Columbus Young Professionals Club Celebrates 10 Years
In 2005, Young Professionals were all the rage. Local businesses, nonprofit organizations and government leaders couldn’t get enough of the trendy demographic segment. Special committees, commissions and advisory boards were established, ushering in a new way to engage a younger generation in the affairs of the decision makers of Columbus.
Today, the term may not be quite as in vogue as it was a decade ago, having been more recently eclipsed by a focus on the Millennial generation, but the impact of the YP craze has certainly created a lasting impact nonetheless.
Derek Grosso, founder of the Columbus Young Professionals Club, is possibly more aware of that impact than anyone else in Columbus, as he celebrates the 10th anniversary of the group’s founding as the organization continues to grow. We spoke recently with Grosso about the evolution of CYP, the state of affairs with Young Professionals in general, and what he has in store for the big 10th Anniversary celebration taking place this weekend. Our full Q&A can be found below:
Q: First, can you tell us about the original formation of CYP, how it grew out of CBUS Magazine, and a bit about your early years when moving to Columbus?
A: When I first moved to Columbus in 2005, I knew one person – a friend of mine from GW in Washington DC where we were roommates and fraternity brothers. Initially I came here for a unique business opportunity to launch a local magazine with my college friend – which we did – and it ran for about three years. The idea was that the publication (C-BUS Magazine) would appeal to a younger audience than most magazines around at the time and would skew very local. It would focus on the business and social perspective of the 20- and 30-something crowd, while highlighting the stories and interests of up-and-comers against the backdrop of a great city. At the time, Columbus itself was up-and-coming in its own right, with the second largest population of college students next to Boston, and a massive population of nearly 400,000 residents between the ages of 20-40 who remained underserved by lack of an organized effort to reach these “young professionals.”
In order to accomplish this – and to get acquainted with the area where I was now a newcomer – I set out to explore the city of Columbus. What a wonderful and open community I was pleased to discover! I remember spending about two weeks just walking around the city on foot, setting up meetings to introduce myself to people and organizations, studying the history and demographics of the region, saying hello to just about anyone I could, and learning a lot along the way. One of the first things that I realized was that there was a need for an organization that would focus on some of the similar ideas we’d planned to write about in the magazine – work-life balance, places to go, people to know, causes to support… an entire city to explore for young professionals. After about a month of living here it was clear to me that the Columbus Young Professionals Club was not only a good idea, it was perfect timing.
Q: How has the mission of CYP evolved over the past 10 years? What’s changed and what’s still the same?
A: As with any organization, adaptation is key to survival. So is knowing your audience. We’ve been fortunate to have such as outstanding city in which to grow and a phenomenal Leadership Team to help be our eyes and ears, as well as our ambassadors.
The mission has remained the same since day one: To offer connections, access, and value for our members through professional and fun events, quality athletics, and community impact. Our membership fees have also remained unchanged since day one: It is absolutely free to join. This makes the CYP Club open and accessible to everyone – just like Columbus is an open and smart city – which is exactly the kind of club we want to be for the community. And a no-dues membership club is not necessarily easy to maintain for ten years – especially with more than 23,000 registered members. We have some truly awesome annual sponsors – and nearly 130 paid business members – who help us do what we do while keeping membership free.
Q: How has CYP grown for you as a business? What have you been enabled to do more recently that you weren’t able to accomplish at first?
A: As my father has always told me, “There are only so many hours in the day.” Some days I take that to mean get as much work done as you can before the day escapes you, and other days I take that to mean slow down and take the time to enjoy every minute. In 2009 as I transitioned full-time into the role of President and CEO of the organization that I founded four years prior, there already was a solid foundation built. I knew that we would have to grow into new areas and constantly be trying new things in order to succeed. In 2011, I needed help so I decided to hire employees number two and three. It was extremely exciting, but the timing was wrong. Five months later I was back to just one employee – myself. This gave me cold feet on additional new hires, so I decided to focus on growing our Leadership Team and our internship program. We now have more than 50 volunteer directors, coordinators, and ambassadors who continue to lend their time and positive energy to our helping host our nearly 200 events and 40 athletic leagues each year. I’m also happy to say that in January 2015 we added Ryleigh Kirby as our Executive Assistant/Communications Coordinator, and in May 2015 we brought on Anish Mistry as our Vice President of Operations, and we have recently made an offer for employee number four – our first-ever Community Manager, who will start in September.
Q: Around 10 years ago, the YP “craze” was in full swing with many new groups, organizations and nonprofits either launching YP committees, commissions or spin-offs of their existing boards. Now that the initial buzz has worn off for a few years, what’s become the real meaning behind the emphasis on YP engagement in the community?
A: That’s a great question. Whether you identify the YP emphasis as Generation X/Gen Y/Gen Z, Millennials, Creatives, Young Professionals, or whatever, I think that YP engagement means – and will continue to be identified with – the pulse of the city, the talent pipeline, and the next generation. We are still a growing city. Like every great metropolis, in order to grow and prosper we need to consistently attract the best and the brightest while continuing to support and strengthen those young people who have recently moved here or graduated and are declaring their path to success. We have more than 2,000 non-profit organizations in Franklin County alone, many of which are in search of new volunteers, fresh ideas, and young professional board members. YPs are always going to be needed as agents of change and beacons for the future.
We’re also seeing a new emergence (and in some cases a re-launch altogether) of some of the initial YP groups that came out of the mid to late 2000s. I think it’s a true testament to our membership and our city since the CYP Club has not only been around for ten years, but we continue to gain about 2,000 net new members each year, we remain increasingly relevant in this community, and we continue to positively impact the lives and lifestyles of others.
Q: What do you think the next five years holds for both YPs in general, and for CYP?
A: You’ll see even more YPs getting involved in leadership roles, specifically at local non-profits who need their time and talent the most. You’ll see new entrepreneurial efforts taking root in the city. There will be a host of new community efforts that reach out to YPs where they work, not just where they live and play. The CYP Club will continue to expand. Our new full-time Community Manager will focus heavily on event planning, membership experience, and ongoing engagement. The CYP Club is also excited to continue work with our 501c3 education foundation, Y360, which will launch an upcoming pilot program targeting the millennial experience in partnership with some of Columbus’ largest employers, as well as the Monumental Fundraising Project in partnership with the Greater Columbus Arts Council and the Short North Alliance.
Q: Can you tell us a bit about the big celebration this weekend?
A: Absolutely, and I invite all Columbus Underground readers to join us since it’s free to attend and all ages are welcome. We’re hosting a Tenth Anniversary Block Party in conjunction with The Grandview Hop, all along Grandview Avenue from First Avenue to Fifth Avenue on Saturday, August 29 from 5:00pm -10:00pm.
The event will span the sidewalks along Grandview Avenue featuring delicious local food, live music and entertainment, unique boutiques and pop-up vendors, art exhibits, flash mobs, craft beer, local wine, photo booths, kids activities, and much more. We’ve also got approval from the city to close down Grandview Avenue (between 1st and 3rd Avenues) for the Block Party. Our pop-up Beer Garden will be serving local craft beer from Zauber Brewing, Four String, and the Ohio Taproom – and we’ve added Watershed Distillery, Mill Street Distillery, and Camelot Cellars too! Open container laws have been lifted for our event so you can walk up and down the Block Party portion while enjoying your adult beverage and enjoying the great weather.
We are expecting several thousand in attendance to help us celebrate a fantastic decade of good times, great people, and positive connections. As our membership has been and always will be, this event is free and open to all who wish to join us.
For more information, visit www.cypclub.com.