The Wyman Center

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Meet Suvir Dhar, a member of the Wyman’s Young Leaders Board. We spoke to Suvir about his participation in the Wyman’s Young Leaders Board, the upcoming Spring Derby event, and the Wyman Center’s mission.

  •  What is the Wyman’s Young Leaders Board?

The Wyman’s Young Leaders board is a group of young professionals that works to increases awareness about Wyman’s teen development programs among our peers.  Our primary undertaking of the year is the Spring Derby that raises funds for Wyman programs.  In addition to the Derby, the YLB organizes several smaller fundraising and networking events throughout the calendar year at various locations in St. Louis.  YLB members also have the opportunity to interact with teens throughout the year on career days and at a few social events, as well as volunteer at events at the Wyman Center’s main location.

  •  What makes you passionate about Wyman?

 I was fortunate growing up to have enough food to eat, clothes on my back, had a home to live in, and received a good education.  Unfortunately, there are many children andteens in this country that aren’t as lucky as I am.  I think I have a duty to play my part and contribute to our community.  Wyman teens typically don’t have many of the resources that many of us grew up with, but they don’t make excuses and are making something of their lives.  They are an inspiration and I’m very happy that I get to play a small role in this process.

  •  What is the Spring Derby fundraiser?

The Spring Derby is the annual fundraiser that the Wyman YLB organizes.  It’s a Kentucky Derby themed event where every attendee is given “horse bucks” which are used to bet on old Kentucky Derby races.  Winners can claim various prizes at our silent auction using the horse bucks.  The attendees also get to meet several of the Wyman teens.  This year’s Wyman Spring Derby is being held at the new Ballpark Village on May 3rd from  2 to 6pm.

  • How does the Spring Derby support the Wyman Center’s mission?

We hope this year’s event will generate around $20,000 to help our teens break the cycle of poverty.  The proceeds will be used for program staffing, transportation, program materials, and meals for the Wyman Teen Leadership Program. 

  • What’s exciting about this year’s Spring Derby?

 We are especially excited for this year’s Derby.   It’s at Ballpark Village, which will give us all an opportunity to be some of the first ones to experience this new exciting addition to St. Louis.  It’s also being held on the actual day of the Kentucky Derby which will also add some additional excitement.  This year’s derby should be the best one yet!

  • What do you want others to know about the Wyman Young Leaders Board and the Spring Derby?

 That in addition to the Wyman Spring Derby being a fantastic time, it’s really about Wyman’s core mission to provide opportunities for the Wyman teens.  Every attendee is playing his or her part and contributing to the Wyman Center.  This not only helps the Wyman Center, but the Wyman teens, and in a larger sense, the community as a whole.

  • What role has the Simmons Firm and the Simmons Employee Foundation played?

The Simmons Firm and its Employee Foundation have been the Triple Crown Sponsor for the last three years (including this year) and have been great supporters of the Wyman YLB and the Wyman Spring Derby.  The Simmons Firm dedicated its practice to helping people and advocating on behalf of the injured much like how Wyman has advocated and raised resources to help the Wyman teens.  It’s been a great partnership between Wyman and The Simmons Firm.   


Meet Sam Coffey

bio-samCorporate or Start up?  St. Louis is a great place for young professionals whether you’re starting your career in an established company or starting your business from scratch. The Regional Business Council and Lab 1500 are hosting a casual professional networking event to bring together young professionals from both the established corporate world and the start-up scene in St. Louis on Thursday, April 24 from 5:30-7:30pm.

We had the opportunity to sit down with Regional Business Council Young Professional Network member Sam Coffey to discuss St. Louis small business and start-ups as a young professional.

A native of St. Louis, Sam Coffey is co-owner of First Punch Film Production LLC and The Fortune Teller Bar LLC. Sam has over a decade of management experience and has worked as a producer for the last six years. A busy man, Sam has maintained a great sense of humor and keen insight into the St. Louis business world, which both shine through in the below interview.

