Rice Leads Young Professionals

January 21, 2004
| By Katy Rent |
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HOLLAND — Barry Rice is hip.

Well, HYP, actually.

Rice, founder of the Holland Young Professionals (HYP), is working to create a place where professionals between the ages of 21 and 35 can congregate to make business and social connections with people from all over West Michigan.

“This is something that I saw in a lot of other cities that were in the same situation as West Michigan in regards to size and economic situation,” said Rice. “This came out of my work with the Chamber of Commerce and the work on the governor’s creative class and cool cities initiative. We had a long talk about those kinds of issues in Holland and found that a group such as HYP was something that was missing.”

HYP was formed by Rice and two co-founders, Robyn Wennersten and Mat Nguyen, and so far has garnered the attention of more than 100 West Michigan young professionals and several area business people, including the mayor of Holland.

In the beginning, HYP recruited members through e-mail and word of mouth. The first whispers were spread to the 40 or so people that attended the group’s initial event and soon spread to the more than 100 young professionals that attended the second event last week.

HYP’s goal is to hold each event in a public venue that may normally attract the type of people the group serves in order to draw people out into the community and also gather them in an environment in which they are comfortable.

The first event, held at one of Holland’s new nightspots, The Firehouse, sought to get the ball rolling with input from all that attended. The group was split into small groups and asked what they would like to see develop out of HYP.

“You could see the energy flowing through the room and you could see the type of conversation that was going on and how people were interested in the group and taking it to the next step,” said Rice. “They looked at all kinds of options, from social events such as bowling to more community oriented events like working with the Center for Women in Transition or Habitat for Humanity and even partnering with organizations whose missions and goals align with ours.”

But HYP needed more than just ideas, so committees were formed to lead those possibilities to fruition.

Three committees — a welcoming committee, an events committee and a leadership committee — got the ball rolling. Rice said that each committee has met and has set out plans for the next three months, taking into consideration the requests and suggestions of the group and what direction its members would like to see HYP go.

Currently, seven to eight people comprise each committee and Rice said he would like to see that number swell to 10. Committees will meet once a month, schedules permitting, and they will eventually act as the leadership of the organization, scheduling events, getting HYP involved in the community, recruiting members, creating partnerships and forming bonds that makes the group cohere.

“They are going to work to make this much more than just a social hour,” said Rice. “I think a lot of people have really enjoyed the feeling of the room, with so many ambitious and creative people that had a lot of energy that wanted to get together and meet a lot of other people just like them. I think that really turned people on and fueled them.”

Being a young professional himself, Rice said he has a grasp on what his peers would find important and what they would enjoy. A graduate of Hope College, Rice spends his days in business development for Worksighted, an information technology firm in Holland. In his spare time, however, he can be found traveling the world, kicking around the soccer ball or strumming the strings of his guitar. And he shows no signs of slowing down.

From this point on, Rice said, the goal of HYP is to get the word out there, get the name out there and really dig into getting young professionals together to create a professional and social network for themselves. The committees are hard at work and the leadership committee already has attended city planning meetings to see what role it can play.

Rice foresees HYP becoming involved with human resource professionals to assist new hires and to serve as a welcome to the community, as well as introducing HYP members to different professional avenues and opportunities such as entrepreneurship.

HYP’s next event, scheduled for 5:30 p.m. on Jan. 26, will introduce members to the idea of entrepreneurialism and what it takes to be an entrepreneur. Following the special event at the end of the month will be HYP’s regular, second-Tuesday-of-the-month gathering, “Unwind,” on Feb. 10. For information regarding sponsorship opportunities for events or on how to become involved with HYP, Rice can be reached at rice@worksighted.com.

“We are looking for people from all over West Michigan that are interested in learning more about HYP,” Rice said. “We are a very open and diverse group and that is what we encourage. In order to foster creative ideas for the community and within the group we need to attract people from all backgrounds and we welcome them all.”     


Name: Barry Rice
Organization: Holland Young Professionals
Title: Founder
Age: 22
Birthplace: Grand Rapids
Residence: Grandville
Biggest Career Break: Joining Worksighted
Community Involvements: Habitat for Humanity

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