Over a year in the making, Connect Hawaii launched today, with an aim to offer “Honolulu’s premier social and business networking for professionals.” The brainchild of Minoo Elison — event planner, power networker and one-time Republican candidate for the state House — Connect Hawaii is the reincarnation of Dinner Girls and Boys Hawaii, a “dinner club for professionals” founded in 2003.
Elison had long planned to turn DGBH into a business. In a Pacific Business News write-up last year, Elison noted that her membership had grown substantially, and that DGBH attracts a large number of transplants. At the time, she said that more than 60 percent of the group’s members were from out of state.
Now rebranded as Connect Hawaii and powered by a new website and membership fees, it’s described as a “refreshing alternative to impersonal online sites and sales driven networking.” Connect Hawaii certainly distinguishes itself from more conventional networking groups, such as the Young Business Council and the Hawaii Jaycees, with more hip events like toga parties, Waikiki scavenger hunts, and beach campouts. (Some past events are documented on an old DGBH blog.) And while Elison is careful to stress the social and professional links over the dating angle, it’s clear that young, beautiful singles are the key demographic.
Elison had planned to launch Connect Hawaii months ago, but in an DBGH update posted in early December, she said she had been focused on her campaign. (Some DBGH members became campaign volunteers.) Today’s launch represents an effort to “reinvigorate our organization, with a Board of Directors, focused events with regularity, and new web format to encourage members interaction online,” she said.
Some upcoming events are already posted to the Connect Hawaii site, from a free launch party at Ocean Club on February 28 to a ladies’ only “Passion Party” happy hour on March 7. Most official events will carry a registration fee, with a discount for Connect Hawaii members.
How much does a Connect Hawaii membership cost? It isn’t immediately clear. In the FAQ, there’s an entry titled, “How much is it?” But the answer… isn’t. There’s just a dubious comparison to dating sites where you’d supposedly have to pay $50 or more a month just to “meet one person at a time.” You’ll have to step through the registration process (surrendering your contact information along the way) to get to the bottom line:
- 6-Month Membership – $108.00
- Business Membership – $250.00
- Golden Networker – $192.00
- Monthly Connector Membership – $20.00
Although DGBH has been quiet for several months, it’s clear Connect Hawaii will be even more strongly committed to monthly events. Membership will apparently also net deals from affiliated businesses (like a 10 percent discount at Paprika restaurant in Kailua). The new website also offers interactive forums, personal profiles, and photo galleries.
Online social networks are a dime a dozen these days, but those that extend into “meatspace” can still offer a great value. Elison has certainly built a tight-knit group of active, passionate friends under DGBH, so Connect Hawaii has a stronger foundation than most efforts.
Still, there are lots of other online-enabled offline groups with open memberships and public events. Shilpa Nair runs The Newcomers Ohana, an open mailing list where long-time residents help ease the transition for transplants to Hawaii. Nair posts a weekly summary of interesting local events, and issues open invites to those she plans to attend herself. There’s the Global Pau Hana network (which recently absorbed eList Hawaii). Burt Lum still holds court with local geeks at his monthly Bytemarks lunches downtown. Once in a blue moon, members of HawaiiThreads.com come together in real life. And you can always look stuff up at event listing sites like Meetup, Upcoming.org (though those sites in and of themselves don’t neccessarily foster social or professional interaction).
I wish Elison luck with Connect Hawaii. But I’m glad there are alternatives for the perpetually unhip!