THE GEEK, THE DRAGON, AND THE SECOND WORLD WAR(DROBE)

Interview with Ste Clarke - The Word Nerd

An interview with Ste Clarke – The Word Nerd

Dating sites are everywhere these days – hell, some of them are even household names – but
the people using them all seem to be a carbon copy of the last one. Teeth that are so white they
could blind oncoming traffic, clothes that are tighter than a wetsuit, and wearing so much fake
tan that they look like they’ve been dipped in gravy.

But with Geek Meet Club, Dennie Smith is trying something a little bit different. It’s a place
where the self-confessed geeks of society can feel comfortable sharing their nerdy passions
with like-minded people without fear of the ridicule that they may get on some of the more
mainstream dating platforms. Whether it’s D&D, Lego, witchcraft, photography, heavy metal
music, cosplay, or history that tickles your pickle, if you’re passionately nerdy about it, you’re
welcome at GMC.

I caught up with her recently to ask her where she came up with the idea, how it felt to incur the
wrath of the Dragon’s Den, and who the best Batman is…

Dennie, this isn’t your first rodeo when it comes to running a dating company, is it?

No! So, I’m actually in the hairdressing industry, and after chatting with clients at work about
dating and my daughter’s own experience on dating sites, I sat there one day and thought, ‘I’ll
create my own dating site. It can’t be hard, and I’ll find her a gem!’

And did it work?

No, she’s still single! (laughs)

But that’s how the Old-Style Dating website was born, and it got a lot of press. I was even on
Australian breakfast TV talking about it! It’s been going for about four years now, and I got to
know a lot of people in the industry through it. Believe it or not, I learned a lot from a private
investigator who dealt with romance fraud. She taught me how to spot fake profiles and the like,
so that was the beginning of my first foray into running a dating company.

Where did the idea for GMC come from?

My traditional dating site does exactly as it says on the tin. That site has more women on it than
men, and it’s quite apparent that people of all ages still enjoy a bit of chivalry, so there is still a
need for that.

But, personally, I’m very geeky; I’m absolutely beyond passionate about history, especially both World Wars. I was on a history trip to France, and I just thought, wouldn’t it be great to have a friendship and dating site for these sorts of people?

That’s where GMC started. I feel like this one is going to be slightly different; it’s going to be
more of a community, just to have fun. So we’ve got lots on board, we’ve got groups, we’ve got
quizzes, we’ve got blogs, we’ve got online events and offline events, and then if you want the
dating aspect, that’s there as well.

Plus, I did a bit of research, and I couldn’t find another site like this. There are a couple of geek
dating sites, but even Mashable described them as very outdated and stereotyped. I also foun
they were full of fake profiles, so I wanted something more authentic where people could really
be themselves.

Is it true you pitched the idea to Dragon’s Den?

Well, the truth is, they approached me! I got an email from one of their researchers asking if I
would like to pitch to the Dragons, and I honestly thought it was a scam, so I ignored it for a
while!

When I eventually replied, they said we think you’ve got a great concept there, and we’d like you
to apply. So long story short, I went up to Manchester, and I had to be there in the greenroom at
12 o’clock. I didn’t get called on to pitch until quarter past six, so I was pacing up and down for
six hours! The entrance I gave was brilliant because I had a couple in wedding outfits wearing
Cyberman helmets.

That’s seriously cool!

It would’ve been, except the first thing Deborah said to me was, ‘I don’t like Cybermen.’

Oh, no!

Yeah, I know! I came out of there, and I reckon I cried for two weeks straight. I cried all the way
home; I couldn’t sleep; I didn’t even go to work because I just felt I’d let myself down.

At this point, the Geek Meet Club website was in its initial development phase, and I messaged
the developer and said, I’m quitting; I can’t deal with this. He convinced me to take two weeks
out to chill, and in those two weeks, I did pull myself together. I rethought the concept slightly
and made it into more of a community with the groups and everything else.

In hindsight, the Dragon’s rejection probably did me a favour. I’m still looking for investment, but
I learned a lot from the experience. I went on my own, pitched on my own, came back on my
own, and I didn’t throw the towel in. You’ve got to be a tough cookie to do that, but I did it!

Fair play to you; I don’t think I could have done it. It sounds terrifying.

It didn’t stop there! Even though I didn’t get the funding, I thought it would be great PR for the
business, so I kept asking when the show was going to be aired. It was in the edit for 10 months, and then they pulled the plug on it a week before it was due to air, so after all that, it
never even got broadcast.

Ouch! Although it sounds like you dodged a bullet there, to be honest. So obviously, that
didn’t come to pass, and now you’ve got all-new different challenges. So what’s keeping
you up at night with GMC instead?!

