Lori Cheek has faced the sharks on Shark Tank and tells Jason about her experience. She shares her story from the beginning of the application process to the end when the show was aired. She talks about what her business is about and where it is today after she survived the sharks.

Key Takeaways:

[2:30] What is the Shark Tank application process?

[5:30] Shark Tank requires you to produce a five minute video of yourself during the application process.

[11:25] She couldn’t talk about Shark Tank to her friends, family, and even the other contestants on the show.

[13:55] Lori talks about what it was like facing the sharks.

[18:00] What’s Lori’s business about?

[19:40] Once the sharks heard Lori’s numbers, they didn’t want to go further.

[23:00] Shark Tank doesn’t take equity from your business anymore.

[24:20] The day after the show aired, Lori received so many visitors on her website.

[26:05] Where is Lori’s business today?

Tweetables:

It was really intense getting all the stuff submitted.

You gotta keep the Shark Tank filming on the down low and it was hard to keep it a secret.

They told you don’t talk about the Shark Tank 400 times and they let us know that weren’t going to take any equity.

Transcript

Jason Hartman:

Hey, it’s my pleasure to welcome Lori Cheek to the show and she has developed a really innovative idea for a dating application for smartphones, a dating app. She got on Shark Tank and I know a lot of us watch Shark Tank, it’s a great show. I thought you wanted to hear some of the insider information as to how you can get on Shark Tank and whether you even want to or not. So, Lori is here to share that with us and we talk about some entrepreneurship techie stuff too in the world of app development, I’m sure, but Lori, welcome, how are you?

Lori Cheek:

I’m great. Thank you for having me.

Jason:

Good have you, you’re coming to us from the big apple, New York City, right?

Lori:

Yes.

Jason:

Okay, great. Well, so, how long ago were you on Shark Tank?

Lori:

I aired on February 28 of 2014, which I realize is last year now, but I had filmed it in September of 2013, so the time between when you actually film it and air it, yeah, a lot can happen.

Jason:

Right, so between five months between filming and airing and now we’re going in reverse chronological order, when did you first learn about or decide that you wanted to be on Shark Tank? When did you apply? How did you learn how to apply? You know, the best way and share some of those best practices with us, so maybe our listeners can be on Shark Tank too.

Lori:

You know, I had never watched the show and for months and months, I mean, I guess, I probably years actually, people kept saying this is such a product for a show like the Shark Tank, you should apply and I was like, yeah, yeah, I guess so, and finally one of my girlfriends that lives in Dallas, Texas sent me a link and said they are opening applications, you should just do this.

So, I took a look at it online and it didn’t look like that lengthy of an application, so I just submitted my business and it seems like a couple of months later I got an email from them saying they were interested in scheduling a phone call and they ended up calling and we had our first kick off conversation and that was from the producers of the show.

So, we ended up having about, I’d say, ten more of those calls and each time you would have one of those calls, it was a pretty lengthy interview and in between those interviews, you had to keep submitting all these paper. I felt like I could have written a book by the end of submitting all this paper work and questions just about your business and the patent and trademarks and partner ownership and the money you’ve invested, the money you made. It was very intense and some of the questions I didn’t even understand what they were asking. I had to get lawyers involved. I mean, you have to be completely honest on every account on those applications.

Jason:

So you filled out this online application. How long did that take you to do that at their website?

Lori:

I feel like it was like ten minutes or less.

Jason:

Oh, so it was no big deal. That was real easy, okay, and then you had a call from one of the producers. Now, I get calls from people that ask me to be on a reality show from time on time. They usually want to interview me on Skype. Did you do a Skype interview so you had video with the producer?

Lori:

Oh no. It was just a regular call, so then, you know, they want to get to know you. I guess it’s television, so they want to know that you’ve got this personality for reality television as well. So you do end up having to submit like a five minute video of yourself talking.

Jason:

Oh, so that’s just a video that you produce yourself, it’s not video that you do on Skype with that producer?

Lori:

Right. So, I hired someone to do it, because, you know, I was taking this very seriously. I wanted to get on that show.

Jason:

Okay. How much did you spend producing the video?

Lori:

Seems like $800.

Jason:

How did you find someone to hire?

