“It’s my job to help other young people to see why [Hartford's] cool,” Julie Daly, the Executive Director of HYPE (Hartford Young Professionals and Entrepreneurs) told me, with a smile. She’s not alone in this job; HYPE’s “dedicated volunteers” really drive the networking initiative of the MetroHartford Alliance. Its membership — 3300 – has more than doubled since 2007, and that does not count those who attend free events that require no registration. Daly attributes this growth to “word of mouth” and “social media.” As a result of the boom, HYPE is struggling to keep up. Daly did not hesitate to say that staffing is the major challenge she faces. This issue, she’s hoping, will be ironed out in January when they plan to elect more officers.
Although they already have about fifty events per year that appeal to a range of interests – such as the HYPE Cup, CEO luncheons, and community service opportunities — HYPE will be seeking ways to grow and diversify its membership, as well as engage more members, such as artists and teachers, who may not identify themselves as being in careers that would benefit from the type of networking commonly associated with cubicle dwellers. A common misconception about HYPE, Daly said, was that its membership is all very young. She says that members are “not necessarily fresh out of college.”
The demographics of HYPE are indeed not exactly what one would expect from a group with “young” in its name: of its members, 33% are over 31 years old, 8% have less than a four-year college/university degree, and 17% have children.
The Studio at Billings Forge will play host to HYPE’s first ever art show on September 29th — an initiative to diversify the organization’s membership.
Another item that may be on HYPE’s horizon is public policy. Ms. Daly said that the group wants to find a nonpartisan way to be involved in public policy. She thinks this will take the form of pure information, which sounds simple, but is actually hard to come by in the political arena.
Currently, the group organizes happy hours (Get HYPEd) on the first Wednesday of each month. People do not need to pre-register to attend these. They are free (but you have to pay for your own drinks), and Daly says they are attended by an even split between regulars and new people. For the shy, HYPE provides “ambassadors” that will seek out those who might need a little help socializing. She added, “we’re a friendly group,” but said if people attend and it turns out not to be their thing, they’re free to leave at any time, no judgement. These are casual gatherings and move to different venues monthly; the website says they happen in downtown, but many are in the city’s neighborhoods. The August one will be at Hook and Ladder.
The happy hours are popular. In early July, when most people are at the beach, having picnics, or just away, the Get HYPEd event had a turnout of roughly 130 people.
For those less interested in the social angle, there is a HYPE Entrepreneur monthly meetup geared more toward group discussions. The next one is July 25th at La Paloma Sabanera and meets from 6-8pm. This is free and open to the public.
Ms. Daly said people, particularly those interested in volunteering with HYPE, should relax this summer; come autumn, be on the lookout for the art show and Startup Weekend in September.
Reprinted with permission of Kerri Provost, author of the blog RealHartford.
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