About The Columbus Young Professionals Club

Professionals flock to club for networking

October 27, 2005
By Kristy Eckert
THE COLUMBUS DISPATCH

The trio of takens — one married, one engaged, one seriously involved — showed up together, hoping to go home with a new business card, not a new date.

Sarah Wolff, 28, sat with her colleagues Tuesday evening on a couch at Spice Bar and Lounge, drinking beer, munching nachos and scanning new arrivals for a gathering of the Columbus Young Professionals Club.

"We need to know where the good networking events are," said the National City Bank corporate lender, "because we're not here to pick people up."

The club might be better described as an adult fraternity than a dating service with a politically correct label. The no-dues social group, started in late summer, targets 20- and 30-somethings, and already has more than 500 members.

Jay Touve, who lounged Tuesday with Wolff, is among them.

The last time he attended an event for a similar group, said Touve, 34, he found a meat market.

Such organizations "tend to be dating networks as opposed to business networks," he said.

The new club, he said while noting the more professionally dressed crowd, is better: "I think it's legit."

Still, it drew plenty of good-looking singles — and dating is listed on its Web site as one of the purposes.

It isn’t the focus, co-founder Patrick Preston said.

"We want people to feel like they can come and drop by, and they’re welcome," he said.

"It could be a springboard to a business deal. It can be a springboard to a game of tennis. It can be a springboard to, I guess, a date."

Preston established the club with a former college roommate, 26-year-old Derek Grosso, after both moved to Columbus from out of state.

The two quickly discovered a broader desire for "meet-and-greets" without the upfront cash that some groups require.

They expected 20 people for their kickoff at Brazenhead on W. 5th Avenue, said Preston, a WBNS-TV (Channel 10) reporter.

More than 100 appeared.

"There's so many people like myself who didn’t grow up here, who still want to meet some of those folks who did or those folks from other areas," he said. "And I think this is the perfect opportunity for them."

At monthly get-togethers in bars and restaurants, the club supports causes between sipping drinks and trading business cards.

It collected more than $500 last month for hurricane survivors — and, this week, roughly $200 and four sacks of canned goods for the Mid-Ohio Food Bank.

Monday night, members will trick-or-treat for cans of food in Dublin and Upper Arlington.

Co-founder Grosso, a business consultant and an entrepreneur, has more plans, including athletic teams.

"We're fulfilling a need and a niche in the Columbus area that people obviously would like us to fill," he said.

Brendan Murnane, who works in enterprise risk management at Nationwide, characterizes the capital as a young city that doesn't act young.

The club for professionals, the 22-year-old said, is "refreshing."

"It's meant to be a social group," he said, with a buddy and two young female teachers at his side, "and it's really performing well on its mission."

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