1. As co-owner of two local businesses, you wear many hats. How would you introduce yourself to a YPN member?

Hi I’m Sam. I see you work at Wells Fargo. Your company probably has one of the coolest brands in the business. What area of Saint Louis do you live in? Oh really? I love North County. My girlfriend, Kelsey, was raised in North County so I appreciate that region for creating such respectful and beautiful people.:)

I live and work in South Saint Louis City. I co-own a film production company and bar on Cherokee Street. My film production company is called First Punch Film Production and we specialize in commercial animated work as well as many other forms of visual storytelling for commercial brands and concept development for television networks. I serve on the Board Of Directors for a Not For Profit Radio Station, KDHX, am a proud member of the YPN’s Leadership 100, and spend many hours contributing to the art, music and community development scene particularly pertaining to Cherokee Street and other art driven communities.

2. What makes St. Louis a great city for an entrepreneur?

I really can’t stress enough that the cost of living in Saint Louis is as good as it gets. It’s a city so hungry for progressive growth that government, business and community leaders across the region work hard to find ways to say yes and promote the growth of new industries like emerging technologies in bio tech, tech startups like Greetabl, and even reality television shows like Discovery’s “Salvage City” (wink wink).

There are some challenges to opening a business in Saint Louis; however, most of those challenges have really great people on the other end. We may not be completely streamlined down at City Hall, but there are fantastic people who work there that are usually really happy to help. I’ve met so many great people like Robert Porter in in the business assistance center, Ann Chance in the special events office, even the excise commissioner himself is a really nice guy. Saint Louis is in the Midwest. And for those of us that are from here, we know that it’s relationships that make the world go round. And for those of you new to the area or looking to move here, fear not. Once you get your momentum going, there is an excellent engine in this city to support you and help you grow. And no one really cares where you went to high school, unless of course you went to the school that took away the championship from us 20 years ago. Other than that, it’s no problem

3. Why did you choose the film production and bar industries?

I can’t take credit for either one. They both chose me in a lot of ways. Four years ago an old friend, Carson Minow, came to me and asked me if wanted to start a film production company. I was swinging hammers at the time as a carpenter. Having worked with her several years earlier on a film project, I thought it might be fun. And I was right! The next thing you knew one of my oldest and most talented friends, Ryan Frank, was on board and we were off. Our model has evolved over the years, but the one thing that’s never changed is our ability to work well together and constantly try new things.

It wasn’t an old friend that caused me to go into the bar business. It was an old sign. Yup, it was an actual sign. After moving into an abandoned storefront on Cherokee Street, I went to work and removed the plywood from the upper front facade. Behind it was a sign that read “The Fortune Teller Bar”. So I did what any sane man would do and called my buddy, Matt Thenhaus, who knew a lot more than me about the bar business. A couple years later enters Kristin Dennis with a keen intellect for brands and business and the next thing you knew we had a bar.

4. What are the advantages of this form of business ownership?

Both businesses allow me to be creative. A friend told me recently that the difference between us and our competition was that we are creative people trying to be business people instead of business people trying to be creative. You can hire the business side far easier than you can hire the creative side. The life of an entrepreneur is very time consuming. It’s so time consuming that you have to almost build your social life into your business life. The diversity of my two industries allows me great networking opportunities to learn, work and have fun.

5. How did you obtain the background and skills necessary to run this type of business?

I learned the skills required to run my businesses by working with people that are much smarter than me. I have a pretty good grasp on the things that I’m good at and the things that I’m terrible at. So I work hard to go into business and work with people that excel in the areas that I lack the skillset . I learn new things and meet new people everyday and it’s those people and experiences that teach me how to run a business.

6. Whom do you seek advice from for your business? Do you have a mentor? If so please explain the importance of mentors to our YPNs.

