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Local gal changing the dating rules

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By Mallory Bilger

NEW YORK, New York – You’re on a crowded street, at the shopping mall or in a restaurant. Suddenly a stranger approaches you and slips you a small black card that reads “I’m free this weekend” Before you have time to turn around, the mysterious person is gone.

You might not realize it, but you have just been cheek’d. On that little black card are the words “find me” followed by a unique code and the website www.cheekd.com. If you want, you can find out more about the stranger by logging on to the website and communicating with him or her. Or you can just throw the card away. It’s all up to you – and that is what Taylorsville native Lori Cheek loves about her newest invention.

“Everyone said it was a great idea,”said Lori, who has resided in New York City since graduating from the University of Kentucky in 1996.

Lori got the idea for cheek’d after dining with a male friend one evening in New York. As the two were leaving the restaurant, her friend left his business card with an attractive woman he had spotted across the room. Lori thought that business cards could be a good way to make a quick, informal connection with someone who might not be able to stop and chat, but the message had to be more fun than a traditional business card.

From that concept, one of the nation’s newest trends in social connection and online dating was born.

“I thought it would be nice to have cards that didn’t have the name of a business on them,” she said.

Lori, with the help of two business partners, has now fielded hundreds of orders for the cheek’d cards, which bear unique and playful messages such as “emotionally available”, “I couldn’t find a napkin” or simply, “hi”. Each card directs his recipient to the cheek’d website where he can view that person’s profile. If the recipient likes, he can complete a profile too which asks 10 fun questions including a profile name, zip code and favorite iPod song. Cheek said the profile questions are purposefully a bit vague so that cheek’d users don’t feel pressured to give too much personal information.

If the person who was cheek’d wants to learn more about his mystery acquaintance or schedule a time to meet in person again, he can connect via e-mail.

Lori said her site is different from many other online dating sites because a person-to-person connection – even if very brief – is required.

“This is taking online dating back offline. It’s taking it back to the streets,” she said.

The new service has been popular in the media, attracting national and international attention from publications such as the New York Times. Lori said after the Times article was published, a representative from the Oprah Winfrey Show contacted her wanting more information about cheek’d.

“I almost cried when I read the e-mail,” she said, noting that there was no promise to feature her business on the show.

Lori said her service is perfect for shy individuals or those who have trouble finding the right words when spotting a potential romantic interest. She said from New York to small towns like Taylorsville, people across the country have been ordering the cards, which come in decks of 50 for $25. A sample deck of cards is also available for $5.

Members can create a profile and keep it current for $9.95 a month and new members get their first month free.

Lori said her business is still very much in its initial phase, but she already has plans for the future. Customers have shown interest in creating cards with their own messages, and she is working to soon add that feature to her website. Cheek’d also will go worldwide soon, making the cards available in several different languages.

Lori said two years ago when she first envisioned cheek’d, she wasn’t sure it would be successful. But the response has gone beyond anything she ever imagined.

“I can’t believe it,” she said.

And for those looking to purchase cheek’d cards without purchasing them online, they are on sale at Louisville’s 21 c Museum Hotel.

Lori is a 1990 Spencer County High School graduate with strong ties to Taylorsville. Her parents, Larry and Anna Ruth Cheek, still reside in the area. She tries to make it back to Kentucky at least twice a year. Lori said that although New York is her home, she often misses the warm greetings of southern hospitality in Kentucky.