From being a popular child actress to then becoming a podcast host to now building and running her own startup, Heather Hopkins has come a long way within her early twenties.

Heather entered the field of acting at just 11 years old by entering professional theater, which then led her to a lucrative career in television and film. When her agents requested her to play along with social media as part of her online presence to help with casting, she tried her hand at YouTubing and didn’t find it appealing. But it lead to Heather discovering the space of podcasting and soon became a popular podcast host talking about dating, which was the stepping stone to her entrepreneurship as a dating app founder.

Don’t go into dating looking to find someone to complete you. If your goal is “I’m lonely, I need someone to complete me” DO NOT DATE! Go be alone and learn to embrace loneliness and learn to let it be a beautiful season, and once you have a already fulfilled life, find someone to compliment that! Because your value and your worth is not placed in someone else then.

It was while doing her dating podcast that Heather discovered a common problem a lot of her listeners and friends were experiencing with the typical dating apps the likes of Tinder and Bumble. They would chat with a person through the app, and arrange a date, only to actually meet them in person and discover it’s nothing like they envisioned.

Heather felt that a lot of these problems can be overcome if only the apps had a feature where once you’re matched with a person, you actually have to get on a video call with them prior to starting the messaging and dating process. So she built Hulah with this in mind, in order to create a more personalized approach that can help her users identify whether they are a good match or not early on without having to waste time and energy on mindless dates!

Listen to the full podcast to learn all about Heather Hopkins’ and her building journey with Hulah.

Heather’s Book Recommendations:

The Way of the Warrior by Erwin Raphael McManus

Contagious: Why Things Catch On

Where to Find Heather:

Follow her on Twitter: @itsheatherhop

Find her on LinkedIn: Heather Hopkins

Follow her on Instagram: itsheatherhopkins

Find her on TikTok: itsheatherhopkins

Where to Find Hulah:

Twitter: joinhulah

LinkedIn: Hulah

Instagram: joinhulah

TikTok: joinhulah


Episode Transcript:



In today’s episode, we have Heather, the woman behind Hulah. Heather, welcome to the show.

Heather Hopkins, Hulah:

Thank you so much for having me Desiree, 


that’s awesome to have you. How are you doing today?

Heather Hopkins, Hulah:

I am doing alright. How about you?


Alive and breathing,

Heather Hopkins, Hulah:

that’s all that matters, being alive and enjoying the new day.


So I wanted to ask you is the first question, briefly tell us who you are and what are you trying to build? 

Heather Hopkins, Hulah:

Yeah. So, I’m Heather Hopkins and I’m the CEO and founder of Hulah. And Hulah is the video dating app that is bringing the human and personality piece back to the dating space so after you match on Hulah, the first thing that you do is you schedule a five-minute video chat and then you can message but you always know hey before I ever go on a date we have had that you know that conversation and now I can make much more informed decision versus just sending some text messages and hoping for the best!


So previously you were a child actress, then you were a podcast host, and what made you go into business?

Heather Hopkins, Hulah:

Sure, it was so crazy. I think a lot of entrepreneurs have a similar story where it’s like I don’t even know how it just happened. And honestly, it was definitely a calling in my life. I never expected to go into tech. I didn’t have any background in it. It was pretty crazy. All my friends are like, what? You’re doing what? And I’m like, I know. It just came on to me and I had to do it. It did.

So I started acting at eleven years old. I started originally in professional theater and then I got into TV and film at about 14. So I was doing pretty well. That’s where I thought my life would always go. I was working pretty consistently.

I did lots of different TV shows, movies, and commercials. And sort of in the midst of that, social media started to become this..  my agents were calling and they’re like, Heather, you got to get on social media. It’s starting to be a part of the casting decision. It’s like there would be people getting jobs over me because they were had their followers.

And back then it was really early days into that. So I was like, all right, let’s do this. So I got into social media and I actually tried the YouTube thing and I hated it. I was like, I love people being present. And the whole YouTube thing was like, you know, you’re carrying a camera around?

