Mark Hawwa doesn’t mince his words… just as well when you’re the founder of a global movement that’s shamelessly smashing through the taboos surrounding men’s health.
The Aussie founder of Distinguished Gentleman’s Ride shares a few of the secrets of the event’s success.
Q. What’s the secret of DGR’s success?
A. Community, it’s all about community. When I first started DGR it was about bringing people into the wonderful and sometimes odd world of classic and vintage styled bikes. The cafe racers, bobbers, classic easy rider choppers and everything in-between. Growth has been organic and based on the fact we are authentic and have a fantastic formula for this event. Classic bikes, classic style, dapper and spreading merriment.
Q. Why have you teamed up with Movember?
A. In the second year I decided to align with a charitable cause which this year has seen us partner with The Movember Foundation to raise funds that will help men live for longer. Having Movember on board helps us reach a greater audience as well as ensuring that the funds we raise are managed effectively. It’s the biggest men’s health charity and we are the biggest motorcycle event globally, which means we’re both learning from each other and motivating more men to get checked.
Q. How much did you raise to support research into men’s health last year?
A. We raised $2.3m USD and every bit of that will go a long way to saving lives. Movember being our charity partner ensures even greater transparency with the funding. Our charity partners in the past have been amazing but now we will be working with one charity partner as opposed to five and that will streamline the process. This year we’re aiming for $5m USD… you’ve got to aim high.
Q. How important is having fun in removing the taboos from men’s’ health?
A. Us chaps are complex. Macho nonsense sometimes gets the better of us. Having fun and making a joke of ourselves is sometimes the best way we open up, as clearly evident from the amount of the jokes that occur during DGR about the ol’ digit up the... In 2012 you attracted 2,500 riders across 64 cities but since then the pull of being dapper for the day has seen the figures mushroom to 50,000 in 500 cities. Why? People appreciate fun times and classic style. In a world where everything is mass produced, these ladies and gentlemen get to parade around on the beautiful custom pieces of two wheeled art works. The majority of us enjoy making people happy, enjoy sharing a laugh and a smile and that’s what makes this event so addictive. It’s the wave from a stranger, the high five from a child, the smile from the guy crossing the road. It’s breaking stereotypes. When something feels this good, its natural to want to do it again. It’s not all pleasure. In some rides, it’s hot, cold and these rides are (let’s be honest) a parade, a bit of theatre and sometimes very slow.
Q. You’ve been wary of DGR becoming too open to all for fear of causing chaos in cities. Is there a danger of becoming too popular?
A. Enthusiasm is what has made this event as special as it is. It does cause isolated chaos, but by sticking to the original idea of bringing together niche communities it stays on the smaller scale. A lot of riders believe it should be open to all, but the fact is these rides have a capacity. The streets we use have a capacity. The kindness of police, council and the general public have a capacity. Our biggest threat is growth. I’d much rather raise a few million a year and create a huge amount of awareness as opposed to broadening the event and affecting its longevity.
Q. How important is Triumph’s support?
A. This is our third year with Triumph as a global sponsor and they have been an amazing supporter of the cause. Their support has helped us grow to new areas while motivating more riders in their classic modern range to join us. All relationships in our event are important though. From the guys who provide funding to cover some of the hefty costs to the guys who offer a prize to incentivise fundraising. Every business in the industry has a role in DGR and in ensuring we raise awareness and funds for the cause.