Tank aired several years ago, I found the missing links from years before. We’ve secured over six times the amount I’d sought on the show, and I’ve gotten a CTO on board who’s helped facilitate and finance the new face and technology behind the new Cheekd. The reinvented Cheekd dating app allows users to solve missed connections with a new technology that was not available when the patented Cheekd idea was launched in 2010.

It was only a matter of time, and I’m thankful I didn’t take the Sharks advice to quit and move on. My partner and I have since launched a professional spin-off of our dating app called Networkd, which makes IRL connections for people looking for networking opportunities. 

In life, in love, in work, in passion, just like my hero, Steve Jobs, said, “the ones who are crazy enough to think that they can change the world, are the ones who do.” And I’m still at the hustle loving what I do more than ever.

 

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