And I’m like, Yeah, that’s not really me. So I got into podcasting and that was very early days. Podcasting wasn’t now everyone has a podcast, right? But back in 2017. It was like, what is podcasting? What’s a podcast? And so I ended up becoming one of the first dating podcasts. And that’s sort of how I got into Hulah.


Okay, so where did the idea of Hulah come from?

Heather Hopkins, Hulah:

Yeah, so it really was built from I was doing this podcast, and I would give a lot of dating advice. I’d have people from The Winners, from The Bachelor, and all those different people that are known for dating or they’re kind of maybe controversial villains on the different shows, things like that.

So I would be giving dating advice. I was using the dating apps myself, and sort of the same thing kept happening. I’d keep my listeners sort of involved in what was going on, and I’d be like, Hey, guys, I’m talking to this really cool guy. He seems so funny and great, and like, we’re going on a date this week. I’m so excited. And then, unfortunately, my updates would be pretty terrible because I’d be like, Oh my gosh, I met up with the guy in the first five minutes.

I’m like, Oh, great. This is nothing like I thought. And so I was like, I made it a rule in my show is like, no more going on dates until you Face time with them. And then it was like, why isn’t there an app where that’s always a part of it?

Because what was happening is I would be matched with a guy, and then once I implemented the FaceTime rule, I’d chat with him for a while, and then I’d be like, I filled up the guts to be like, can we FaceTime sometimes people would be like, Oh, what?

No, that’s weird. And I’m like, Why isn’t there a space where this is just normal? This is just what you do. It’s the safest way. It just makes more. When I do go on a date, it’s a much better date. So why isn’t that out there where that’s just part of it. So I don’t think go through the asking or the you know, I just wanted it to be normalized in a space. And so that’s sort of how I grew frustrated that it didn’t exist, that I had to create it.


How did you build the initial products? 

Heather Hopkins, Hulah:

Yeah, that’s a good question. So I’m not a technical person? No, not I was an actress. Very creative, highly creative. I always knew I want to start a business too. My dad was an entrepreneur, and I actually went to school for fashion. So I learned design.

I learned the business side of fashion. But one of those pieces of getting that major was you’re learning graphic design. So what I actually did was and when I started my company, there was no code tools like there is now, so I probably would have done different things now, but then I took what I could do.

So what I could do was I could design. So what I did was I actually designed the whole app myself. And then I raised the money off of those designs so I could show investors, hey, here’s what it would look like. Here, try swiping. Like if you click here, here’s what that screen would look like. So I kind of gave them that experience without actually being a real app. 


Not bad at all, to be fair with you. You’re speaking of what came to my mind is exactly that.

There’s a lot of people now that are becoming very creative. So I’m sure you heard about Front End and Figma and all this, and that’s what came to my mind. You need to say, oh, look, you’re going to be a heavy-end developer, but you could be that person who’s like, no, I want the sales. And that’s still the whole UI space.

Heather Hopkins, Hulah:

Yeah, exactly. I have the expertise in the space. I’ve done so much research and so much surveys and so much that I had all this data, and then I was like, okay, I can’t code, I have no

money, but what I can do is I can design.

So I designed, took the research and my expertise, and then obviously, I had built that community of people. And so with all those culmination of things I then raised, I first got angels.


What came to my mind when you were initially speaking was that how I think with you, it’s just timing. So, like, where you are, where everything was changing.

So, like, the fact that you wouldn’t change with the social media well, because where you were there and then it’s just like, this is where you were in your life’s journey, and then you decided to build it. So I was like, okay, so bringing to where we are now.

So what do you do differently that makes you stand out from your competitors, such as

Tinder, I believe that’s Bumble and et cetera.

Heather Hopkins, Hulah:

So Bumble, Tinder and Hinge, they’re all text or chat-based. You scroll through a static profile. They have some images and some their bio and things or maybe some question prompts. And then after your match, you kind of say hey, hey and that’s kind of and then depending on how your conversation goes, you say, hey, you want to go to dinner? If you get to that point.

