They say time flies and as I get older I feel this more and more. Having said that, I can’t believe that it’s been 10 years since DJ and Dan started Mack Planet. Both their lunches and mixers have brought together thousands of people and I am sure this has translated into a tremendous amount of gay and gay friendly business deals. Therefore, it was a pleasure to sit down and chat with them, just a couple weeks before the 10th anniversary celebration.
What made you guys start MackPlanet.com?
It was to let people in our community meet other gay and lesbian professionals outside of the traditional gay outlets. Our gay business networking events have a different dynamic, which is professional, yet relaxed. The evolution was to slowly integrate the gay and straight community, which even just 10 years ago wasn’t a common thing. We started and continue to bring the lunches and mixers to straight businesses on purpose to facilitate the exposure.
When you started MACK, was it with the lunch or mixer event? Did you know from the beginning that you wanted both?
We started with the MACK POWER LUNCH event. Within the same month, there were many people asking us to do something after work as it was difficult for them to get out of work during the day. DJ realized, and empathized with many, that he is much more comfortable being social with a glass of wine in his hand. For many, this social practice of drinking is hard for businesspeople to do during the day. In addition, we realized that at the MACK POWER MIXER, networkers people can be a bit more relaxed and not have to worry about getting back to work.
How have the MACK POWER LUNCH and MIXER differed from your original
The MACK POWER LUNCH grew larger and faster than we originally planned. Initially
we were planning on 25-30 people at each lunch and now we average 75 people. This makes
it challenging sometimes for us to find a suitable venue, but this is a problem we don’t
mind having. The MACK POWER MIXERS have progressed as originally planned, with the
added bonus of having wonderful spirit sponsors since the beginning.
Before you started the lunch events, you created the website MackPlanet.com. What made you start the website?
We started MackPlanet.com in 2004 to create an online LGBT directory which would link gay-owned and/or gay-friendly businesses. When we decided to start the MACK POWER LUNCH, about six months later, we couldn’t simply count on word of mouth, so we used our website directory advertisers to get the word out. Those advertisers became the first core attendance for the events. In addition, people needed a place to RSVP for the lunches. After a while, we left the directory concept to magazine publishers and concentrated on what we’re great at – networking events!
How do you go about getting the word out for your events other than your website?
Well, we have been blessed to have repeat members for so many years and such great media sponsors starting with YOUR magazine, Hotspots, who has been sponsoring our events for over five years now. In addition, we would like to thank our other media sponsors, SFGN and Gold Coast Magazine.
How do you decide the venue for the lunches and mixer networking events?
We always try to scope out what’s hot and new and trending in Fort Lauderdale. However, the locations need to have a smart design and flow so it lends itself to a networking event. MACK has earned a good reputation in the community for bringing quality people to venues and for that reason, many new venues call us!
You have a lot of great staff and volunteers that work your lunches and mixers. How did you find them?
We have been fortunate that members come up to us and ask to volunteer. We always take the time during our events to thank our loyal trio: Christy Thompson, Freddy Asencio, and Doug Ames. They are a huge part of our business and we can’t host these events without them. Thank you, guys!
What should we expect from the 10th anniversary celebration?
It will be a huge milestone for us and for the gay and lesbian business community. It will be a month of celebration with some new faces and many familiar ones. We have a new sponsor for this lunch, JM Lexus; we are so excited to welcome this amazing corporate sponsor. We are also thrilled that the numbers already show that the lunch is going to sell out soon, so if you
want to attend – please register at MackPlanet.com ASAP.
What’s ahead for the MACK guys?
We get solicited via e-mail often from business professionals across the country asking if there are networking events similar to MACK in other cities. The answer is YES! So, we want to re-design a directory on our website so that we can easily link other gay and gay-friendly lunches and/or mixer events in other cities. We will also continue to have a presence and support LGBT events in our community. The first ten years have given us many wonderful memories and we’ve learned many do’s and don’ts. The next ten years will be about appreciating what we’ve created and making it better – one event at a time!