3,000 paid members, effective this week.
Isn't that a lot of people to invite to a Labor Day picnic at Loantaka Brook Reservation on Sept. 6?
New Jersey Young Professionals founder Laura Occhipinti finds the question amusing. "As far as getting people to go, eat and play softball, we normally bring out around 100 people. However, even at 100 it is a lot."
So is 13,000, the number of young professionals on Occhipinti's mailing list since the group's Feb. 22, 2004 inception. "People are into where they live," said Occhipinti, who formed NJYP after her move from Bergen to Somerset County. "I was working in social services at the time, and I wasn't thinking about going into business."
What she sought was a way to meet new people, and so she formed NJYP as a Yahoo! group. Hoping others would want the same, her hopes were realized when the group went from one to 2,000 mailing list members in its initial year, to 6,000 in its second. Today, those interested can become a member for a one-time fee of $19.99 with nominal fees for most events.
Elaine Cascione, a Morris Plains resident who works as a dental hygienist in Morristown, said she joined NJYP a few years ago to meet new people and try new things she would not have otherwise done alone. "My favorite, by far, was the New York Amazing Race."
Kasey Collura, an SEC Reporting Manager for a global telecommunications company in Florham Park, has lived in Morristown since 2008, and joined NJYP in 2006. "I was basically starting my life over again," she said. " I was working as an auditor in New York City, which made it difficult to make friends in New Jersey–both the hours and the location. When I left that job in 2006, I found a job in New Jersey with better hours and a shorter commute–that's when it hit me that I didn't have much of a social life. In came NJYP."
NJYP smoothed the "meeting new young professional people" process, Collura said. "Although I jumped right in at my very first event, meeting people and breaking the ice on the dance floor, that may not be for everyone," she said. "Laura's hosts will help introduce 'newbies' to veteran members that may have similar interests or who can make further introductions. Overall, most people that come to events are very friendly and easily approachable. I've made a lot of friends and professional connections through NJYP, which has helped land me exactly where I thought I'd be at this point in my life."
Kevin Spillane moved to Morristown from Denver, Colo., in 2007. Right after settling in, he attended a "Speed Friending" event held by NJYP. "It's my favorite event because I made several friendships that night that I have to this day," he said.
In addition to meeting many friends, Spillane said he has been exposed to seeing a lot of New Jersey's sights. "I have networked and found people that added to my personal and professional life," he said. "The nice thing is there is something for everyone; the events go from hiking to making beer, from surfing to speed dating. They even allow for member-run events."
Occhipinti, who continues to expand into more New Jersey counties in order to create greater awareness of the group, said she believes there are three things people are looking for from NJYP. "One, I think is to make friends. Two, romance. A lot of people–singles–they say 'If I make friend great; romantically, great too.' The third is business tied to networking."
In the romance department, NJYP has already had success. "The first set of NJYP twins is due in December," said Occhipinti. "The couple met at an event, got married and are now expecting. There are countless babies and marriages out there."
For more information New Jersey Young Professionals and to find an event in your area, visit www.njyp.org.