We’re spreading the love on this week’s episode! My podcast guest Kristen Manieri shares how her love of adventure with her own dates inspired the city’s only online date night resource.
Creativity and passion motivated Kristen to give back to the community, providing locals with their very own date night ideas. Grab your partner or your besties — or just your own beautiful self! — and enjoy the episode. If you love it, share it and give us a review on iTunes!
1) Kristen’s personal date night creativity inspired the online guide.
Orlando Date Night Guide is Orlando’s only website dedicated to giving local couples creative date ideas. The guide does cover theme parks, but the team’s goal is really geared toward serving a group of people who are in love, in a rut, or looking for something different to do in their backyard.
People who are new to the city really love the site since they can learn about fun, local activities that don’t involve the theme parks.
Orlando Date Night Guide also offers an app to help readers and subscribers. The app is called Date Night Guide in the iOS App Store and on Google Play.
Kristen came up with the idea for Orlando Date Night after she and her husband moved to Orlando.
While they were able to find a social circle easily, they wanted to continue their tradition of going on dates on weekends. Dates nights were very important to them both, and a big part of their relationship before they moved to Orlando.
As they explored the city, they told their friends about the adventures and dates they experienced together.
“Nine times out of ten, the person had no idea what I was talking about, or had heard of it but didn’t really know what it was,” Kristen said. “We just don’t appreciate or see what’s in our own backyard.”
2) From book to blog, Kristen adjusted to connect with her audience.
Because Kristen saw that so many of her friends didn’t have a good date night guide for Orlando, she decided to write a book. Great Dates Orlando was published in 2007.
However, because the recession hit shortly after she released her book, so many local businesses are now out of business. She needed to adjust how she shared information.
“I’m the world’s most opposite blogger,” Kristen said.
To keep the website up-to-date, Kristen and her team can easily update information based on the needs and views of their consumers. It’s a constant work in progress and one that really relies on the community to help. They really love user-generated tips to help them keep more eyes on the city.
Orlando Date Night Guide started as a passion project in 2007. As she grew her audience, Kristen didn’t think about making the blog profitable. Instead, she started plugging away as a freelance writing during the day.
But in 2014, she was really struggling with what to do with her career and how to move forward. She was very stressed and felt like so many factors were out of her control in her freelance writing career.
Kristen’s life coach asked her what she really wanted to do. Admiditly, Kristen wanted to work on Orlando Date Night Guide full time but the site didn’t’ make money.
After a conversation with a friend who suggested selling advertisements, Kristen got connected to a person who could sell ads for the blog.
Ad space sold out in the first six months.
They reorganized to put more ads in and sold out again quickly. Since then, they have always been at least at 90% capacity on ad revenue on the site. A huge win for Kristen.
3) Reaching out boosts motivation and opportunities.
In 2016, Kristen realized the next step she wanted was a national platform. So she bought DateNightGuide.com to spread her concept nationwide.
Building out the infrastructure for Date Night Guide’s national site was a very humbling experience for Kristen. “It had been a long time since I had built something from scratch.”
Kristen partners with other passionate writers who live other cities. She wants each site to explore the city through dates the same way Kristen build the Orlando platform. In 2018, Baton Rouge and Boston will launch sites too.
Another big project Kristen put together in 2017, based on a big collaborative effort, was a Discovery Subscription package which launched in 2017. This monthly subscription package would provide subscribers with an itinerary, vouchers, questions, and everything someone would need to plan an awesome date night.
However, Kristen quickly discovered the process to maintain the package wasn’t right for her business.“The cost was too high. We were stuck with really ridged deadlines, and things would get lost in the mail,” Kristen said.
“I don’t have the word ‘failure’ in my vocabulary, I don’t consider anything I attempt that doesn’t end up being what I had hoped a failure. I always look at it as an opportunity to pivot.”
Within a few months, Kristen decided to pivot and move the model to an app.
Launching an app allowed Kristen to incorporate all the aspects she loved about the Discovery subscriptions and so much more. The app was so much more user-friendly than the print product.
Kristen learned so much from launching the Discovery Date Night subscription service. She had never launched something so big in her life. There were so many things that pushed her outside of her comfort zone. However, Kristen said, “I got so much confidence in my ability to just change. There’s always just a pivot, never failure.”
4) Being Creative is a blessing, but checking in with what you want is important too.
The best part of Kristen’s job is the ability to work with other creatives and businesses. Currently, in addition to the sister sites, Orlando Date Night guide works with a team of writers and an editor that keeps content flowing.
Her favorite collaborations have been with non-profits though. Throughout the years, Kristen has put together Do Good Date Nights which “combines volunteering with date night,” she said.
For example, about 30 couples might visit Second Harvest Food Bank and spend time bagging food or sorting cans. Then, they’ll head over to the event room to do some type of fun activity or eat some yummy food.
Kristen says she is always going, always pushing, and always wants to get her hands on a lot of projects. She admits because she is highly creative and productive, people approach her often to collaborate on projects. Plus, the launch process can be addicting.
“We have side hustles on our side hustles,” Kristen said.
However, even if you want to do it all, doesn’t mean you should. It is really important to focus on your strengths and what you are already working on. “It really feels like ‘I want to do it all,’ but I also want to do the things I already do really, really well.”
5) Show up to our commitments.
Kristen knows that a lot of people can get stuck in the dinner and drinks type of date nights. She experimented this past year by giving up alcohol, which made her realize that a lot of the blog is actually very drink-heavy. So she wrote a piece about things you can do that is more than just dinner and drinks.
One of her new favorite new ways to go on a date is to go out to dinner with her husband, and then they’ll put on walking shoes to walk in a scenic area. Kristen found that it opened up a lot of great conversations with her husband.
It’s a great way to do a date night that is inexpensive and more than just “let’s go out to dinner.”
And for Kristen, just dinner isn’t enough for a date night with her. “I want to have more time out,” she said.
Kristen likes to host progressive date nights to take advantage of exploring a different neighborhood in Orlando, like Audubon Park, Thornton Park, and the Mills 50 District.
“We have all these little, condensed business districts.”
So Kristen and her husband park their car and enjoy a different meal course at a different restaurant each time. They sit at the bar and enjoy each part of their drinks or meal before they move on.
Kristen told me that you end up discovering restaurants you didn’t know existed. Plus, that helps support local businesses, adds spontaneity to the date night, and it really extends the night.
“Pick an area and just be spontaneous, just be adventurous.”
About Kristen Manieri
Kristen Manieri is the Founder and Editor of Orlando Date Night Guide, a site that launched in 2007 and now serves over 50,000 unique readers each month. An entrepreneur at heart, Kristen took the date night concept nationally with the launch of the Date Night Guide website. She also helped to launch Tampa Date Night Guide and Asheville Date Night Guide in 2017.
In addition, Kristen is the creator of Do Good Date Night, a non-profit event series that was recently featured in Good Housekeeping magazine. Since 2015, Kristen and her team have hosted 16 sold-out events in the Orlando area, helping to connect local couples with impactful service projects and raising thousands of dollars for local organizations.
She is also the host of The Synced Life, a podcast focused on ideas and inspiration for upgrading human connection.
Finally, Kristen is a prolific freelance writer with more than 100 stories published in magazines in Orlando, across the United States and in Canada and England.
She lives in the greater Orlando area with her husband, Marc, and her two daughters.