A lot can happen in 10 years. Decades mark significant milestones. Marriages, careers, and accomplishments in general can garner respect for their longevity or become a statistic of the effect of an era.
As time passes, trends in the marketplace inevitably shift and flow. And if businesses don’t keep up, others are anxiously waiting to take over their positions. Staying relevant is especially significant in the world of networking, and in a market as powerful as South Florida, it doesn’t take much to become past tense.
So when Donald (DJ) Harvey and Dan Oropesa decided to launch MACKPlanet, a gay and straight friendly networking group in Fort Lauderdale, they knew there was a challenging road ahead. As one of the largest LGBT markets in the U.S., they already had competition, but they knew they had something unique. What started out as an online directory for gay and gay friendly businesses grew organically into “Power Lunches” to connect professionals personally, and eventually into evening mixers to expand the networking to a more relaxed and social environment. Never referred to as “singles mixers’ the crowd they drew were people looking to do business. Attorneys, accountants, small and large business owners, heads of charitable foundations, politicians, and myriad others flocked to their events to meet the people who could support and influence their pursuits. 10 years later, their lunches, which accommodate about 75 guests, still consistently sell out and their mixers are always teeming with men and women striving to grow and maintain their exposure in the community.
The adage goes, “It’s not what you know but who you know,” and MACK quickly became the “who.” Mainstream, high-volume restaurants, bars and hotels throughout Fort Lauderdale were contacting DJ and Danny directly to host lunches and mixers. Local businesses wait in line to help underwrite their events. Magazines like Gold Coast magazine, Hot Spots and the South Florida Gay News became and have remained sponsors throughout the years. And Ketel One Vodka seems like it’s never willing to relinquish its slot as their spirits sponsor.
When asked how they manage to cultivate and preserve these relationships, Harvey says, “I think we continue to thrive and remain relevant by creating and nurturing personal, direct links with leading members of our community.” And they don’t do this solely at their own functions. According to Oropesa, “We’ve stayed visible by being active participants in not just our own, but also our community’s events.” Sponsoring, spreading the word, and being active in the AIDS Walk and The Smart Ride, along with supporting other charities like the Leukemia & Lymphoma Society, keeps them in the spotlight as not just networkers, but supporters of larger causes; garnering them respect as philanthropists and not just businessmen.
So let’s raise a Ketel One martini and toast two men who have taken networking to a different level and who continue to support Fort Lauderdale’s gay community through hard work and well earned respect.
“I think we continue to thrive and
remain relevant by creating and nurturing personal, direct links with leading members of our community. “
P.O. Box 22942,
Fort Lauderdale, FL 33335