Virginia Beach entrepreneur reinvents 'dinner and a movie'
For a recent anniversary, Brittany and Kevin Hoffman celebrated with an unusual night on the town: shooting lessons at Bob's Gun Shop in Norfolk, capped with reservations at a downtown trattoria.
No, the Virginia Beach residents aren't hunters or members of the National Rifle Association. They don't even own a gun. Like most longtime lovebirds, the Hoffmans just get bored with dinner and a movie.
Not surprising, then, that Brittany, a communications specialist at Regent University's Center for Entrepreneurship, conceived D8Night.com as her first business venture. The website - "D8" is short for "Date" - offers fun date ideas for local couples. A beta version launches in early December, followed by a formal debut around Valentine's Day.
We spoke with Brittany last month, as the website primped for its launch date.
How does D8Night.com work?
You create an account, log on and tell us about yourself. The site shares date ideas in Hampton Roads. We're trying to match you with activities in your neighborhood.
We ask three questions off the bat: What is your budget, what is your ZIP code and a personality question. So it might be, How adventurous are you? Or, how sporty are you or something like that. Every time you come on the site, we'll ask you another question, just to make our suggestions better.
How many ideas are on the site?
About 400. That does not include restaurants - yet. We want to create a smart algorithm to match you with activities or restaurants. That's two different kinds of math; telling you whether you'd like this Italian restaurant versus that Italian restaurant is a different problem than telling you whether you'd prefer parasailing or miniature golf. We decided to attack the activities first, and then we'll add restaurants in the spring of 2013.
How did you come up with D8Night?
My husband and I moved here last August. We didn't know the area. We kept finding out about these great date ideas - the air show or a jazz festival - after they had already taken place. We're both graduate students, so that makes money tight and time tight. Plus, we've been together since we were 15, so we're going on eight years of coming up with date ideas.
How are you financing D8Night?
We won $15,000 in seed capital from Start Norfolk 2.0 in April. Our three co-founders are the original team members from Start Norfolk. We have a graphic designer, someone who does user interface and a student intern. We haven't spent our whole $15,000 yet. Some of it has been sweat equity.
I've invested my own personal finances, but it's only been in terms of resources - you know, gas and things like that. I had no idea that an entrepreneur would use this much gas in three months.
How will you make a profit?
We have exclusive partners - local businesses that offer extra-special date experiences. For example, a photographer is doing a discount on an incredible photo adventure for couples. Each business pays us a flat fee to be listed as an exclusive partner.
We've also talked about showing advertisements that provide resources for your particular date. So if you're taking scuba lessons, you might be interested in some diving equipment.
Right now you can't purchase the exclusive date packages directly from our site. You print out a voucher and pay the business when you go on the date. Eventually we'd like to do prepay and take a small transaction fee.
We're looking at going national; Hampton Roads is just our test region. That opens up all kinds of new revenue models in terms of franchising and licensing.