I have met several people through the YPN. I have made both personal and professional relationships that I value deeply. It was the support of the RBC and the YPN that gave me the confidence to join the board of KDHX. I have sought advice from several YPN members as well as RBC business leaders and members that have provided me with invaluable business and even life advise. A couple of years ago I attended a dinner with the YPN’s Leadership 100 where they paired members with business leaders. At my table was a man named Ed Hillhouse who ran the East West Gateway Council. Just last summer I needed special permission to get some filmmakers from LA permission to shoot on the Metrolink. I pulled out Ed’s business card and gave him a call. He was happy to help and the end result was a beautiful film made with Grade A actors and a film that will air worldwide and opening with the Metrolink.

7. Why do your customers select you over your competitors?

Customers select me over my competitors because we build a relationship together. Whether I’m selling you animation, beer, or a cardboard box, it’s important for us to establish a relationship. I like knowing my customers and sitting down for a beer with them. In today’s world, more and more services are provided by faceless algorithms and “streamlined” websites. When you do business with me, you get me, not an animated me, unless of course you’re seeing our animated e-xmas card!

8. Do you have any advice for fellow YPN members?

The best advice I could give to any YPN member is: Don’t be afraid to ask. Katie Kaufman is the manager of the YPN and she answers emails, texts, and phone calls faster than anyone I’ve ever seen. It’s really incredible actually. Seriously all you have to do is ask. If you are looking for a mentor, board position, or even media training, it’s sort of like a one stop shop.

9. Is there anything more you would like share about entrepreneurship and the YPN?

Don’t be afraid to speak your mind in this town. If you see something you don’t like, chances are you’re not alone and there are people out there that will listen and help where they can. Just keep in mind that if you want to point out areas that need improvement, it’s also a good idea to highlight some things that are right about our city too. And it also never hurts to follow up a complaint with a potential solution.

 We hope you will join us at 1500 Washington Ave. on Thursday, April 24, 2014 for this business casual networking event. Beverages and snacks will be provided.

This event is hosted in collaboration between the Regional Business Council and Lab1500. CLICK HERE TO REGISTER TODAY!

Meet Nicole Woodie

Nicole WoodieMeet Young Professionals Network member Nicole Woodie. Nicole is the Community Outreach & Player Involvement Manager for the St. Louis Rams. We had the opportunity to speak with Nicole about her passion for community involvement and how it translates into her daily job duties.

  • You wear many hats. How would you introduce yourself to a new YPN member?

I am a passionate and committed community outreach professional focused on making the bi-state region a better place. I seek to accomplish this by connecting the St. Louis Rams organization and its players to the community in a meaningful and impactful way.

In my role as community outreach and player involvement manager, I am responsible for implementing community programs, overseeing many of the team’s off-the-field efforts in the St. Louis region, and managing relationships with our community partners. We team up with great organizations such as the American Red Cross, Diversity Awareness Partnership and American Heart Association, all of whom help us fulfill our community goals.

At the heart of my job, I preside over the entire Rams PLAY 60 platform and work closely with local schools. Aside from my work on Rams community programs, I also work with our players to get them involved in com¬munity efforts and assist them in developing and implementing their own outreach initiatives.

  • What do you enjoy about belonging to organizations like YPN?

I really enjoy the opportunities that YPN offers to meet and interact with people that are outside of my professional and social networks. There are great opportunities – not only to network professionally – but to also socialize and make new friends in casual, fun environments.

As a California native, I really appreciate YPN and its diverse network of local and out-of-town members. It’s gamut of activities – social and professional – made my acclimation to the Midwest enjoyable and also helped me to excel further in my line of work. All in all, if I was not part of YPN, I would have missed out on a lot of phenomenal opportunities, resources, and connections.

  • Describe a favorite project that you’re currently working on. Or describe the best thing about your job.

I work on so many wonderful projects on a daily basis, so it’s hard to narrow it down to just one! We just finished our second year of a really innovative program called Rams Blitz: Youth Working Together to Break through Boundaries. Essentially, the program brings together two high schools from different backgrounds and neighborhoods to promote acceptance, understanding, diversity and inclusion among area youth.

This year we worked with Normandy High School and Affton High School and to witness firsthand the transformation of beliefs and formation of impactful bonds and friendships that were formed between the kids was powerful and inspiring.

