Meet Your Neighbor: New group starting for young professionals

Throughout their careers, Lauren Mink Frazer, an agent at Clark County Farm Bureau, and Alyshia Martin, a real estate appraiser, felt there was a need for young professionals to network.

After Cindy Banks, the executive director of the Winchester-Clark County Chamber of Commerce, connected the two, Frazer, 32, and Martin, 26, set out to form Winchester Young Professionals with a mission to attract, retain and connect young talent in the community and provide them with an opportunity for personal and professional growth.

Winchester Young Professionals plans to host quarterly events intended to educate on local resources and issues and highlight successful people, businesses and organizations in the community.

These events are also designed to provide the space for young professionals to create a network among Winchester’s numerous industries.

The group is hosting a launch party at 5:30 p.m. May 7 at Loma’s at the Opera House.

Loma’s owner Vanessa Ziembroski is putting together an appetizer sampler, and each attendee will receive a ticket for a free beverage (beer or wine).

The group will also showcase some of downtown Winchester’s most successful entrepreneurs on its expert panel for the evening including Mason Rhodus of Mason’s, Betty Jane Glasscock of Court Street Gifts, Holly Goeing of Prissy Peach and Ziembroski.

The event begins with a networking and cocktail hour at 5:30 p.m., followed by the expert panel at 6 p.m.

The event also includes giveaways.

Winchester Sun: How did Winchester Young Professionals come to be?

Lauren Mink Frazer: We were both talking to Cindy Banks over at the (Winchester-Clark County Chamber of Commerce) at separate times about how we felt like we needed to have this networking opportunity or how to find other young professionals.

The Chamber is a great way to meet people and to network, but it’s also a little intimidating for some younger people to go into that setting when they don’t know, especially if you’re not from here, those people.

(Banks) finally attached us in this email together and was like ‘You two need to meet up and talk because you have the same ideas …’

(Banks) has been very supportive of us, and we see this as maybe a steppingstone for the Chamber. Some young professionals can get together. They can gain confidence and learn how to network and learn the questions to ask people, and then they can feel confident enough to go to one of the Chamber breakfasts and meet some of the seasoned business people here in town …

Alyshia Martin: I’m thankful that (Banks) picked up on both of our ideas and both of the needs that we saw, and then connected us and really from there, we hit the ground running.

LMF: Most people, they do contact the Chamber when they become a new business here in town. If it is a young professional, we hope (Banks) will send them our way and say, ‘Hey, I want you to also network with this group of people because they kind of know what’s happening here in town right now.’ And we hope the more ingrained people get in the community, they won’t want to leave.

I feel like the reason some younger people come here and leave is because they feel like they don’t have a connection to the community.

AM: We’ve done some research. We have talked with other communities about how they structure their young professional programming.

WS: What kinds of things will Winchester Young Professionals provide?

AM: We would love to bring in speakers in between those quarterly events for maybe a luncheon or something. We can also promote that for a professional development component. And even some of the personal if there’s someone who can come in and talk about how to manage work-life balance stuff. We’re hoping to offer maybe those in between the events.

LMF: We talked about, especially where social media is so big now … the different people that we’d like to bring in since we already know how to work social media, but how can we use that to our advantage?

We’d love to even do a lunch and learn about that or engage from people if they want it to be a lunch thing or an evening thing? What is best for young professionals? … We’re going to find out what times work best for people so we can get the most people to come to our events.

We’ve talked about maybe having someone come in and talk about different small business grants …

One of our events, we’re going to talk about nonprofits, how to get involved in those and hopefully they find something they love. The more ingrained they get in this community, they’ll fall in love with it, just like we have, and they won’t want to leave.

AM: Going toward the future, we’d love to have feedback from this group after the event from people who are interested in being a member of this group. We want to know what they want to learn. We have some ideas.

LMF: But it’s not about us, but it’s about everything you want to know.

WS: What do you hope this group can do for young professionals?

LMF: We want to create that network that we can work with each other, find out what each other needs.

That sort of our hope, that we can lean on each other and build each other up in our community. I feel like, especially where I’m on the Chamber board, it’s hard sometimes to be heard, like to feel like my voice is heard and appreciated. Having this group, it’ll show our community that we don’t want to go in and change anything because we love this community …

We want to bring it into today’s time, and we might have some different ideas that maybe someone that’s been here for 20, 30 years, they haven’t thought up and vice versa.

They’ll have massive amounts of information to help us on things, just like where we’re having this panel of people we want to have people that have been here for just a couple of years to people that have been here for 20 years … That way we can learn the dos the don’ts, the should’ves, the shouldn’ts, the ins and outs of the business so that we don’t waste our time.

That is what the people who’ve been in the community can give us. They can tell us what not to waste our time with or what works for them.

WS: Who can participate?

LMF: But it’s not just for the entrepreneur. It’s if you’re a teacher and you just moved here, and you want to maybe meet some other young people…

AM: If you’re a mom and want to meet other young moms.

LMF: For me, it’s so hard to make friends as you get older, especially if you moved here, and you’re not from here, and don’t have that group of people that you grew up with. Even for me, all the people I grew up with, they’re not here anymore. They have gone to other places.

We’re creating that network; we’re hoping that the moms will have other people that they can talk to. If you’re single, maybe you’ll meet somebody … it’s just sort of a way to see who all the other young people are here in town.

We don’t want anybody think it’s just for  the bankers or for the attorneys or things like that. It’s for any person who works here in Winchester, or lives here and wants to see what’s happening because maybe they have an idea in the back of their head and they’re just not ready to unleash that yet.

They might meet someone who can help them build that idea and bring that to life …

The age range is going to be what we’re calling 20-ish to 40-ish. And we put that in there because there might be some high school student who is wanting to start their own business, and we want them to leave high school learning, knowing a group of people that has their back, that can support them … Just, for instance, the graphic design that we needed for our logo for us, someone in their 50s and 60s, they probably don’t do the newest sort of graphic design. So I wanted to find someone within our community that was in that age range that could create an amazing logo.

WS: How can people get involved?

LMF: Like us on Facebook, come to the event next Tuesday, May 7, starting with the cocktail half-hour at 5:30 p.m. Everyone gets one drink ticket so you either get a beer or wine and (Ziembroski) is going to be providing some appetizers and then our panel discussion will start at 6 p.m.

AM: If you work until 6 p.m., no matter what, just come.

WS: What is happening at the launch party?

AM: We have this kickoff event on May 7 with a little cocktail half-hour and then some programming so people can leave with some knowledge or the feeling they left with something.

WS: As young professionals, why did you all stay in Winchester?

LMF: For me, I love Winchester. My husband’s from Richmond, and he knew when we met it was not going to be an option to live in Richmond. We were going to live here, raise our children here, die here. I love every festival that we have growing up. Those are my best memories, going to the Pioneer Festival. I wanted that small town feel for my kids.

AM: I grew up here. My husband and I both went to Providence Elementary together, and we went through all of school together.

When we went away to college, I think we both knew we wanted to be back here. Our families are here.

We’ve had so many people whether it be teachers, church leaders or community leaders make us who we are, and I want to be that for someone else here in Winchester.

I don’t think it was an option for us to leave like Lauren said we love it. We want our kids to have the same experience we’ve had in this small town, being loved by their teachers, church people and community leaders.

Being away at college and other communities, you learned how special Winchester is.