So the way that we do things is a bit different. So our whole thing is, hey, we want you to go on less first dates, but more better first dates. And the issue is there’s just too many dates happening that are a waste of time.

And so what needs to be happening to really improve the space is, hey, get to know who the person is beforehand and actually, genuinely get to actually have a conversation. That’s a big missing piece, and that chemistry piece is missing.

And so the way that we do things is our profiles are actually we call them loops. And in your loop is actually in between your photos is your friends answering questions about you so you’re able to kind of see this person in a much different light, hearing about them through their friends. And then after you match, the first thing that you do is you schedule a five-minute video chat and then you can message, but you always know, hey, before there’s a date on the table. We’ve had that conversation. I’ve seen some of their friends. 

I can get that glimpse of if there’s that chemistry there and now let’s take it into real life. And that’s a much different first aid experience than just going I mean, seriously, on most of the app, mostly what you’re doing, if you’re chatting with someone, you’re just going cold-based off of some photos and some chats and you’re like, oh, it’s hope there who I think.

And so we’re just like, hey, make a more thoughtful decision on where you spend your time and make sure that you’re more make a more informed decision.


Essentially it’s like when it comes to date, it’s not always like sun and clouds. Sorry, it’s not always a sunny day, blue sky. There are times where there is a rainy day where it doesn’t go well. So how do you guys manage it if there will be like a match but then after the date it turned out completely south and the person’s like, block, I don’t want to do anything with this person.

Heather Hopkins, Hulah:

Oh, wow. Well, I can tell you I haven’t heard any stories like that from our users. I can tell you as a user myself of Hulah, it is by far the best dates that I’ve ever gotten on online dating had been through Hula.

And it’s not to say that if you use Hula then that means every first date is for sure any day you go on is going to be the match. But I can tell you it’s a much better experience and much more there’s a much higher chance of it being a successful first date because you can see if you buy with someone really quickly.

We believe in taking that connection into real life. We’re not like, hey, live on video chat. That’s not how we feel. We just are like, hey, you’re just going to be able to see pretty quickly in five minutes on video chat. So when you do go on this in-person day A, you’re going to walk up and you’re going to know exactly who you’re meeting.

You’re going to be like, hey, it’s already going to be that connection there. It’s to be going much more comfortable because you’re not worrying about catfishing you know who you’re meeting.

It’s just a much better you’re much more comfortable going into date. But then also you’ve already kind of had those you’ve already kind of established that you’ve already kind of seen enough about them before. Yeah, it’s like a whole different experience when you’re walking in cold off some chats and I remember when I would use Hinge or Bumble or Tinder, it’s like I would walk in the restaurent and I’d be like, Tyler…? hey, what’s up? And then it’s like you’re kind of starting, like, from square one again, where this is almost what I like to say is first dates really should be stepping stones, not starting points.

And on Hulah, they feel like stepping stones. It feels like, Okay, now, first date is like the next step to this relationship. Whereas these other apps, almost like you’re always starting from scratch the second you walk into the date, because you’re like, that chat could have been who knows who that was behind there? Whereas this is much different. It feels more like a stepping stone.


And how did you get your first users? This is an interesting one. 

Heather Hopkins, Hulah:

Yeah, so I got our first users, I went and marched down frat and sorority row at some different schools myself. I just acted like a college student and I just said, hey, can I make an announcement? I was in a sorority for a year, and that was the thing, you know. People would come and be like, Can I make an announcement? And then you announced me leave. And so my announcement was, hey, for every person that downloads this, I’m going to donate to your philanthropy.

So basically, I walked in, I’d be like, Hey, guys, here’s this app. I told them all about it and then I was like, now hold up your phone once you’ve downloaded. And then kind of that night you’d watch, all of a sudden people start mingling on there.


