Emily J. Smith is the founder and CEO of Chorus—a matchmaking app where friends swipe for friends. She missed the days when friends would set up other friends. The world of online dating had become detached and devoid of community. That was the inspiration for founding Chorus. Smith has a background in engineering and business, but is also a writer who has been featured in The New York Times, Salon, Medium, etc.
Where did the idea for Chorus come from?
Chorus first began with a group of women seated around a dinner table. Half of us were partnered, the other half were single, and we’d all been friends for years. The single ones amongst us were complaining, about online dating: swiping takes time, messages go ignored, and we’re exhausted. The partnered women were complaining that they felt left out of the now ever-present world of online dating and wished they could help their single friends find matches. That was how Chorus was born. We wanted a matchmaking app to help both parties.
What does your typical day look like and how do you make it productive?
I always start my day with coffee and breakfast, I can’t do anything without it. I’m most productive work-wise first thing in the morning, so after taking care of emails, I try and dive into my most important tasks of the day. I work until lunch, then take a break and maybe even go for a run if I have the time and energy. The one nice thing about working for yourself is you get to create your own schedule, so I take a pretty significant midday break, then come back and try and do more work or a writing project until dinner time. In quarantine days are much more monotonous. But they all usually end with some form of TV and a book.
How do you bring ideas to life?
Gosh, this is so dependent on the type of idea. Business-wise, I have so many domain names that never went used. For some reason, buying websites has been a first step for me. But it’s all so incremental. You just have to start building a path little by little to the bigger idea, and if things keep opening up, even just a little bit and it keeps giving you energy, you keep going. I mean there are really really hard times where nothing will work or you just feel drained, but you just have to keep making incremental progress. I really do think a big part of success is the ability to keep going, it’s so hard, I struggle with it constantly.
What’s one trend that excites you?
This should not be considered a trend, but community culture and grassroots activism both excite me as a person and inspire me to infuse that energy into the Chorus brand. Our app has opportunities for people to come together for the community, even platonically. We love that about Chorus, and we feel that it sets it apart from other more individualistic dating or matchmaking apps.
What is one habit of yours that makes you more productive as an entrepreneur?
Building authentic connection is what brought me here. It’s not something that everyone prioritizes but for me, it’s critical to my success.
What advice would you give your younger self?
Stay focused and stay true to yourself. Don’t let the patriarchy inform your idea of what kind of CEO to be. You are your own boss.
Tell us something that’s true that almost nobody agrees with you on.
I hate board games, or any kind of organized social game. I’m not saying that it is true that they are bad, at all, but it is true that I hate them and this makes most people argue with me. I would just personally much rather have unbounded conversation in my leisure time, dig into personal details and really get to know people, than follow rules and put effort into an arbitrary goal.
As an entrepreneur, what is the one thing you do over and over and recommend everyone else do?
I think everyone works differently and their habits and needs are different. The only consistent thing I can say is to start somewhere. This is true for big daunting projects, or even on a day by day micro level. If you want or need to do something, break it down into smaller pieces, and just start somewhere.
What is one strategy that has helped you grow your business?
When coronavirus hit, we pivoted incredibly fast. Dating Roulette, a virtual weekly speed dating event, was born out of the pandemic and the need for safe contact. During our first year as a company, we have always prided ourselves on that nimble attitude. It’s a total survival mode, but it also stems from the fact that while a matchmaking app may not be “essential,” it’s integral for those that need that human connection during a year where we’re being told to forego it all.
What is one failure you had as an entrepreneur, and how did you overcome it?
Every entrepreneur has a million failures so it’s hard to pick just one. Hiring and maintaining a team is a big challenge especially with limited funds. I hired the wrong person for a major role early on and it took me a while to get the confidence to let them go. I was inhabiting the mentality that something is better than nothing, but that’s not always true, especially early on you have to be very precise about where you put your resources.
What is one business idea that you’re willing to give away to our readers?
A social media platform for bringing people together under grassroots activism.
What is the best $100 you recently spent? What and why?
I recently bought a full size keyboard and it’s been so relaxing and enjoyable to play during quarantine, it really allows me to focus on something completely when I’m feeling depressed or distracted.
What is one piece of software or a web service that helps you be productive?
I’m not big into apps and things to be honest. I turn off my internet if I need to do deep work or writing and I use draft emails or Google Docs to take notes and keep to-do’s constantly.
What is the one book that you recommend our community should read and why?
bell hooks, “All About Love“. It’s a beautiful, feminist forward exploration of love in many forms.
What is your favorite quote?
Oh, there are so many, I’m not really into favorites, but one I think about a lot is Rilke’s “Live the questions.”
- We are all always learning
- If you’re looking for a way to fix a problem, you are a true founder
- Focus makes the heart grow fonder
- Connection is everything
Carlyn runs the day-to-day publishing operation here at ideamensch and interacts with our awesome customers and entrepreneurs. She is likely editing this with a cat on her lap.