This is not your father’s Chamber

Grafton Chamber of Commerce Young Professionals program is attracting younger members with networking events like yoga and pizza parties

THE GRAFTON AREA CHAMBER OF COMMERCE has been hosting Young Professionals networking events since April 2016 to promote business interactions and community involvement. Above, the Chamber’s Special Events and Tourism Director Megan Schelwat (front left) stood with a kettlebell during a program in March at Ozaukee CrossFit in Grafton. Press file photo
By 
JOE POIRIER
Ozaukee Press staff

From cocktails and yoga to pizza and cornhole, the Grafton Area Chamber of Commerce is working to attract a young professionals to the organization and get them involved in the community.

The Chamber’s Young Professionals networking program started in April 2016, and since its inception there has been a growing number of young people joining the Chamber.

“We thought it would be a way for young professionals to feel connected,” Chamber Executive Director Pam King said. “A couple of years ago, we saw a statewide trend for recruiting and retaining young professionals in our region and state.”   

After hosting several events, King said, the Chamber saw a need to maintain the program by offering networking opportunities once a month to promote professional relationships and business connections.

“In addition to making friendships and building familiarity with each other, there is a lot of professional networking going on that helps cross-promote business-to-business interactions,” King said. “We’ve seen people work together on projects in the community, network together to get jobs and other work connections.”  

She said the Mequon-Thiensville Chamber of Commerce has a similar program but it is only offered to current members, while Grafton’s group is open to anyone 40 and younger who lives or works in the area.

“If you live or work here but don’t feel like you have a particular connection to the community, it’s sort of hard to become engaged with things on a day-to-day basis or volunteer level,” King said. “We want our young professionals to develop leadership skills or step up and help their company in the community.”

On Wednesday, Sept. 19, the young professionals met at NSeven Coffee Company for a speed-networking event, where individuals had a few minutes to speak one-on-one with their peers.

“It’s kind of like speed dating,” Megan Schelwat, the Chamber’s special events and tourism promotion director, said. “Forced networking is good in a way because everyone is a little uncomfortable at first, kind of like a first date.”

She said the Chamber attempts to create unique activities to bring more people to the events, which average 25 participants.

In August, a number of young professionals met for cocktails and yoga at the River Room on the Milwaukee venue hall.

“It was an interesting event for us because the majority of people who attended were new faces. They said they never heard of young professionals and they came because they had an interest in yoga,” Schelwat said. “It’s nice for us to try new things and meet new people. We’re always looking for new ideas.”

The Chamber has events lined up for the rest of the year.

For people looking to try on their costumes before Halloween, there will be a “Bowling and Boos” event at Circle B Recreation in the Town of Cedarburg on Oct. 23.

“We’re asking people to come dressed in a costume or a fun outfit,” Schelwat said, adding there will be  a prize for the best costume.

In anticipation of Thanksgiving, there will be a “Friendsgiving” social on Nov. 14 at the Bridge Inn to benefit people in need.

“We’re going to be getting all of our friends together and we’ll be giving back to the community,” Schelwat said.

The event is free, but the Chamber is asking attendees to bring at least one non-perishable food item, which will be donated to the Saukville Community Food Pantry.

Schelwat said Meijer is partnering with the Chamber to do a double-giveback for the pantry with all the food collected at the event.

“Besides building your network, our main goal for these events is to help give back to the community and help us grow our local businesses here,” Schelwat said. “We want to give back and help other non-profits. We’re always open to helping other entities in the community as well.”

Schelwat said there is usually a volunteer sign-up sheet at the socials for young professionals to become involved with various community events like Grillin’ in Grafton.

“We want you to feel comfortable to go out into the community and say, ‘Hey, I know you,’” she said. “We want people to get more involved and be aware of what is all happening here in Grafton.”

To learn more about the Chamber’s young professionals events, visit the Chamber website at www.grafton-wi.org or visit its Facebook page at Grafton Area Chamber of Commerce Young Professionals.

“Anything we do is in the hope of bringing more members to the Chamber,” King said. “Hopefully, there are some young professionals who see the value in what we do and they can become involved on a bigger level.”
    

    

 

 

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Wisconsin’s largest paid circulation community weekly newspaper. Serving Port Washington, Saukville, Grafton, Fredonia, Belgium, as well as Ozaukee County government. Locally owned and printed in Port Washington, Wisconsin.

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