Is your direction of your business either business or Life Mission? And if it’s life mission in the sense of are you connecting the dots? And then what is the most rewarding thing of being a founder?

Heather Hopkins, Hulah:

Yeah, so definitely life mission-oriented. The life of being an entrepreneur is like, so hard. So I honestly couldn’t last if my company was just about the money for me, I don’t think I could do it.

But for me, it’s so much bigger, what I’m doing. For me, I look at my generation and it’s like it’s so sad to me, honestly, everyone’s like this. We’re missing these moments where we’re actually connecting and see each other’s smiles.

And that has always been so woven into me. That’s where I believe the beauty of life is. It’s in these conversations. And I look at my generation and we’re missing so many of these because of our phones.

And so I’m like, Hey, actually, I love technology too, but how can we use technology to still have these moments? And so that’s the biggest thing, is leaving these moments back into my generation.


No problem. And are you limited in the US?

Heather Hopkins, Hulah:

Well, we’re focused on the US. Anyone can apply, so I definitely encourage you to apply. And basically what happens is we watch the map and we see areas start to light up and then we turn on allowing people in. 


Awesome. And do you have any excesses of people that you met up through the app and now are you in a relationship when getting married?

HHeather Hopkins, Hulah:

So yes, we do have people in relationships it’s like the best thing in the world. I try to say everyone’s social media like please tell me you don’t know how much joy it brings to me when I user writes in and it’s like “oh my God, Heather we just said I love you for the first time” like oh my God.

The excitement that I get is like so from what I know there is successful relationships and I bet there’s more I just want them maybe just need to write it to me so I can know what was the second part of your question?


How they met through the app and now in a relationship we get married so I don’t think it’s necessary, I think it’s more the people so I’m sure you’ve got the journey 

Heather Hopkins, Hulah:

it’s a bit early we don’t have marriages yet we are out Hulah has been out for three months now so you know, very fresh still and so we definitely have people that are in the I love you phase which is like that’s pretty quick but that’s great when you know, you know and I haven’t heard of any marriages yet I kind of am happy about that one. 


so how long has it been since you released?

Heather Hopkins, Hulah:

Yeah, so before Covid I launched a very buggy version it was not called Hulah but it worked and we had people meeting through that and then I raised our pre-seed off of what that was, and then we basically shut down the app, rebuilt it and we launched Hulah because we had to rebuild the technology the team I brought on some pretty big partners and so now we’re Hulah but that came out about three months ago we launched the waitlist and then we just started letting people in about a month and a half ago.


Oh yeah, so it’s very new. if anyone’s getting married now, I’ll be concerned okay, now I’m with you.

Heather Hopkins, Hulah:

Yeah, exactly, that’s what I’m saying we’re good with the no marriages yet, those are coming 


if you can give some advice to your younger self or what would it be? 

Heather Hopkins, Hulah:

Yes. So I was thinking about this and I would say I did some of these things but I would say if someone’s listening, find mentors soon, find someone that you look up to and that you go to for guidance also say yes to tons of things like, I mean I’ve done so many different jobs and I’m so happy because it’s made me a very like I just have been in a lot of different situations, I’ve done a lot in my life, I’m still young but just saying yes and also another thing that I kind of thought of was I think to get into a space that you’re like interested in. If it takes you doing some work for free for a bit, just to get in that space and learn from those people, do it because it will pay off in tenfold. Just get into these spaces that you want to be in, and the only way for you to get in is being like, hey, let me offer this. Let me do this for you so I can learn from you. Do that. I think that’s how people remember you by it’s always giving that 120% and going above and beyond. And so as often as you can do that, do that, it will pay off. 


You touched on earlier that you use the app for yourself. Can you explain how do you find a date and how is your experience?

Heather Hopkins, Hulah:

Sure. I actually was seeing someone, actually, it recently ended because we both own our own companies and it’s just a lot his company, he’s having to travel around a lot, so it was amazing.