Lori:

I had been in a web series before about my business and this guy and I worked so great together and when I realized I had to do video, you know, I thought, okay, I can’t edit this stuff and I can’t make it look the way I knew he could make these things look, so I wrote him and he said I’ll show up tomorrow and it seems like as soon as they told you you needed the video, you had like five days to get it made.

Jason:

Oh wow.

Lori:

Yeah. So, we worked together everyday. I mean, it was really intense getting all the stuff submitted.

Jason:

You paid this guy $800.

Lori:

Well, I paid him $500 to start and he said if you end up on the show, you can pay me the rest. That’s how we worked the deal.

Jason:

I mean, $800 is a pretty decent price for, if it’s a really wowie promo video. Now, how did you know what to say in the video? How did you script it? Did Shark Tank give you an outline of what you should do?

Lori:
Yes, they give you an outline and there’s so many things they want you to cover in that outline, so five minutes, it was kind of all crammed in there and the video guy I hired, he’s just so great. I mean, he scripted pretty much the whole thing with what I know about my business and he was like, give this more energy, this is television. So, he was really the producer of my video and I think that’s what nailed it for me to get on the show, so I’m very thankful for him.

Jason:

That’s good and he’s obviously local to you in New York City, right?

Lori:

Yes. So, if anyone is looking for a Shark Tank promo video, I can give you the best recommendation I have.

Jason:

Well, it apparently worked for you, so that’s good. Okay, good stuff. So, you produced the video in about five days. You sent them the video and then what happened?

Lori:

It’s kind of hard to remember, but I think we just kept having these phone call and I’d get these new packets of things that I have to print out and submit new answers to and that just went on forever. I just felt like within one year, I could have received 20 different packages of 25 pages and you had to hand write everything too, so you couldn’t type it out and it had to be in ink, so if you made mistakes.

Jason:

Why would they have that rule?

Lori:

I’ve just…

Jason:

Maybe they just wanted to look at your penmanship.

Lori:

Well, they definitely no mine inside and out.

Jason:

Maybe they’re doing handwriting analysis on you, Lori.

Lori:

Possibly.

Jason:

I’ve always thought, I don’t know that much about it, but I’ve always thought that’s got to be a somewhat legitimate thing. I mean, the way we write has to say something about our personality and I remember when I was in grade school, all my teachers used to tell me I had such good penmanship and now it’s awful, because I never write anything, I type everything now.

Lori:

Yeah.

Jason:

I’m a terrible typist, so I suck at everything! Okay, so what happened after that? So, you filled out this application. How long was that and how difficult was that part?

Lori:

So, I guess it was just a couple that were pretty tricky and I remember one of them had three pages of legal information and stuff about my patent and so I had to get my patent attorney involved and I was in the midst of getting my patent improved as soon as I went on to the Shark Tank, so that was kind of exciting, but yeah, all together, I must have spent 40 full hours working on that application.

Jason:

Wow, okay, that’s a long time and that was after the video, right?

Lori:

Yeah.

Jason:

Alright, good. So, what’s next? You send them the application just via snail mail, I assume?

Lori:

It seems like I had to overnight a lot of different packages. When I’m telling you they kept sending these packets, it was more than once that you had like three days to get this information back to them, so as soon as you got it, you had to – it was studying for an exam. You had to buckle down, get all this stuff answered and FedEx and overnight it back to them just to make sure they get it, because I think you can’t miss a beat when you’re trying to get on that show.

Jason:

I guess so, they really want to run you around and make sure you’re motivated, I guess.

Lori:

Exactly, yes.

Jason:

That’s part of the deal. They make you jump through a lot of hoops it looks like. So, Lori, why did you want to be on the show so much? I mean, at the time you were on, when you applied, you were under the impression that even if your business isn’t funded, they still take equity, right?

Lori:

Yeah, so, I kind of looked at it as, I’ve been hustling at this thing for about four years and I was on my last efforts to keep it alive and win or lose, I didn’t care, and them owning equity was fine, because it was my understanding that going on that show is worth $8 million dollars of advertising money.

Jason:

Now, where did you hear that? How did you come up with $8 million dollars?

Lori:

I think I read some, I read some thing some where online about how much it’s worth to have the spot on the show, because initially I think there were eight million viewers the night mine aired or some where near that and the thing is re-aired about ten times since there. So, when they were talking about $8 million dollars, I think they were talking about a dollar a viewer.

