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Naza Shelley, Founder CarpeDM Dating; Female Founder Series

Posted on February 07 2021

Naza Shelley, Founder CarpeDM Dating; Female Founder Series

 

In honor of Black History Month we are featuring an exciting Black female Founder, Naza Shelley who is launching her business this month. Follow along as we find out more about CarpeDM Dating. Follow Naza to find out more @carpedmboss or CarpeDM Dating @carpedmdating 

  

Ally Shoes: Tell us about yourself Naza.

Naza Shelley: As the child of a female Army veteran, I’ve lived in many places and experienced many cultures. My family settled in the D.C. area when I was entering high school. I went to undergrad at UVA and law school at Howard. I was a rising attorney in the utility regulation space before turning my attention to CarpeDM full-time. While I pursued a conventional career, I’ve always marched to the beat of my own drum. I really believe life is too short not to pursue your passions or to live by the expectations of others.


Ally Shoes: How did the idea come to life to launch CarpeDM Dating?

Naza Shelley: The idea for CarpeDM really came from my personal frustration using existing dating apps. I was putting a lot of effort into finding someone special, but the payoff just wasn’t there. What I realized is gimmicky dating apps aren’t really designed to help people find love. And those that do using the typical offerings are very lucky. I was over swipe culture and the thought of messaging a guy first didn’t appeal to me - I want a man to pursue me. In looking for an alternative to these apps, I couldn’t find anything that spoke to me - as a Black woman. Or to my friends, other amazing, single Black women.

In thinking about what a dating app designed for me and my friends would look like, how it would work - CarpeDM was born.

 

 

Ally Shoes: What are the main differences that CarpeDM Dating offers over other dating services/apps. 

Naza Shelley: There are so many! I feel like a lot of the dating apps on the market have one key differentiator and that’s supposed to be enough to set them apart and make them work. We’ve designed CarpeDM from the ground up to address the many dating pitfalls singles complain about. 

  1. CarpeDM is tech enabled matchmaking - forget about swiping, we serve our members a combination of highly-compatible matches handpicked by personal matchmakers and algorithm curated matches.
  2. CarpeDM is a community of high-quality, vetted singles. Every member is screened by our team. 
  3. CarpeDM is an exclusive service for professional Black women AND singles interested in dating professional Black women
  4. CarpeDM employs a patented video-first approach that requires that our members host a video chat within 72 hours of matching before they can text. Only members who agree to remain matched can take their relationship to the next level.
  5. We provide a personal matchmaker that is with our members every step of the way. If we don’t fulfill our obligation to find you highly compatible matches, then we will extend your service at no cost until we get it right.


    Ally Shoes: What is the selection criteria to be on CarpeDM?

    Naza Shelley: There’s a multi-step application process to become a member of the CarpeDM community. That may seem like a lot to some, but we only accept the best. Other apps have set the barrier to entry at 0, and we’ve found that people just don’t value what they don’t have to put any investment into. So interested singles can apply to join CarpeDM through the app, by creating a dating profile which includes normal stuff like adding profile photos and an intro video but we also have a 50 point questionnaire designed in consultation with a Black female psychologist. It takes about 20 minutes to complete your application. After an application is submitted, our team reviews it to ensure community fit. If there’s fit, the applicant will be invited to a video interview with one of our Matchmakers. The last step is background checks and verifications - if you pass the matchmaker interview, your application is sent to our third-party background check partner. We keep our members honest by verifying their identity, income, employment, and credit score. We also run a targeted criminal background check for infractions like sexual offenses, a history of violence, fraudulent activity, and theft. If you pass your background check, you’ll be invited to officially join the community. 

    In addition to screening our members before they join, we have Community Guidelines that penalize bad online dating behavior and protect our high-profile members, allowing everyone to date with peace of mind. 


    Ally Shoes: What are some of the challenges you’ve faced launching your business?

    Naza Shelley: CarpeDM was originally launched as a video-based dating app for a broad audience. What we found is that by speaking to everyone, we were really speaking to no one. The dating space is very crowded. There are lots of apps out there and it can be tough to cut through the noise and show that you’re really bringing something great to the table. It’s even tougher when you’re bootstrapping your company without the large financial backing other companies get. But my team and I look at these challenges as opportunities to really focus on our product, the needs of our members, and being innovative. We’ve learned to do a lot with a little and our goal is always to over deliver on what we promise and exceed our members’ expectations. It’s interesting because when thinking about who we wanted to serve, who really needs our services, we naturally landed on professional Black women like myself. It was a full-circle moment considering that my leap of faith into this industry was spurred by my personal frustrations with dating. 

    Ally Shoes: Who is your biggest ally personally or professionally.

    Naza Shelley: Personally, I have to say my mom. She’s always in my corner. She’s also a powerhouse in her own right - the first Black woman Chief Information Officer at FEMA, an SES, and an Executive Coach. She also showed me anything is possible if you work hard - she owned and successfully exited her own company. When I told her I wanted to start CarpeDM she was so supportive even though I know she worried about me leaving the security of my legal career. Professionally, my biggest ally is definitely my bestie and co-founder Sali. We met in law school and somehow I convinced her to join me in this crazy startup journey. She really keeps me encouraged and has been so supportive of the direction CarpeDM has taken. I really couldn’t do this without her, but more importantly, I wouldn’t want to.

     

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