NY Events Business Forced to Cancel Gatherings Sees Virtual Promise
By Neil A. Carousso
NEW YORK (WCBS 880) — An events company that was created in 2004 out of the desire to meet new people and connect New Yorkers has made a necessary pivot online when businesses were shuttered amid the coronavirus pandemic.
“We probably would have been in close to bankruptcy or in some serious situation where we may not have been able to bounce back from it,” said Dave Cervini, founder of The New York Social Network that hosts 9-18 creative activities a week from nights at the bar to hiking to scavenger hunts.
He created an events company because he wanted to meet a woman. Cervini was a single man living on the Upper West Side while working in promotions and dabbled in on-air broadcasting at Clear Channel Communications.
“I was an events planner for the radio station as well as being on the air at some of them, and I said, you know, there are things that I want to do: I want to go camping, I want to go hiking, I want to go to a Yankees game, I want to check out a museum, I want to do a tour, but I don’t want to do it alone,” said Cervini.
He sought out to create experiences for like-minded people, and if he met “someone special,” it would be a bonus. For six years, Cervini created events for non-profit organizations while working at Clear Channel, before leaving the radio company and moving full-time into entrepreneurship.
“The New York Social Network is a business that came out of a passion and a hobby,” Cervini said. “Everything that was on the schedule when I planned an event was something that I loved to do, and so, I always joke when I’m bringing people on a hike, I say, ‘Welcome to my office,’” which he repeats at all events he hosts.
Since Gov. Andrew Cuomo shutdown all non-essential businesses last week, Cervini was forced to make an adjustment to keep his thriving experiential business alive. The New York Social Network had about 80 events scheduled through July. After canceling in-person events for the foreseeable future, he took his business online.
“The virtual part of it keeps us alive, it keeps us in contact with people who belong to the group and it will be something that we continue to offer beyond when we are able to get back together again,” said Cervini who has seen promising results and has heard positive feedback from customers this week.
“We have nights where we do group dinners,” he said of his virtual events. “Everybody sits down in front of their computers and we get on Zoom and we have a dozen people that participate in a dinner and they all bring their own food and we have nice chats.”
Cervini tells WCBS 880 it will host virtual game nights, murder mysteries and more to offer people th outlet that people have been deprived of while social distancing to prevent the spread of coronavirus.
“It’s been a challenge to convert over and I think that the best part is that people are screaming to have some kind of social interaction because a lot of people are stuck at home right now,” he said.
Event prices are cheap, he says, to encourage repeat customers. Some events cost $8, others $10, and varies depending on the type of experience. One can purchase a lifetime membership for $200, according to The New York Social Network website. A lifetime membership includes discounts on gatherings.
His company has been a catalyst for 90 marriages, including Cervini whose wedding was the 87th to come out of The New York Social Network.