Apps aim to make life easier, but Parlor Social Club founders Jan Cieślikiewicz and Fredrick Ghartey want to take this several steps further to improve all aspects of existence, from widening work relationships to deepening friendships.
“The traditional way to create communities as an adult has disappeared,” Cieślikiewicz said. “One problem in modern society is that people don’t have these relationships. If you put the right people in the right room, though, they can connect over business, hobbies, a sense of humor, and even mutual attraction.”
Launched last month with a current membership base of 4,000 and a waiting list of over 24,000, Parlor is a tech-forward, app-based social club trailblazing a new wave of modern-day social clubs — without the high price point or location-based commitment. Along the way, they scrapped the idea of a physical location to digitize the social club and bring it to various locales. Based on member input and a “human-powered algorithm,” the pair forged Parlor to provide broad access to an intimate social institution.
Cieślikiewicz and Ghartey first tapped into the membership club space in 2011 with a traditional brick-and-mortar club in SoHo, New York City, with a similar goal — to connect people. Since then, they have spent years tracking habits to further understand the desires and patterns of potential target members. Parlor uses the latest technology and a robust, survey-based algorithm to offer members personalized crowds, events, and a member experience that allows for variety in the venue, event type, and member interactions.
Each half of Parlor’s pair arrived in the middle from dissimilar paths followed in moving to town from Boston. Where the Polish Cieślikiewicz arrived from Harvard having to make a conscious effort to establish a network, Ghartey arrived with a huge network headlined by a brother and sister connection where he could hit the ground running.
“I soon realized, though, that other people have a different experience,” Ghartey said. “I wanted to create a business to replicate my experience. A private club setting where the focus was on curation was the perfect setting.”
Curation is a critical word here because that’s what the Parlor experience is about. Members take a personality test upon sign-up. This was developed over years of getting people together and digs much deeper than a typical, one-dimensional focus.
“The more we learn about your preferences, the more we can tweak the experience for you. It’s always what you want,” Cieślikiewicz said.
This helps influence Parlor’s member calendar and social preferences. This optimizes the community aspect of the social club and ensures engaging events and long-lasting connections between members.
“People don’t really want to go to the same location over and over again. When somebody joined, they would always come for the first couple of months and then they wouldn’t show up as often, so we started experimenting with the idea of creating a distributed social club, partnering with people that would be able to host our members at different locations, and deliver a special experience to them,” Ghartey said.
“And that’s when we realized we could actually become a tech company and that we don’t need a venue,” Cieślikiewicz said.
Events range from comedy clubs, intimate dinners, art gallery meetups, curated cocktails, and even boat parties around the city in the summer. Guest lists will almost always be slightly different, so members will meet new people in settings tailored to their interests, preferences, and backgrounds.
“What we want to do is to be a one-stop solution for your social life,” Ghartey said. “Trying to find things to do in the city is rather disjointed. We sort it out. You’re able to log onto our app and have this complete 360 circle of potential things to do. We just want to make it seamless.”
This easy transcendence applies to the app’s growth as well. Right now, Parlor is only available in New York City, but the founders have big plans to expand. At present, Parlor’s partnered with businesses and venues in Miami, with its close connection to New York, and founders are in constant discussions with other places.
“Part of the reason why we are excited about this concept is because it is expandable,” Cieślikiewicz said. “With our technological approach, we can extend to other types of demographics relatively quickly. And partnerships in New York will extend to other venues and cities.”
Plan costs are also being sorted. If you’re considering jumping into Parlor’s social scene at some point, it might behoove you to get on the guest list early.