Jason:

Okay, so eight million people watch the show?

Lori:

Yeah.

Jason:

Okay, what about re-airing? I thought it was all first run? I don’t really want it that much either. I mean, I’ve seen it a few times, but I’m no expert by any means. What do you mean about re-running? Where does it re-run?

Lori:

So, it was a re-run on ABC, I think once or twice more and then CNBC starts re-airing the show and that’s gone on several times, and then they re-air the show in other countries. So, I think my Shark Tank has actually aired in about eight countries and I know, well, because I see where the hits are coming from through my analytics and then I’ll get these Tweets or emails in other languages and then I’ll find out where we aired, because they don’t alert you that it’s going to re-air.

Jason:

Now, this is the analytics on your website, right?

Lori:

Yes, yes.

Jason:

So, let’s talk about what happened next and I can’t wait to hear about the after effects of, you know, when the show aired and what happened and what this $8 million dollars brought you, which you’re going to share with us, of course. What happened next? Are we up to the point where you’re on the show yet or how did that all work?

Lori:

So, finally after all these applications were submitted and every time you had a phone call with the producers, they kept saying that you’re not confirmed you’re going to be on that show until you see yourself on television.

Jason:

Wow.

Lori:

So, this means you could go through this whole process and start not air. So, finally I got the call that they were trying to book my travel and it was in September of 2013 that they flew me out and it seems like half the people that get flown out and actually walk in front of the sharks don’t even air, so there was still this risk and, you know, you’re not suppose to talk about the Shark Tank. We were staying in this hotel with all these other contestant and you can’t talk to them about anything either. So, it was funny. Like, we’d be down at happy hour in the bar and you knew that these were inventors or doing something insane, but you couldn’t really talk to each other about…

Jason:

So, they told you that that’s the rule, huh?

Lori:

Yes.

Jason:

Wow.

Lori:

And nobody wants to sacrifice their spot, so everyone was on their best behavior. So, you just start talking about the weather and stuff.

Jason:

That stinks. I mean, wow. Hopefully you met some people, other contestants afterwards you networked with them and so forth, so I’ll ask you about that and you can talk about that later, but okay. So, you go in and where did you go? Did you go to LA? Where was it filmed?

Lori:

Yes, it was in LA at the ABC Studios and it was very exciting. Like, even when you’re out there, you can’t talk to people when you’re filming the thing and you can’t take pictures of the set and there was this neat stuff going on. Like, we’re next to Queen Latifah, some of the Breaking Bad, the props for Breaking Bad were there. It was just a really neat experience, but still, you gotta keep it on the down low and it was hard to keep it a secret. I couldn’t even tell my friends what I was doing in LA.

Jason:

Wow.

Lori:

I mean, my family was the only ones that really knew about it and they told you not to tell anybody, but anyway. It is what it is.

Jason:

You told your family, so you fudged a little bit. Why do you think they’re that way? I can understand them saying things like, don’t take pictures of the set, and maybe at the time that you’re going to film, not talking to the other contestant before they present. I can kind of understand that. You might influence each other, you might game the system, take away the spontaneity. That, you know, I can kind of understand that, but I don’t know. It seems like some of the other rules are a bit ridiculous.

Lori:

They spend so much money on that show that I just think that they don’t want any spoilers, so that’s basically it and I don’t know. It was a nerve wrecking experience for sure, but nothing I regret about it in the least.

Jason:

So, you film the show. Are we up to the point where we’re filming the show? How did that all work? I mean, how did it go?

Lori:

Yeah, so, everyday, like when I was out there, I was just rehearsing this pitch of mine over and over all day long and then finally you’re out in this tent and you know your time is about to come and, you know, I had done this in my head about seven million times and then they open up those doors and you walk down that hallway and I had never been more terrified in my entire life.

Jason:

Yeah, I can believe that.

Lori:

Yeah, I’m usually really good in front of a camera, like, I’ve gotten there. I used to have this horrible stage fright, but now I’m just super comfortable in front of a camera, but there was something about the stakes walking down that hallway that I froze and I was terrified. I mean, this was like the biggest opportunity that I had in my business lifetime and I was worried that the words weren’t going to come out of my mouth. So, basically, you’re standing there in front of the sharks and you have this stare off for 30 seconds before they let you go and my heart was beating in my throat. I’ve never felt anything like it and then I forgot what they said when you get to start going.

