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Power of crowd used to secure deals for patrons

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SMART, a magazine focusing on local fashion, beauty and lifestyles, was born in 2005 at a time when the economy was booming. Then came the economic crash, and the last issue hit the racks in January 2009.

"I didn’t think that we’d do anything else with it," said one of the magazine’s co-founders, Molly Watanabe.

The magazine’s webmaster, Ted Saihara, urged them to keep the concept alive online, but Watanabe said that at the time, with changes in the media marketplace, she felt it would be difficult to transfer the concept online and make it profitable.

"It was sad. We worked with so many great people. I knew we had something valuable in our hands, I knew we had a database, but we didn’t know what to do with it," she said.

Now, spurred by an economy that has led people to search for deals, she’s re -teamed with Saihara and SMART co-founder Sarah Honda to introduce SMARTdeals, harnessing the power of the magazine’s fashion, beauty and food niche to secure deals at favorite restaurants, boutiques, spas, salons and more.

In recent months, the group-shopping concept has grown popular. Locally, PLAYHawaii.com launched the concept in October 2009, offering the opportunity for individuals to buy into restaurant and other deals at a discount if a specified number of people also could be persuaded — through their social networks — to buy into the deal.

PLAYHawaii will also start featuring spas, nail salons and other spots popular among its predominantly 25- to 44-year-old female demographic.

"Apparently, women love to shop, love a great deal and love to share their finds," said PLAYHawaii co-founder Jon Sugihara.

Watanabe said participating in the group deals is not much different from talking with friends and sharing tips on where and how to get the best deals. And their small business partners are often willing to offer discounts for large groups of clientele.

"I just had a conversation with someone about SMART, how they missed the magazine, so I called Sarah and said we should do something again, and she said she was going to call me, and then we talked to Ted," Watanabe said. "It was just within a few hours that it all came together."

SMARTdeals’ first three deal partners when its website goes live in September will be Fighting Eel, J Salon and V-Lounge Kiawe Wood Fired Pizza. Sign up at www.smartdealshawaii.com.

 

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