Basically, after you match having that video chat, I think for that person that I was dating was pretty, like instant. Like, right when we got on video chat, it was like, Oh, no, this is bad, because it was just like, we’re both in pretty big life transitions and it was just like, Oh my gosh, it’s really interesting that the more you kind of they’re only five minutes, so you’re more willing to kind of take chance.

That’s why I tell people I have the most success with Hula. It’s different than other apps because you don’t have to go all the way to dinner. So have a little bit more of an open mind, especially for if you’re a straight woman. Guys are terrible at putting up their photos. They just are notoriously. They just don’t have good taste. So sometimes you’re like, Oh, this guy could be I might like him on Hula. Just take the chance on this guy.

Because what happens is a lot of times their personality shines so bright and you’re like, oh my God, I would have never given him a chance in real life or on another app. But thank God I did this because, oh my gosh, she’s so cute and funny and amazing. This guy that I had particularly had very cute photos, but then it was like, on video chat, it was like we had so much in common right away, and it was just like, really natural.

And I think the more you can kind of learn that about yourself, what’s the natural date? It allows you to kind of experiment a little bit more with yourself and what you like. And I think once you kind of get that, it makes your dating I don’t know, it just makes dating much more clear for, like, what works with you, what doesn’t.

So, yeah, my experience has been amazing. I’ve gone in a few dates from it in real life that originally over Hulah and then moved it into real life and yes the one I dated for a bit, 


Not too bad. Thank you very much for sharing and I think it will be interesting to follow this question because in a way you’re kind of like a love guru but not really a love guru but you are in a certain respect.

So for those who may be in a relationship right now or looking to kind of enter the world of dating, some may just  flight into it, is there any advice that you kind of genuinely give from the position you’ve seen of what you’ve experienced what would you advise those

HHeather Hopkins, Hulah:

I mentioned I launched a very buggy version originally but it worked and I use that as well. Actually, when I first started my company I happened to in the first few months of building I got into a relationship and it was a two-year relationship. We were living together, we’re going to get married, and then we ended up having to mutually we had to break up and it was so sad but I was really thrown off.

My mojo was thrown off and I’m a very confident person but when you’re in a relationship and it’s kind of scary when you get back in the dating world it’s like oh my God, years have passed and how do I do this? I don’t remember. It’s difficult. And so honestly my app was a godsend because it’s sort of like that bridge between the thought at that time of going to a dinner date with a guy sounded a bit terrifying.

I was like oh my gosh, that just sounds like so overwhelming so much. And so it was kind of a good baby step to start with Hulah under a different name but to start with these quick video chat because I was like okay. And it grew my confidence back. I was like there’s great guys out there and I can have a conversation. I’m fine.

What am I worried about? And it kind of was like that perfect baby step to kind of get me comfortable again. And so what I would say is obviously don’t go into dating looking to ever.

I think a lot of people think they’re going to find someone to complete them and if that is your goal, if your whole thing is like I’m lonely, I need someone to complete me, do not date. Do not date.

You need to go be alone and learn to embrace loneliness and learn to let this be a beautiful season. And now when you’re like okay, I can find someone great to compliment my life, my already filled life, I want to find someone to compliment that.

Now you go into dating as it will save you a lot of heartache because your value is your worth is not in someone else. You already have that and you’re looking for someone to compliment that. So when you are ready for dating using Hulah is a great first step because it gets you back to that like, wait, I’m okay.

If you’re just genuinely curious about people and you’re being open-minded, you’re going to find that amazing person to compliment you. But I think the first thing starts with really being ready for that.


It’s solid advice if anyone is listening. Solid advice. So kind of putting the parents ideas around because I’m thinking to myself, there are parents out there that will probably be listening to this thing, but like my 14 year olds. So it’s kind of the mentality of how can I well, I wouldn’t be more a sense of thinking on the 14 year but then what is the safety net to make sure that okay?

As you said, we’re not looking to be catfishing, but it’s just to make that protocol that this is genuinely the person that I’m speaking to. I’m not making sure that so you manage to walk through that.