Jason:

You know, I think it would alleviate some nervousness if they had the contestants do the walk a couple of times and be on the set and maybe meet the sharks before hand and get a little comfortable. Did you get to do any of that?

Lori:

No. I mean, it’s just like what you see and I think they kind of like that fear factor, you know, I don’t know why, that just made it even worse and then when I started my pitch, I went on auto pilot and I remember thinking okay, I just got through that, but when I watched myself do that pitch, I looked like a robot, like I don’t know. I lost who I was or something, but lucky I got the words out, because my show actually aired. I look like a fool, but.

Jason:

Well, you’re just being overly self-critical probably.

Lori:

Well, the Twitter feed, people were like, the cheek girl needs to blink or other people were calling me a robot.

Jason:

Well, let them try it, okay.

Lori:

No kidding.

Jason:

Don’t feel bad, Lori, let them try it. Yeah, exactly, you know, it’s always the arm-share quarterbacks. We can’t let those people really disturb us from our mission. So, you presented and did you just do it alone or did you have a business partner or anybody with you?

Lori:

Yeah, it was just me and I feel like it would have been a lot easier if I had someone next me, you know, if you freak out they could take over, but it was just me.

Jason:

So, what happened? So, you presented and did the sharks rip you apart? Were they easy on you?

Lori:

Yeah, so what I presented was the old concept that my company before I launched my new app, so I think they kind of got the idea and at first they were having this lively conversation about it and then as soon as I started getting into the money that my business had made and what I spent on it to get that far, like all hell broke loose and they just quickly went down hill and hated me and in the end, you know, I ended up saying I could change the population with my idea and Mark Cuban threw his hands up and said I was delusional and he was immediately out and he was the one I was most interested in, so I remember I felt like a dagger had just been stuck in my stomach.

Jason:

That’s terrible. Yeah.

Lori:

Not even that I honestly thought they might invest, because I know my numbers and I knew it was a bad story to go in front of them with, you know, a lot of people said I shouldn’t have done it, but I disagree, and then in the end Kevin O’Leary told me I needed to take my business behind a barn and shoot it like a rapid dog.

Jason:

Oh my God! They are so mean.

Lori:

He threw my cards in the air like they were trash.

Jason:

Okay, the listeners need to know about your business that you presented in order to evaluate what you’re saying and how the sharks were so hard on you, but remember, it is called Shark Tank and they are hard on pretty much everybody in one form or another, even if they like the idea and like the business, you know, they might be hard on them in terms of what percentage they want, what cut they want, and what they want to invest in and so forth, but tell the listeners just really briefly about the idea. What does it do? What does your business do?

Lori:

Before the new app, I went and presented the idea that if you see an intriguing stranger on a bus or a subway or at a cafe or a bar and maybe they’re going to get away or you don’t have the nerve to go up and say hello, you could slip them a card that would say you’ve been Cheekd and on the other side there was an ice breaking pick up line, so one of them would say I just put all my drinks on your tab, which is a joke. There’s one that said, I’m hitting on you. There’s one that said, act natural, we can get awkward later.

So, there are just little ice breaking lines and under that there was a code that the recipient could type in at Cheekd.com to find that person’s online profile. So, I looked at it as just like a non-intimidating way to approach a stranger and hand them a note that said you wanted to see them again without handing any personal information, so it’s like the old school cocktail napkin with the lipstick and the phone number without the lipstick and the phone number. It was a safe way to hand your information to connect again online.

Jason:

You know, I don’t get enough of those cocktail napkins with lipstick and phone numbers on them. Darn it. I got a few in my highschool year book, but that’s not done too much anymore. Okay, so that was the first iteration of the idea and that’s what you went on Shark Tank with. Now you have a mobile app though, did you talk about the mobile app on Shark Tank at all?

Lori:

No, I mean, I kept saying I have this app, because we had just launched the app, but it would still utilize the cards, so we still have a brand new app now that has nothing to do with that and they just weren’t..I don’t know, the second I started talking about the numbers, it was like I needed to get off the stage.

