Homegrown Business: Maggie Arai of Happier Social Club

Meet Maggie Arai, the CEO and co-founder of Happier Social Club, a business dedicated to easing loneliness and fostering connections among adults. Originally starting with casual events, they’ve evolved into a membership model, creating smaller social circles for more meaningful interactions. Maggie’s joy comes from witnessing people form connections and become happier.

Homegrown Business: Maggie Arai of Happier Social Club

What is your business called and what does it do?

Our business is called Happier Social Club, and it’s focused on helping adults find friendship and community in an increasingly isolated and disconnected landscape. Over the past year and a half, we’ve hosted 60+ events to help people connect in a casual and welcoming atmosphere. However, as our community has grown from hundreds to thousands of people, we’ve recognized that connection becomes harder when a community is too large for you to meaningfully engage with everyone in it. Because of this, we’re pivoting to a membership model in which our members will become part of a ‘social circle’—50 to 75 people of similar age and location in the city. On weekday evenings, they will have access to a casual drop-in space where they can hang out after work and choose, in the moment, to either join structured activities (ex. trivia, board games, book club) or simply relax, chat, and do their own thing with other members. On weekends, they’ll get some variety with different fun hangouts planned every week (think park hangs, escape rooms, checking out new restaurants/festivals together, etc).

What made you want to do this work?

I started Happier after personally struggling with loneliness in Toronto. At the time, I had a few friends in the city, but I wasn’t able to see them often enough to fill my social cup. I realized I was going to have to go outside of my comfort zone to make some new friends—especially after developing an interest in positive psychology, and learning that relationships are one of the biggest determining factors of our happiness (hence the name Happier). For me, one of the most difficult things about making friends at the time was figuring out where to even meet new people—so Happier began as a way to combat the loneliness I was experiencing, and that I saw and heard about from others close to me.

What problem did you want to solve with the business?

With Happier, we’re definitely looking to target the loneliness epidemic in a major way. Since getting started in October 2021, I’ve brought on a co-founder, and we’ve noticed more and more factors that are contributing to the unprecedented levels of loneliness that people are experiencing in Toronto and throughout North America. We’re constantly trying to adapt to help people overcome these factors, and bring meaningful connection and community into their lives!

Who are your clientele/demographics?

Right now, we’re primarily focused on helping adults in their late 20s and 30s. Also, since we’re focused on in-person connection, we’re currently only serving Toronto, though our hope is to expand to the broader GTA and then to other major cities in Canada.

How does your business make money? How does it work?

We previously made money by selling tickets to our events, and are now pivoting to a monthly membership model. The way this works is through 1) renting space from businesses that are normally closed or very slow on weekday evenings to give members casual drop-in spaces they can access during the week, and 2) taking on the “social admin” of planning weekend hangouts for members, including free & cheap activities like park picnics and members-only discounts for activities like arcade bars. And, all of this is done with small subgroups of the same 50-75 people that are in your social circle, so you keep forming deeper relationships (rather than getting overwhelmed by too many new faces).

Where in the city can we find your profession?

We don’t have a brick and mortar space, but those interested in learning more about us can find us on Instagram, TikTok, and our website (relaunching soon).

What is the best question a prospective customer could ask a member of your profession when comparing services? Give the answer as well.

I think the best question a prospective customer could ask is “what will I need to do in order to make friends using your service?” I think this is the main question because there are many different types of friend-making offerings out there, from Bumble BFF to Meetup.com, and they all require customers to do different things and put in different types of effort in order to succeed.

For us, the answer to that question is to sign up and show up. We’ve created our membership with the intention of making the hard stuff easy. Not sure where to meet new people, or what to talk about when you do meet? Are you too busy or a bit nervous to initiate follow-up hangouts after you’ve met? We’ve got you covered on this and more with drop-in hangouts, with all the same people, available to you 6 days a week. With Happier, you don’t need to struggle with the admin and nerves of taking online connections offline, and you don’t need to worry about grabbing somebody’s contact details—and then actually reaching out—to ensure you see them again. Instead, you get immediate access to a built-in community of people also looking to form genuine connections and a social calendar that’s as full as you want it to be.

What is the best part about what you do? What is the worst part?

Hands down, the absolute best part about what we do is seeing people forming friendships and connections, and the huge effect that has on their happiness and self-confidence. My favourite thing is watching someone walk into an event for the first time and seeing them go from understandably nervous at the beginning of the evening, to laughing and confidently joining the group of people who decided to go grab drinks together after the event ended. My second favourite thing is seeing people posting on their Instagram stories, and they’re out grabbing pizza or doing an escape room with the new friends they met at one of our events. Fostering those connections and continuing to make them easier is definitely the best part about this, and what keeps us going.

The worst part about what we do is recognizing that we can’t serve everyone and having to say no—or at least no for now. We get a lot of comments and requests from people who are outside the city, or who are far outside of our age range, and who are really looking for this kind of thing. Because of the nature of what we do, it feels particularly bad to say no or to not have the services available that people need. We’re a small team, but we hope to expand in the future so we can help more and more people combat loneliness and social isolation.

What is your favourite joke about your own profession?

I love this question, but I haven’t heard as many friend-making jokes as I have lawyer ones haha! A lot of the jokes you’ll hear in this space come from the stigma of loneliness (if you’re lonely or don’t have many friends, there must be something wrong with you) which we really try to push back against! I guess you could joke that I found it so hard to make new friends as an adult that I had to create a whole business to do it 😋

Where can we follow you?

We’re on Instagram and TikTok as @happier_social! 🙂

PAY IT FORWARD: What is another local business that you love?

We’re big fans of Mess Hall on the East End! 🙂 They describe themselves as “a place to gather around food,” and they really live up to that. They’re a small and mighty team offering delicious treats from Butter & Spice Bakeshop, the most incredible baking workshops from the Magpie Cakery, and commercial kitchen/venue rental so you can host your own community food event (like wine and cheese tastings). We’ve partnered with the Magpie Cakery to host a few baking classes for our members and they were a huge hit. Food is such a great way to bring people together!

 

About Emilea Semancik 105 Articles
Emilea Semancik was born in North Vancouver. Emilea has always always wanted to freelance her own pieces and currently writes for the Vancouver Guardian. She is also a recipe author working towards publishing her own series of recipe books. You can find her recipes on Instagram. @ancestral.foods