In September 2019, I launched The Koa Club, a membership social club based in Seattle for achieving women. The goal of the club was to provide women in Seattle with the opportunity to socialize with other like-minded women while learning a myriad of professional and practical life skills. I started the club as a passion project – combining my love of connecting people, my belief in the need to empower women with knowledge and skills, and my desire to challenge others to be brave in trying new things, into one ambitious project that I named “The Koa Club” where the word “Koa” actually meant brave or fearless in the Hawaiian language. When we started, our members were asked to pay a low annual membership fee and in return, we held in-person events (paid and free events) for our members over wine and hors d’oeuvres where we learnt interesting insights and gained skills from experts in a variety of topics. Our members had the opportunity to connect and to bond over something useful they learnt at each of these events.
Then in early 2020, the unexpected life altering pandemic hit, lockdowns were imposed and we were all told to be socially distanced from one another. I was, at first, a bit stumped when that happened, as I thought, what do you do with a social club that is not allowed to socialize? The world seemed to be at a standstill but I could not disappoint our members by shutting down when they may need us the most during this time of isolation. So, without missing a heartbeat, we moved all our events online so that our members could continue to learn, grow and get support while the turmoil, fear and instability surrounding the pandemic swirled around us.
Sometimes new doors open in the most unexpected ways. By offering our events online, we suddenly had a flood of memberships from women all over the country and outside the US. The Koa Club had suddenly morphed into a global community of women achievers. Certainly something we had hoped to achieve someday but that someday arrived much sooner than we expected.
As the pandemic dragged on, I came to the realization that it may be a really long time before our members could meet and socialize in person again, so armed with this challenge of wanting to give our members a way to stay connected with each other in a meaningful way beyond attending the online workshops where members could have met briefly, we built the Koa Network, a private social media network exclusively for our members to connect, build relationships and share their stories. We invited our speakers to create groups within the Koa Network to continue to share their insights and stay connected with the women who attended their online workshops.
During the pandemic, we saw that many women had left the workforce, some to be primary caretakers at their home since schools were shut down, some who lost their jobs because their employers had to shut down or reduce staff, and others who decided to take time off work to do some soul searching. To support our members, we were creating a number of events geared towards wellness and resiliency, career rejuvenation, managing life transformations, and redefining success. We also decided to add a second layer of membership for women to join the club for free in order to attend some of these events as a way of supporting the women community during the height of the pandemic in 2020.
Today, it’s almost the end of summer 2021 and the pandemic continues to rear its ugly head despite the availability of vaccines. I honestly do not know when and if life will ever go back to being normal again or more likely, what does the new normal will look like for everyone, including all the women we aim to support. Businesses and schools continue to struggle with the ramifications of the pandemic. Like many of you, we wait and wait to see if things will get better – we were filled with hope when we thought things were improving with the vaccines and we become sad when we are faced with facts about the resurgence of the pandemic due to new more contagious variants.
It is impossible to know what will happen in the world tomorrow but I remain passionate and optimistic about The Koa Club meeting its objective and mission of supporting women during this trying time. I also believe that it is time for The Koa Club to enter a new chapter in its evolution. So as of the August 15, 2021, we will no longer charge any membership fees for women achievers to join The Koa Club general community.* We want to encourage women everywhere to join our club in order to attend the many interesting events and workshops we carefully curate for our general membership community throughout the year (most will be free but some may require payment of an event fee), to have access to our private Koa Network to build important allies and to take advantage of the other resources we make available to our general membership community. If you are a paid member at this time, you will no longer be charged for any future membership renewals and if you have paid for your membership in the last three months (since May 15, 2021), we will be reaching out to you separately about your paid membership fee.
If you are not already a member of The Koa Club, we hope you will join our community of amazing women (click here to join). If you are already a member, we hope you take advantage of all the events, workshops and other features we have provided for you. We are constantly finding ways to innovate, inspire and grow with our community. From time to time when we think its safe to gather in groups, we will also curate some in-person events and workshops.
If you would like to do more than just join us as a member, but to add your skills and voice to help us be a truly impactful women-led and women-inspired community, we welcome you to join us by signing up as a volunteer here: Volunteer Opportunities – The Koa Club.
Last but not least, we are grateful to all our speakers who have been the real heroines and heroes behind the club, as their belief in the mission of our club never faltered throughout this entire unpredictable period. We have been so fortunate to have collaborated with so many incredible speakers and experts who are always ready to lend a hand to the club and its members.
We are excited to be unpacking this new chapter in The Koa Club’s evolution. Here is a quote I came across recently which really nailed it for me: “The secret of change is to focus all your energy not on fighting the old, but on building the new!” – Socrates.
Have a wonderful rest of your summer and please stay safe and healthy.
Susan Seah, Founder & CEO of The Koa Club
Be Brave. Be Koa
*The Koa Club general membership community is separate from its FollowMyLead Programs which requires separate registration and fee to attend.