Jason:

So, what kind of numbers did you present?

Lori:

So, I had spent about $120,000 in four years and I had made I think something like $56,000 over four years. I remember Kevin O’Leary saying how are you living? This is a hobby? I mean, they were basically telling me to go back and get a job, but Barbara Corcoran..

Jason:

Especially how you’re living in New York City and Barbara Corcoran would know about that.

Lori:

Yeah, I was very creative and she told me I was the entrepreneur with the wrong idea and that was probably the nicest thing anyone said to me.

Jason:

I’m sort of wondering though how did you spend so much money on just cards. I mean, that’s all it was. Oh no, you had the website component too that you had to build.

Lori:

Yeah, so it was the site and it was a tricky site and that was my trouble. It’s where I spent so much money and I felt like I was bamboozled by web developers four times in a row and I was just, you know, to have somebody change one thing on your site, it seemed like every time I had something done, it cost $15,000.

Jason:

That’s absurd and web developers do tend to do that, some of them. So, I can sympathize with you there. So, you spent all that money. Barbara Corcoran said that, okay, so what happened at the end? What was the end of this segment? You didn’t get funded obviously, right?

Lori:

So, they all had gone out and I remember thinking, oh my God. This is the end! I felt like I wanted to say more and I didn’t get, I didn’t get to talk about my patent, but I remember thinking, okay, I gotta say something witty before I walk off the stage and I pointed at them all and I said, you will all see me again and I turned around and walked off and, of course they cut that on the editing floor, so they missed me with my ballsy statement as I was walking off, but that was it and I remember walking out to my producers saying that better have been bad enough for television, because even though I failed miserably, I still wanted it to air.

Jason:

Right, right. Okay. That’s interesting. You’re very frank and, you know, vulnerable and honest about this whole stuff, which is awesome. I appreciate you sharing all that stuff and your feelings about it. You walked off and they didn’t air the last part, that was cut on the editing room floor, so to speak. What’s your patent on?

Lori:

The patent is on the code tracking process. So, which I am not using any more, but it’s kind of cool, I have a patent and spent lots of money on that, but you know, maybe somebody wants to have that one day and I’ll be the owner of it.

Jason:

How much did you spend on patenting it.

Lori:

Ugh. I don’t  know. Maybe $15,000.

Jason:

So, you had that patent, that didn’t impress the sharks, okay.

Lori:

I didn’t even get to mention it!

Jason:

Oh wow.

Lori:

I mean, you can’t just really throw stuff out there and I think, you know, I was just so nervous. I probably didn’t even think about that. It was over before I thought it was going to be, so I didn’t get a chance to say a lot of things.

Jason:

I wonder, do the Sharks know what’s coming at them? Do they evaluate these businesses before or is it strictly you showing up for the show and they don’t even watch your five minute video or anything?

Lori:

Yeah, it’s just like what you see.

Jason:

Wow. Okay. Interesting. So, what happened next? You walked off. Did you think at that point you were giving up a percentage of your equity just for being on the show or not?

Lori:

No, we had this orientation where they told you don’t talk about the Shark Tank 400 times and they let us know that weren’t going to take any equity. So, that’s a new rule, that they don’t take that anymore.

Jason:

Okay, good. Well, what advice would you give for listeners? Would you say, you know, after all this bad stuff you just shared, that they should, they should want to be on the Shark Tank or not?

Lori:

So, the process of me doing the application got my head around my business more than anything could have done. It was a great exercise for me to get to know the numbers and you know, everything inside and out. So, A) that was great. B) the whole experience is, I could write a book on the Shark Tank experience and I don’t know, it was just a really neat thing, but what was most wonderful about the whole thing was the day after I woke up, after the show had aired, and I had a party for the airing of the show and everybody was like, why is she having a party if this was the outcome and I’m like, I’m celebrating national exposure for my business, so then the next morning I remember waking up in a panic, because I had to see what had happened on my website and you know, three hours later it aired in LA and I guess the site crashed for a little bit in LA when it aired there, but —

Jason:

Your website is what you’re saying. Okay.