These moments are what I love most about my job. I am blessed and truly fortunate to have the opportunity to utilize the power of the NFL shield to impact the community, specifically its youth, in a positive way. I get to help bring smiles to people’s faces every day—who wouldn’t love that job!

  • Why should a business base their company out of St. Louis?

I think it’s all about the people of St. Louis. There is such a tremendous spirit of loyalty and philanthropy that results in a significant pride for the city and its community. This is a mindset and attitude is lucrative and attractive that can go a long way in building workforces. Another great reason to note is that St. Louisans are faithful when it comes to giving back to local business. As a result of the high volume of prestigious colleges and universities located in the area, there is also a large pool of young talent that is just waiting to be tapped. These are one of the many tremendous attributes and resources readily available for new or established business to capitalize on.

  • What are your first three stops when an out-of-town friend visits?

Forest Park, Tani Sushi Bistro in Clayton, the Zoo, Fro-Yo in the Loop or Central West End, and of course a Rams Game! I can’t choose only three!

  • What’s one St. Louis tradition that everyone must experience?

The St. Louis Zoo followed by lunch at the Boathouse.


Good News Tuesday

Each month we bring you Good News Tuesday, a blog post where we have the pleasure of highlighting some of the accomplishments that members of our Young Professionals Network share with us. Stay up to date with our YPN’s accomplishments and share your good news with us!

We’d like to offer congratulations to these members of the RBC/YPN community:

  • Keva Whitley was promoted to AVP/Financial Center Manager with UMB Bank
  • Jacqueline Jefferson has recently been hired as the Director, Diversity & Inclusion Talent Lead at Infiniti Management.
  • Megan Mark has accepted a position with Nestle Purina North America as an Order Revenue Management Analyst.
  • Sameer Andi is celebrating six years this April with MasterCard
  • Tiffany Hamilton is celebrating nine years at Hamilton Group Reality this April.

Congratulate our YPN members by leaving a comment or sharing on social media!

Young Professionals Network Bi-Annual Membership Survey

In 2012 the Regional Business Council surveyed our Young Professional Network members. We conducted the survey to better understand who our members are and how they perceive the St. Louis region.

We understand how talented and driven our members are so there weren’t many surprises in the survey data for us.  Even so, we suspect that many people in the St. Louis area don’t know how amazing our YPN members are and we feel that it is our duty to get the word out about them. That’s why we produced and published our 2012 bi-annual survey results.

Some highlights of the 2012 survey include:

YPN members are incredibly well educated. An overwhelming majority (94%) has at least a bachelor’s degree. Another 39% has gone on to pursue a graduate degree and 10% has completed post-graduate studies. The St. Louis RCGA reports that 29% of people over the age of 25 in St. Louis have at least a bachelor’s degree, which is above the national average.  We don’t know of too many other professional networking groups that can boast these kinds of numbers.

St. Louis is Home
A majority of our members (51%) reported that they plan to live in St. Louis for at least the next 5 years.  They love the city and think it is a great place to live now and to raise a family later.  Top reasons cited for wanting to stay in St. Louis included: job opportunities, leadership opportunities within their companies, affordability and the family-friendly community.

YPN Membership

Why do so many well-educated professionals who are passionate about St. Louis join the RBC’s YPN?  The number one reason cited in the survey was the opportunity to meet other young professionals.  Our members genuinely want to meet new people and foster deep relationships.  They want to make new business connections and also see the YPN as an opportunity to meet company executives and community leaders.

Next week we will launch the YPN’s bi-annual membership survey to help us better know the individuals that make up the Young Professionals Network.

“I believe we can be truer to our brand of attracting, retaining, and developing exceptional young talent in this region based on the information you share with us through this survey, said Katie Kaufmann, Regional Business Council Manager of Initiatives & Talent Development. “Our 2012 survey spurred us to launch a more concerted effort to connect young professionals with nonprofit boards in the region.”

We look forward to the results of the upcoming 2014 survey.