Heather Hopkins, Hulah:

Yeah, safety is huge for us. So the first thing is we’re invite-only, but in the sense anyone can apply. But our whole thing is we only want our user base to be full of legit people. So as long as you are who you say you are, you’ll get it. As long as you’re a real person, you’ll get it. We don’t believe in bots or fake accounts, nothing like that, which there is a lot of issues like that with the apps that are just letting anyone in.

That’s what happens. There are tons bots, catfishes, bank accounts and so from the front end we already are vetting, we’re helping that. Then in addition to that, you’re seeing their friends. So I always believe that a person is the average of their five closest friends. So you’re kind of seeing just like in a small way a little bit more about this person. Then after you match, the first thing you do is to schedule that video chat so you’re always going to know, hey, before there’s ever an in-real-life thing. This is not a catfish, this is a real person that I have some sort of connection with. And then actually something that we just built recently, which is so exciting and very unique in a space, is we actually have this.

So what happens in real life is you’ll meet someone quickly, so you’re talking. And then I was like, oh, can I get your number? And a lot of women were like, my number? That’s a little much right now, I just talked to you quickly, I have to go right now.

But so on Hulah, you can actually share your barcode. So they have a barcode, they can just scan it real quick or we have a link, whatever you would like and they can actually go. They don’t have to be a user yet, but they can make an account and will go directly to your profile and they can decide to like you and then you can decide to like them back and then do your communication through Hulah and then bring it back to make that informed decision. So sort of bridging that also real life and online and kind of making that safer connection happen.


Okay, fair enough. And what future plans do you have for your company?

Heather Hopkins, Hulah:

Yeah, great question. So we definitely are doing some really cool stuff in the AI and machine learning space and that’s stuff that we’re really excited about that’s just going to improve the algorithms and just make personality a more focused I think if you’re familiar with the current dating apps, they use this thing called the ELO system in AI.

So basically what happens is if they see you like a bunch of blonde eyes, they’re going to serve you, blonde guys. But we all know there’s so much more to a connection than just that.

And so we’re actually able to use some really cool technologies to make the algorithm more than just a physical attribute. And because we’re able to kind of have this video piece where it’s always a machine, it’s not a human, but we’re able to kind of see, hey, you like guys who are this on the funny scale.

It’s all a computer analyzing this. But we’re actually able to show you more people that actually align with you on the personality similarities, which is really cool in this space. And then in addition to that, we do have a friends options and where we want to go into friends and professional relationships. So we already have quite a few people that love Hulah for friends.

And it’s using the same kind of method, which is like, hey, get to known who they are before you bring them into your life. And so people meet friends the same way, so they use Hulah for that. And it’s really beautiful to see the friendships forming from that as well.


Okay, and the last question I’m going to throw to you is name three books that change the way you think.

Heather Hopkins, Hulah:

I would like to preface this with I’m more of an article junkie. I love reading article research, all that. Not as much books because just finishing like a whole book that’s really a lot for me.

So I also am a Christian and my faith is why I’m an entrepreneur. The only reason I can’t be an entrepreneur, I don’t know how anyone is an entrepreneur without faith. No clue. Because so much happens that I thank God I have God to lean on. And so the number one book that changed my life is the Bible. I read the Bible every single night and it is everything for me.

And then probably second would be there’s a book that I read. There’s my pastor’s book, actually. I go to Mosaic in La. And he wrote a book called The Way of the Warrior. So I really love that book.

He’s a very genius speaker. So if you ever look him up, he’s amazing. And then a book that I’m reading right now, TBD on how it is. So far, so good. It’s called Contagious, and it’s about why things go viral. What kind of like dissects why things become contagious.

So that’s what I’m reading right now, but so far, so good. 


Well, Heather thank you for sharing us on your journey. And that is wrap!

Heather Hopkins, Hulah:

sounds good. Thanks for having me.

- Share this