Lori:

Yeah, because we had so many visitors and we had so many servers backing up, but still something happened when it aired on the West Coast, but the next day my inbox was flooded. The Twitter stream was flooded, our Facebook wall was bombarded with people saying the sharks didn’t get it. Whatever you do, don’t give up, this is the greatest idea. You’re ahead of your time. It was so much praise and of course there were some haters out there too that were saying the most ridiculous stuff.

Jason:
What did they say? Just for example.

Lori:

I mean, I mentioned people making fun of my pitch and some people were like what is she wearing and talking about my blonde hair and how the dye must have gotten into my brain, because this was the stupidest idea ever.

Jason:

Oh my gosh.

Lori:

I mean, a lot of people were quoting some of the things the sharks had said and they were like dumbest idea on the planet and I’m like, whatever. I mean, there was so much more positive things that came out of that than those people and, I mean, it was an interesting learning experience about how easily these people just can hate from the internet. You know, you can say anything you want to and it was, just some of it was so ridiculously mean and then I think about what the Kardashians must go through.

Jason:

But some of it they deserve. I think most of it.

Lori:

Yes, exactly.

Jason:

Oh gosh, that’s funny. Oh good. Well, good stuff. So, did you take advantage of any of the opportunities that happened from the fall out of the show? Did you bring on a new partner or do any deal or alliances or anything funding or was it just learning?

Lori:

So, I say, all of this pivot kind of started happening right before I went out to air the Shark Tank, so I had a guy come to me that wanted to get involved in my business and he bought out my old partners and then he’s the one that’s been instrumental and funding and helping build this new technology of our new app. So, it was almost like I didn’t really need anything anyway, because I had all this lined up already, but I didn’t know what it was going to lead to, but now I’ve got a lot of supporters out there who I feel like are cheering me on to the finish line that I didn’t have before.

Jason:

Yeah, good, good for you. So, wehre is your business now?

Lori:

So, we just newly launched this app that kind of have the same concept as the cards, but you don’t have to walk up to a total stranger and them a card. So, imagine you and I are sitting across from each other on a subway with no internet connection, there’s a Bluetooth technology that allows our phones to become a beacon, so if you’re within my filters that I’ve set. So, let’s say you’re between 30 to 50 or something and you’re a male and I’m seeking male, then our phones will, they will connect with each other.

So, it would say, you just missed Jason H and I can see your profile and I can send you a message, so this could happen with someone sitting at the end of the bar that you might not notice or I like to use the example of people that run on the Westside highway here in New York City. I mean, they see each other every morning and they don’t speak, they don’t know anything about that person, but know if you run by them, you’ll get a notification that person you see all the time is single and then you can kind of break the ice on the app.

Jason:

I have to say that does seem like a really good idea. Taking the online dating world into the offline world is really important. No one has really made that jump yet. Facebook kind of toys with it and that Facebook of course is not a dating website, although I think it’s one of the best ones.

Lori:

Yeah.

Jason:

Even though they don’t want to be a dating website. They show you which friends are nearby, but they don’t show you all of them and there’s some funny algorithm with it, but they have to be in your friend’s network already for you to see that, so bu I do think this concept of briding the gap between online and offline is very, very important. Someone has got to do that right and I don’t just mean for the dating world, either, there are lots of other applications for this potentially, so you know, business networking. All kinds of things like that.

I mean, why not have and maybe this is an idea for you I’m just coming up with, so I hope you cut me in. Why not have, if someone is, you know, in your industry and you want to network them and you both happen to be at Starbucks together, heck, why not say hello? Why does the business networking have to go on only at conferences, the chamber of commerce meeting, etc, why doesn’t it go on just in daily life?

Lori:

I so agree with you and I’ve thought about that. This is better than just for dating and I think even at a conference, you may not know who all those people are, but if you’re all on this app, you’ll start to see who they are and you can read their little bio on the profile, so it would definitely work for business as well.

Jason:

No question about it. Well, Lori, thank you for sharing this story and give out your website. Tell people where they can find out more about you and your business?

Lori:

So, you can find us at Cheekd.com and you can download the app in the iTuens store just by searching Cheekd or Cheekd dating and you can follow us on Twitter at @Cheekd or Instagram and also on Facebook.

Jason:

Fantastic. Lori Cheek, thank you so much for joining us today. Thanks for sharing your story.

Lori:

Thank you.

Announcer:

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