A large BNI business networking group meets most Thursdays at Zomer Cafe at Takapuna. It was close by – at Channel View lounge in Takapuna in March 1999 – that the first New Zealand group was launched by Graham Southwell – who had previously been a member of a group in London. Graham was on hand for the 20th birthday celebrations. It was therefore fitting that the organisation's 20th New Zealand birthday was celebrated in Takapuna on Thursday March 21st. BNI was actually started over 34 years ago in California and is now the world’s largest business referral and networking organisation that operates in over 70 countries. There are now 114 groups or chapters across New Zealand. In addition to helping its members to grow their businesses, BNI also works in the community and has been a National Partner of Hospice New Zealand since 2007. Last year BNI raised more than $250,000 for hospice, increasing the overall total raised to $2 million. Channel Magazine contributor Lester de Vere is the hardworking President of the BNI Takapuna group.