By Anna Skinner
Young and successful residents or employees of Westfield have a network source to make friends or connect with other citizens in Westfield Young Professionals, led by Joe VanDeusen, president since 2014.
“They’ve made a board member position for the president of WYP on the chamber so we didn’t use to have a voice and now we do at the top level,” said Elizabeth Bouse, vice president of the group. “Otherwise, it’s hard to get connected.”
Approximately 80 people follow the group but not all attend every meeting. An average meeting consists of about 15 people.
“A year ago, we only had seven members,” VanDeusen said. “It just keeps growing.”
The group increased their meetings from quarterly to monthly, and use different local venues such as Rail Epicurean, Grand Junction Brewery and 21st Amendment.
Currently, the events are just a social meet-up to allow for millennial aged professionals that live or work in the city to network with each other and meet people.
“At some point, we want to incorporate some kind of business lunch and learns or something that would add professional value instead of networking,” VanDeusen said.
Member Jack Russell said different WYP events attract different members.
“Some people may like going to Grand Junction versus the Rail,” he said. “We’ve had so many people that wanted to get more involved and wanted us to do more things so we now meet the first Thursday of every month.”
WYP is operated mainly through its Facebook page, Westfield Young Professionals.
“Last year we didn’t have that many events, and we have at least doubled it for 2016 because we wanted to get a base of people and find out what things people really like,” Bouse said. “A lot of it was social last year, and this year it will be social, but people will also be learning things.”
Members or those in attendance at the social gatherings are able to speak to the group about what they do. The group refers to chamber of commerce members as “mentors.”
The mission of the group is to help people start businesses, exchange ideas and network, and to grow chamber membership and participate in community work.
“One of the things I’ve gotten out of it is a group of friends that I can learn about what they do and where they came from and grow off that,” Russell said. “We are creating our own network of business and friends inside Westfield. I wouldn’t have been friends with these people if I didn’t go out to the meetings.”
Many different careers are incorporated through the members of WYP. Bouse owns a chiropractic business in Westfield, and there are other locals that have law businesses or live in the city and work in Indianapolis or other surrounding areas.
“We are learning about things in our community. We are all in different fields, and we can go out and learn about everybody,” Bouse said.
Westfield’s average age is 34, and those between ages 21 and 40 are welcome to the meeting, although the members joked that it’s not a hard line, and those “who feel 40 at heart can attend.”
WYP mostly supports local businesses and restaurants with their meetings, as they want the money spent in Westfield to stay in Westfield.
All events are posted on the chamber website and are scheduled for 5:30 to 7:30 p.m. on the first Thursday of each month.
The next Westfield Young Professionals meeting will take place March 3 at Wolfies Grill, 137 Main St. Food and beverages are available for purchase and the meeting will begin at 5:30 p.m.
“There’s been good synergy with the business owners and supporting them while supporting our group as well,” VanDeusen said.