How do you find connections and build community as a newcomer in a new city? How do you find people with shared interests? PlayCity is an app that was created out of necessity from a place of isolation. Four years ago, Hafiz Mitha had just moved back from Bangkok. Every day—from his condo—he’d stare at completely empty tennis courts. He could never find someone to play tennis with a complete novice like himself. He realized that most people had a lack of network and lack of the same skill level when it came to physical activities.
He looked at Tinder and Bumble and thought—what if he did the same thing, but for physical activity buddies? What if he could connect people to events, facilities, programs, and other people? PlayCity became a solution to his problem. PlayCity was created out of a desire to create diverse and meaningful relationships with play as the medium. In this episode of Content Callout, Hafiz joins us to talk about building community, combating loneliness, and how to find your “why” as an entrepreneur.
Outline of This Episode
- [0:30] All about the PlayCity app
- [2:42] How PlayCity has evolved during COVID
- [4:57] The importance of community in marketing
- [6:11] Finding the soul of your business
- [8:58] Embracing the practice of gratitude
- [11:56] How to find time for self-care as an entrepreneur
- [13:45] The future of PlayCity
- [16:39] PlayCity = a healthy escape
- [17:53] A strong ‘why’ is important
- [19:25] Create awareness to build a community
- [22:07] Hafiz’s vision for the future of PlayCity
- [23:39] How to get connected in PlayCity
How PlayCity has evolved during COVID
PlayCity’s entire mission is to connect people in the virtual world and lead to face-to-face connections. But when COVID hit, many gyms closed, and many of their event partners were laid off. So PlayCity started to offer online resources. They added wellness checklists and a Wednesday check-in to talk about mental health. They shared podcasts people were launching and were still connecting people through the medium of physical activity.
In the last couple of months, they’ve started hosting group hikes. Every two weeks, they’d schedule a meet-up point for anyone to attend. They could just show up and participate in a socially distanced hike.
The latest thing they’ve implemented was a hide-and-seek program. The goal was to help people stay physically active—as a way to improve mental health—but be incentivized. So they’ve been hiding things throughout the city with hints and clues in the app. They’ve partnered with local businesses to offer prizes. It gives people an incentive to stay active.
The importance of community in marketing
Hafiz emphasizes that community is everything. People need to feel the soul of your product. When you start to build a community, you cast a wide net. But as you go along, you refine your community. You focus on the people that stick. PlayCity focuses on newcomers to a new neighborhood or city. Why? Because many people are lonely. Sadly, 1-in-3 Canadians are lonely all the time. Many people are coming from Sudan, Iran, Nigeria, or the states for work. They don’t have any friends or connections. They want to be active but face many barriers. COVID has actually helped PlayCity refine the community they’re trying to build.
Finding the soul of your business
It’s often said that people don’t buy your product—they buy the brand. When Hafiz sold his last company, he took a sabbatical and traveled to India and Nepal to visit a buddy that had started a non-profit. He took a journal with him and asked himself the question: “What do I want to spend my life doing?” Life is finite, and he recognizes that every day is a gift. There’s limited time—so let’s make it count.
Ever since he was a kid, Hafiz loved creating events. He’d host barbeques. He started hockey nights or soccer nights at University. He enjoyed bringing people together and seeing that the fruits of his labor were happiness. He saw people make connections and friendships begin to form. He didn’t know that it would turn into PlayCity, but he enjoyed doing those things.
His “why” was twofold: he saw the value of physical activity and its impact on people’s health. Eighty percent of people don’t get the recommended amount of physical activity, which turns into chronic issues that could be mitigated with better life choices. Secondly, the non-verbal conversations he was having with people in Nepal were eye-opening. The only thing they had in common was the shared interest in the badminton game they were playing, but it brought connection on a deep level.
Hafiz knew he wanted to work on something impactful with a social purpose. He wanted to battle ignorance, intolerance, and racism. He realized it comes down to people having conversations—but they needed a conduit to connect them first. You can celebrate your differences while realizing how similar you are. PlayCity is a movement to create connections with play as the medium to foster belonging and tolerance for all people.
PlayCity is an extension of Hafiz. Any company you found is an extension of you. It has a soul. He points out that most people look at exercise as something you “have” to do. But what they don’t realize is that they could be grateful that they can move. You don’t always appreciate something until you lose it.
How do you find time for self-care as an entrepreneur? How can embracing the practice of gratitude change your entire perspective? Listen to hear how Hafize handles life as a social entrepreneur.
Create awareness to build a community
Entrepreneurs fall into the trap where they believe they must have a refined and amazing product before they bring it to the market. But sometimes all you need is a landing page or a post in a Facebook group. You have to put an idea out there to attract people. What’s your bait? What kind of fish are you trying to catch?
Find your value proposition first: What problem are you trying to solve? Solve it for one person first, then try and solve it for two, and so forth. If you try to build a community too fast, it will be full of random people. It will split into other communities or completely dissolve.
Don’t wait to make it perfect. Launch with something. We get into a weird cycle of making sure everything looks social-media-ready. You have to try and put something out there. You won’t nail it on the first try. You iterate and try again. You measure and try again. You keep on going. Nothing will ever be perfect. Heck—Facebook looked like Craigslist when it first launched.
You have to start small. The people that stick help you grow. Their feedback helps you grow. Use community feedback as a way to grow. Hafiz emphasizes, “What you think you’re gonna build is never usually the end product. You have an idea of what you want solved; what that product looks like may not be it.”
What is the future of PlayCity? Where does Hafiz see his company going? Listen to learn more about this community-building app!