The inaugural Coffee ‘n Connections get-together at Queen City Bakery, in October 2018. (Photo: Submitted / Fresh Impact)
After a successful career in nursing and overcoming a critical cancer diagnosis, Kim VanderPoel found herself part of a women’s group focused on encouraging them to live within their priorities.
“I had only been given a 30 percent chance to live, so I sort of asked myself, ‘What do I want to do when I grow up?’” she said.
The group offered a social media management class, and it was there that VanderPoel discovered a skill set she hadn’t been using as a nurse.
Five years ago, she turned that skill into a part-time gig, and it quickly grew into her business, Fresh Impact. After just two years, the social media management company became her full-time job.
But what VanderPoel didn’t expect when she dove into self-employment was the loss of community.
“I wasn’t prepared for the isolation of working from home,” she said. “I had always worked on a team where I was talking to people.”
It was this craving for connection that drove her to initiate the first Coffee n Connections event back in October 2018.
“I was noticing a huge need for women to be able to connect in an informal setting,” she said. “There are lots of networking events out there, but it’s all about showcasing ourselves and always being on.”
VanderPoel wanted women to be able to sit down and connect, “kind of like the old quilting bees.”
Meet-ups tailored to fit needs of women
What began as a monthly event quickly turned biweekly after VanderPoel saw the interest and demand from attendees. Her very first event saw between 20 and 30 attendees.
Coffee n Connections meets every other Thursday, beginning at 8:00 a.m. It takes place at Queen City Bakery, in downtown Sioux Falls, a spot VanderPoel says is very accommodating and supportive of the group.
She chose to host it in the morning, after considering the schedules of many working women.
“I’d been to several different community wide networking events that were heavily male, and I started asking myself why,” VanderPoel said.
She concluded that the events, many of which are scheduled for late afternoon or evening, often conflict with women who have to pick kids up from school or be available at home later in the day.
While Coffee n Connections officially begins at 8:00 a.m. and runs until 9:30 a.m., VanderPoel says women are welcome to arrive when they can, or come and go.
What to expect at Coffee ‘n Connections
VanderPoel stresses that the event is casual and informal.
At some point during the conversation, introductions will occur, as well as an opportunity to exchange business cards.
“Some people do talk about their businesses, but we didn’t want it to be a pitch fest,” she said.
When it comes to who should attend, VanderPoel believes the event serves a very specific need of the small business owner.
Women have a unique need for connection, she says, and if you work in a traditional office setting, you likely feed that desire around the breakroom coffee pot.
That being said, the event is welcoming to women across the Sioux Falls community.
“We have independent business owners, people that work for businesses, people that do MLM marketing, and people that are considering starting a business,” she said. “The only requirement is that you’re a woman.”
Ultimately, she says, you’ll get out of it what you put into it. Some treat it like networking, but VanderPoel believes the women who benefit most are those who view it simply as an opportunity for connection and friendship.
“There’s usually 20 different conversations going on, and you just find the one you want to be a part of,” said VanderPoel.
If you’re a woman seeking community, encouragement, and empowerment from fellow female business owners and creative minds, Coffee n Connections is the place to start.
Two Things You Can Do This Week:
- Search for the event, “Coffee n Connections” on Facebook, and mark yourself “Interested,” to stay in the loop;
- Tell a female friend or colleague, who might be interested in attending, about the next event.
This article was produced by Startup Sioux Falls and syndicated by the Sioux Falls Business Journal. Startup Sioux Falls is a digital hub that aims to connect the communities, companies and non-profits that make up Sioux Falls’ startup ecosystem.
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