A few months back I was tasked by the Rowan County Chamber of Commerce with starting back up Rowan County’s Young Professionals Group. Par for the course with me, before the request was finished or any of the details had been ironed out.

I said,“Hold my bee … Cheerwine, I got this!”

That evening I got home and did the important things in life like walk my dog and feed the boss/cat. Then, I sat down to ponder what I had agreed to do. I got to thinking …  what makes someone a young professional? More importantly, what makes someone a Rowan County Young Professional? Who in the world would I invite to join this cool, no- longer-a-kid club? What would the criteria be; what would the goals of the group be?

On the surface, this question appeared easy enough. Then, I started peeling away the onion layers to discover that maybe defining what made someone a young professional in Rowan County was not all that easy. I worried I could potentially be pigeon holing someone by limiting them to Rowan County.

Was someone only a young professional if they owned a business? Could anyone benefit from our group, even if they didn’t work in the business world? I decided to do my best Woody Harrelson True Detective work and see who I could convince to join (you saw my profile pic; we all know that a Matthew McConaughey reference would not work here).

When in Doubt, Recruit a Friend

As always in situations of uncertainty, I started where I am most comfortable and that is with friends and neighbors. I messaged my next door neighbor, Abigail Young of Abigail’s Bakery, and told her that I thanked her for joining the Rowan County Young Professional Group and we welcomed her to our first meeting.

I figured since she had made every person’s wedding cake that I knew from Rowan County over the past few years, she had to be a crucial young professional. After saying she had no clue what I was talking about, I sent her a picture of her mowed yard and told her the Rowan County Young Professional group thanked her so much for joining, we mowed her grass. She was in. Cake boss. Check.

For my next special guest referee, I knew I had to go big time. Fresh off being named one of the “Top 40 Under 40” in the auto dealership world, I decided to enlist Kristin Dillard, owner of Team Chevrolet. I knew if I could convince Kristin in the value of what we were doing,it would attract others to the group.

Besides being an amazing friend, Kristin also manages three dealerships and many employees. Not sure which one is tougher — being my friend or cutting that many checks? I knew she would bring experience and clout that few others could. Car world big timer. Check.

Throughout my life when I am down, need advice outside the box, or just bored, I have always called on one man and dear friend — the man, the myth, the legend and Rockwell Elementary School’s own physical education teacher: Greg Simpson. Not only does this man command the respect of countless people under 5 feet tall daily, but he is also instrumental in helping shape the minds of the future recruits of the Rowan County Young Business Professional Group. Sweet mustache game. Molder of Rowan’s future leaders. Check.

The Ball is Rolling

After soliciting these three and many other dear friends and people in the community, I knew I had a strong foundation to get this ball rolling. Like any businessman in history who has felt like they had put together something amazing and are looking around for praise and good job high fives, I knew I needed one more thing, I needed someone to tell me when, where and how to do it, of course.

That’s where Taryn Thompson, general manager of City Tavern, came into play. She told me to sit down, drink my bee… I mean Cheerwine. She said that they would love to host us for our first meeting, and host us they did.  Our first meeting was upstairs at City Tavern, normally reserved for private parties (please check it out, it’s amazing!). Rowan’s own Kameron Marlowe from 2018 season of The Voice performed through the evening’s festivities, as over 40 young professionals of Rowan County networked and engaged each other over food and drinks.

After that first meeting, I knew I was onto something and since then we have been hosted by New Sarum Brewing Company, The Fish Bowl, Go Burrito and once more at City Tavern. I have seen:

  • Small and large business owners give advice to job seekers,
  • College students and future teachers, there on advice of their advisers, talk with current Rowan-Salisbury School System employees,
  • New Rowan County residents like Charlie Hoose, employed as a brand administrator manager at CSC. She discusses her passion and thoughts of possibly opening a new floral business.

Every month, I have had the privilege of seeing a new face turn up that I did not know,someone trying to network and better themselves in the business world. The best thing of all is no matter what level of business someone is in, from CEO to job seeker, this group gives back a little something to everyone. Maybe it’s a future business contact, a potential client, a new appointment for next week, or better yet, a friend. There is definitely something there for everyone.

A Place for Everyone to Network

Having hosted this event now for five straight months, I think I finally have the answer to my question:  Who is a Rowan County Young Professional?  The answer is both complex and easy at the same time. The answer is everyone. No one career field in business determines the future of business in Rowan County, so no one career field should limit who is a Rowan County Young Professional.

We are all in this together. We have to have teachers to mold the youth, CEOs to manage the large businesses, small business owners to be the local life blood of the economy… and wedding cake providers for the surrounding 704 area code (big thumbs up to Abigail’s Bakery).

We need newcomers to the area to bring outsiders’views, job seekers to keep the economy growing, and above all else, we need interest in the well-being of Rowan County. A Rowan County Young Professional can be anyone who takes a special interest in their community, no matter what their career.

So, if you have been wondering how you can improve your business, are interested in getting more involved locally, or are looking for employment, or have son or daughter in the basement who could use a job, this group could be for you!

We meet once a month, normally the first Tuesday of every month at a local establishment. If you have questions, interest in joining or would like to host an event, please reach out to adamshepherd@whbroadbandsolutions.com or contact the Rowan County Chamber of Commerce.