Bobby Ray is used to organizing the draw for curling events. Little did the general manager of the Granite Club know that he would be using those skills to create a business networking idea called #FiftyTwoCoffees.
“We are sending 84 young professionals under 40 on a year full of weekly coffee meetings that are one on one, face to face, out in the community,” said Ray.
It is sort of like a round robin if you look at it in terms of a sport or a tournament. We knew that we had to get 52 people in order to make a round robin tournament work for a year and we got 84 and we'll run it through 52 weeks and then we will stop. That does not mean it will not continue into next year.”
The concept, organized by Ray and the Young Professionals committee from the North Bay & District Chamber of Commerce, was launched early this morning at Twiggs Coffee Roasters on McKeown Avenue.
For the past few months, Ray has been reaching out to young professionals from all walks of life in the city to take part. With a packed house at Twiggs and more than 80 people signed up, it appears the idea is taking shape.
“A lot of people say in a city the size of North Bay, it is not what you know it is who you know, so we have given everyone here 52 new people just to know,” said Ray, who got the idea for the program from a blog called 52 coffees.
“You need a new banker, you met with one. You want to try a new sport, you met with that person. You want to get shirts made for your stag and doe, you know where to go because that person is part of your meeting group. So it is to get referrals to meet with one another to get to know fellow young professionals on a one-on-one, face-to-face basis and to hopefully spur some collaboration.”
Ray says the meetings will be coordinated but the individuals will have to connect a meeting time and place. He says one of the key rules of the program is you must meet in person, no exceptions.
“We wanted it a definite part of the program because stereotypically our demographic under 40 are often on our computers and our phones and teleconferencing, Skyping and FaceTiming,” admitted Ray.
“We wanted to bring this back to the one on one, face to face meeting where we are actually getting together and actually having coffee, going for a walk, get a treat or actually shake someone’s hand and develop those skills of the one on one meeting because you need those in business if you are trying to pitch a new idea or negotiate a deal.
“I think this could go a long way toward professional development of some of our up and coming professionals.”
However, the under 40 group will utilize social media as a way to track the success of the program. Ray says meeting stories will be shared on various social media platforms under the #FiftyTwoCoffees hashtag.
“So anyone can search this hashtag and see all the stories to see how positive they are and the people responding to them,” said Ray.
“We will probably survey those who participated in the program and we might put in a call for registration and I am sure if people sign up, then they felt their time every week of the year was worth it.”