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Meet Steven Shyne of Red Dress Party San Diego

Today we’d like to introduce you to Steven Shyne.

Steven, please share your story with us. How did you get to where you are today?
Red Dress Parties are popular in many cities, including Portland, Sacramento and Chicago, and thanks to a small group of passionate, fun-loving friends, as of just a few years ago San Diego is no stranger to its very own Red Dress Party.

The event is a night of music and dancing mixed with charity and fun, where all attendees – and we mean everyone – are required to wear a red dress, regardless of gender identity or sexual orientation. This serves as a powerful sign of solidarity and compassion for those affected by HIV/AIDS and a way to unite the crowd in one radiant theme. Red Dress Party San Diego is a unique celebration that invites everyone to be brave, let loose, and celebrate impact.

And although a great time, we are still charged with a great mission: to raise funds and awareness for organizations that serve the local HIV/AIDS community. And raise we have: we have thrown three Red Dress Parties here in San Diego with 2017 being the biggest and most successful event, attracting over 800 guests and raising $30,000 for the San Diego HIV community. Combined we’ve raised over $62,000 that stays right here in San Diego for HIV testing, counseling, prevention, treatment, and care.

The team behind Red Dress Party San Diego started primarily with co-founders, Steven Shyne and Marvin Hanashiro, both of whom have copious experience with events of all sizes. Steven has a background in marketing and an administrative backbone, while Marvin works as an HIV researcher at the University of California, San Diego’s (UCSD’s) AntiViral Research Center. Together with a passion team of board members, activists, and volunteers, they make up the Think Red Project, the registered 501(c)3 non-profit behind Red Dress Party San Diego.

With a successful track record and three previous successful Red Dress Parties, it is no surprise that the Think Red Project team is planning for a fourth Red Dress Party San Diego. Date/location are all to be determined, but be on the lookout for the biggest, reddest, most outrageous event San Diego has ever seen.

Overall, has it been relatively smooth? If not, what were some of the struggles along the way?
In the very beginning, we kept thinking that someone should bring Red Dress Party to San Diego. And finally, we thought that someone ought to be us.

To ensure other people liked the idea as much as we did, we turned to crowdsourcing, and raised our fundraising goal of $10,000 in 11 days. Clearly, we were on to something. That initial seed money was our “minimal viable product” fundraising level, and together with additional ticket sales, sponsors, and donations we blew expectations — ours and others — away. From there, it was a straight arrow up for us.

But the big, red elephant in the room is convincing people to not just go to a party — which can be hard on its own — but to push their comfort levels or stretch beyond what they thing is normal or masculine or empowering and throw on that red dress. After year one, most people get it — social proof is all in the photos — but we are still having conversations and reminding people that it’s a red DRESS party.

And we are flexible — dresses or dress-like garments like togas, sarongs, bathrobes (we’ve seen it all!) will do.

One of our other roadblocks is fundraising. Jab one is we are still relatively small so awareness is still low. Punch two is we target a younger group of philanthropists, a group not necessarily associated with deep pockets, blow three is we are a modern take on fundraising with a rather untraditional event style, so large or traditional corporate sponsors are sometimes curious. Bottom line garnering donations has been tough.

Finally, we are a small group of passionate volunteers and it seems we are always in need of more help — anywhere from professional services to getting the word out. We are very pleased with the group we’ve been growing but we truly believe we can do so much more with, well more.

Please tell us about Red Dress Party San Diego.
I feel like I’ve summed this up pretty well in previous answers, but what we certainly specialize in is a modern approach on fundraising by creating unique experiences and celebrating the impact of HIV/AIDS organizations. I for one am most proud of having raised over $62,000 in three short years, and this was money that was all net-new to the San Diego community. And sets us apart? An event that pushes people to be a little brave, let loose, wear red, and celebrate impact.

If you had to go back in time and start over, would you have done anything differently?
Start over? I feel like we start over each year! Red Dress Party is like the Autumn we never have — each year around September or October we invite our guests to paint the town red and overnight it’s come and gone. But seriously I don’t think I’d change a thing. I’m so pleased with our progress and our impact.

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Image Credit:
Cali Griebel Photography

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