I’d love a team – or just a helper – because I’m doing everything on my own at the moment, and
it’s quite exhausting. I get up at six and log on straightaway. I’m vetting members, I’m chatting
on the site every day, reaching out to people for sponsors and collaborations, emailing, stalking
people on Instagram, seeking out press opportunities – you name it. I’m just busting a gut every
day to try and get the mobile app launched and marketed.

Wait; so you’re doing all this and still running a salon at the same time?

Yeah! I don’t actually do hair, but I’m front-of-house answering the phone, booking
appointments, sweeping the floor, making coffees, shampooing the customers – whatever needs
doing other than cutting hair. Fortunately, that gives me the chance to speak to the customers
about Geek Meet Club and give out flyers and business cards, and my iPad is never too far
away, so I can catch up on correspondence and take calls when I need to.

Sounds like you need to ask Santa for a few more hours in the day!

I need to ask him for the winning lotto ticket (laughs)

Everyone’s geeky about something, but geeks and nerds who love pop culture have not
had the easiest of rides over the years, have they? Why do you think they’re bullied and
ridiculed for their passions, whereas someone who, say, wears a football shirt isn’t?


I’m gonna be blunt here; a lot of people are uneducated. They like to put people in boxes, and if
they don’t fit into that nice little box, they then consider them weird. It really grinds on me,
actually. You see it a lot in schools, don’t you? At school, geeky people are picked on because
they’re considered a bit different, but they’re actually much nicer people than the ‘cool’ kids.


See, that’s a common theme that I’ve found. Whenever Comicon guests are asked about
the fans, every single one of them says they’re the nicest, warmest people you’ll ever
meet.

Honestly, the first one I went to when I set up GMC, I had a stand, and I was smiling all day. I
loved speaking with kids who were there with their parents; I loved seeing people with
outlandish costumes and blue hair and being so happy about it. There was a family whose son
was dressed up as a female character, and no one ridiculed him for it – it was just wonderful.

Trust me, I’ve done a lot of events with the salon and the first dating site, but these were the
nicest people I’d ever spent a weekend with, and that’s the attitude and community that I want to
cultivate in GMC.

It makes me sad that these people have been neglected. Yeah, you’ve got Star Wars fan pages
on Facebook or whatever, but no one’s into just Star Wars. That’s why it’s so nice that people
can create their own groups on GMC; it gives them the chance to talk about the huge variety of
things that they’re into with other really nice, honest, down-to-earth people.

Couldn’t agree more! What are the plans for the future for GMC?

Well, I desperately want the app launched! The goal is obviously to get 1000s and 1000s of
members, and I’d love it to be known as the go-to geeky platform. Secretly, I’d like to see a
Geek Meet Club trailer play before the latest Superman movie or a GMC poster on the Tube,
but that’s a little bit further down the line yet!

But the big goal is that I really want to get across that it’s a safe space and you can speak out.
We’re all in the same little home, so outsiders aren’t going to see you, and you’re not going to be
ridiculed for something that you say or post. That’s it – to create a really nice, fun platform for
wonderful people.

How can people be a part of the GMC community?

You head over to www.geekmeetclub.co.uk. It’s for UK residents only right now, and you have
to be over the age of 18. Once you’ve registered, put up your profile photo, complete your
passion profile, and start interacting with the community!

Okay, rapid-fire round. Answer as many questions as you can in thirty seconds – just say
the first thing that comes into your head.

Ooh, I like this!

Your time starts now. If you could go to any place and time in history, where and when
would you go?

Oh, easy. So the VE Day celebrations in London. You know when they were all at Trafalgar
Square celebrating? I’d give anything to have been there.

Who would you take with you?

My daughter. She’s into it too. We do the history trips in this country together, so she’d definitely
have to be there with me.

Star Wars or Star Trek?

Star Wars

Who’s the best Batman?

Christian Bale

Sean Connery or Roger Moore?

Oh my god, Roger Moore. I had such a bad crush on him as a kid. Loved him!

Marvel or DC?

Marvel

Favourite Doctor Who?

Well, I’m old, so probably Jon Pertwee.

What’s your idea of the perfect date?

Definitely something history-related. So going into a museum together, or some sort of historical
place, and then going for a nice lunch.

Favourite movie of all time?

Mary Poppins

Best TV show in the last 10 years?

Game of Thrones

Sex on the Beach or Slippery Nipple?

I’d rather have a Pornstar Martini!

Well, I’m not sure we’ll top that answer, so let’s leave it there! Dennie, thank you so much
for your time, and best of luck with Geek Meet Club.

(Laughs) Thank you for having me!

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