[Bella’s intro: Well over 100 million Americans are single, yet as a group, they are not really taken all that seriously. What they contribute to society is mostly overlooked, and the ways in which they are stereotyped, stigmatized, discriminated against, and ignored (what I call singlism) is mostly, well, ignored. There is a week devoted to changing that, a national Singles Week, in late September. I always blog about it when it comes around. Others do, too. Yet the occasion has never really taken off.
Karen Reed (you can read more about her at the end of this post) thought there should be a Singles Day, like the wildly successful one in China, only without all the awful matrimanical mate-seeking themes. I have to admit that I was skeptical – Singles Week has never made a splash and it has been promoted since 2001, and around even longer than that. Karen, though, was undeterred. In a short time, she managed to create a very successful Singles Day celebration.
I think Karen found a way to publicize some very important points about single people in a fun and celebratory way. She obviously has some great business and marketing skills and instincts, and a lot of energy and persistence.
Here is Part 1 of my Q & A with Karen Reed. Part 2 will be posted soon. (The picture next to this post is of Karen Reed. In a few days, I will post some other pictures of the event at my personal blog. Here they are.) If you have some ideas about what makes events such as these successful (and what does not work), I’ll be interested in reading about them in the Comments section.
Bella: How did you become interested in creating a Singles Day?
Karen Reed: I must admit that I am very new to the world of singles advocacy and in fact, just got on board last November – 11.11 to be exact. Watching the evening news, I learned that 11.11 is Singles Day in China and, surprisingly enough, has become the largest online retail sales day in the world, and for the second year in a row has generated two and a half times the revenue of our Cyber Monday, as reported in the NY Times and Business Week. The single person in me said, “Yay singles, how cool is that? Single people have their own holiday!” while the business person in me said, “Brilliant! Now, that’s an idea with legs!”
A bit of Googling revealed that while we had an “Unmarried and Single Americans Week” in September, we had no Singles Day – a day dedicated to recognizing and celebrating singles everywhere. In the United States, November 11th is Veteran’s Day, but January 11th seemed like a great fit, retaining the theme of the “1’s” representing singles, while offering an opportunity to kick off the year with a fun new holiday and an exciting new opportunity for retailers to generate sales.
And so it began… and a web site, Facebook page, Twitter account and Change.org petition later, I had a holiday – and a movement – in the making. Needless to say, with a bevy of our most widely-celebrated holidays (Thanksgiving, Hannukah, Christmas & New Year’s) looming between me and Singles Day it was going to take a little doing to make 1.11.2014 a reality.
Bella: How did the first Singles Day come to be?
Karen Reed: It was clear that in order for this first celebration to be logistically feasible, we would need a focused, preferably local, event and where better to have it than in my own back yard – West Hollywood, CA – one of the country’s premiere lifestyle and entertainment destinations. The weather didn’t hurt either, as we were enjoying sunny 70-something’s while the bulk of the country was locked down in the coldest winter on record since the 1800’s!
I was going to need three primary components to make it work – a kickoff event to honor the occasion, a group of businesses offering specials and discounts, and a crowd of people ready to celebrate while enjoying a bargain or two. After being turned down for a public park permit due to short notice, one of the businesses I’d approached, The Abbey Food & Bar, offered to let us use their space, sound system and DJ for our afternoon time slot. They also allowed us to hang posters and banners a week in advance to help promote the big event.
Of course, “the big event” didn’t actually exist yet! I’d told my friend and colleague, Mia Dinelly, a long-time entrepreneur and regular coffee & brainstorm buddy, what I was doing and she loved the idea. She jumped on board immediately, revving the publicity engine and reaching out to her extensive network of contacts to help spread the word and generate buzz. A woman of many talents, she also helped pull together the multitude of moving pieces needed for the event.
Long story short, with the two of us working on overdrive the essential components of a successful Singles Day began to take shape. Part dogged perseverance, part irresistably good idea, our efforts were well-received and one by one, speakers and talent came on board for the event, with headliners Thomas Coleman, long-time activist, singles rights advocate and author, delivering the opening address and Vicki Wagner, award-winning comedian and author, coming on as MC.
In addition, a dozen local businesses agreed to participate with specials for the day and the list of invitees and RSVPs on the Singles Day Facebook invite began to show some respectable numbers. Adding to the burgeoning interest, word of the upcoming event was picked up by blogs like this one (thank you, Bella DePaulo!) as well as local news publications.
The week prior to the event, we wore bright blue 3” Singles Day stickers everywhere we went – walking the street, running errands, the bank, the grocery, the hair salon – we were asked again and again, “What’s Singles Day?” And once we explained the concept and upcoming celebration event they were excited to come and bring all their friends!
[Part 2 is coming soon. Here it is.]
About Karen Reed
Karen Reed is a currently single 50-something who grew up and went to college in Ohio, lived in New York City for a few years and finally settled in West Hollywood, CA where she owns and operates IPK LLC, a web and social media design and strategy group. In addition to assisting entertainment industry clients with improving their online endeavors, Karen maintains a career as a musician. A singer-songwriter, guitarist and ukulele player, Karen performs regularly in local Los Angeles acoustic venues, is just beginning to tour outside California, and just released her first album, “True North” last June. She is currently in the studio recording with producer, Janet Robin, and will be releasing a series of new original singles in the coming months.
[Photo credit: Tera Linkugel]