When Fairfielder Rick Fernandes got fed up with negative news, he countered with HooplaHa, the business of happiness
Rick with his dog, Rosie
About a year or so ago, my wife and I were going to bed and I turned on the news. She said that she didn’t want to watch it because it was only about bad news,” begins Rick Fernandes, president of Affinion Group & CEO of Affinion International. “I started thinking about how we are all attracted to bad news, such as rubbernecking at accidents in the opposite lane. We all love to hear about good news, but we don’t get exposed to enough of it.”
Not one to sit around when something can be done, Fernandes cofounded, with Rob Hess, HooplaHa. “A place where you can always find good news and inspirational stories,” says Fernandes.
In general terms, HooplaHa is in the business of bite-sized happiness. “It’s a website designed to expose people to good news and inspirational stories to help them feel better about themselves, their lives and the people around them. It features high-quality original videos, photos and text content meant for online sharing,” he says.
Those videos are only around two minutes long, yet, despite their brevity, never fail to boost one’s spirits. One video is about a couple walking across the country with their dog and the kindness of people they meet along the way. Another introduces viewers to a gifted artist who discovered his own remarkable talent at fifty-eight years old. All of the content, however different from one another, help one feel better about life and people. Fernandes says his favorite video is about Malcolm Lambert, an eighty-year-old man who lost his legs and decided to raise money for others by skydiving. He also enjoys “Baby Beatboxing,” because it’s always good for a laugh, and “365 Days of Hugs,” which reminds him about the power of connection.
Fernandes knows that today connection is often done in a virtual world via social tools. He says, “Our approach is to use many new-media techniques to build our brand. We are active on Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest, G+ and are using many lead-generation methods to grow our viewership. I have been lucky enough to be involved with the Internet for many years, and we try to keep on top of new trends and new techniques to grow and build our brand.”
Yet the company’s tagline keeps its mission timeless: “Life with a Smile.”
Fernandes is HooplaHa’s financier. When asked if the business is for-profit, he responds, “Well, eventually it is meant to be a for-profit venture. Today, it is clearly not. It is a labor of love for everyone involved. We are confident that we can turn this into a real business in the future. We think we are doing something important here, and we believe that once people learn about us, they will appreciate the positive influence HooplaHa can have on their lives. That will enable us to grow the business to bring people even more positive influences.”
His belief is personal. “As I have grown older, I have seen things that demonstrate how fleeting life can be. For example, my father died at the age of fifty-eight after a short three-month illness. Over the years, I have become even more convinced about the importance of trying to be a positive person and a positive influence on others. This is not to say that I don’t have bad days. Just ask my wife,” he jokes.
Rob Hess, managing director and executive producer, notes on the HooplaHa page, “We need more feel-good in this world. A laugh and a smile go a long way.” Together with their team of merrymakers at HooplaHa, Fernandes and Hess are nurturing the concept of simple goodness, not unlike Life Is Good. HooplaHa’s brand ambassador is Debbie Gibson, who created performing arts and music boot camps for youth and established Gibson Girl Foundation for talented though underprivileged children.
“I believe that it is very important to give back,” Fernandes says. “I try to find organizations whose mission and approach resonate with me.” Specifically, he mentions Sticks for Soldiers, a LaCrosse tournament in Fairfield that raises money for wounded veterans, the Bridgeport Rescue Mission, Greenfield Hill Congregational Church, Eagle Hill Southport, and Wooster School in Danbury.
HooplaHa itself gives back and should resonate with anyone who believes incremental doses of feel good add up to a better world. Try it at hooplaha.com.