Mammoth’s business leaders of tomorrow may be overwhelmingly female.
The Mammoth Lakes Young Professionals Group was founded almost three years ago with the intention of hosting regular events to provide networking opportunities, the chance to meet new people, and become more involved with the community. Since then, the original leadership of the group has all moved on for a variety of reasons and events have become intermittent. However, Caroline Casey, Event Production Manager for MMSA and Aleksandra Gajewski, Marketing Director for the Mammoth Lakes Foundation, have recently revived the group.
The group “is a way to be a part of the community and become more familiar with our town – more than just your core group of people,” Gajewski said. The group targets year-round residents of Mammoth but is not exclusive in any way.
Although the group’s name has “young” in the title, Gajewski said “Being young isn’t measured in terms of age. It’s about where you are in your professional career. If you just started a business, you’re young. And these days people have multiple careers.”
“It’s about innovative thinking,” Casey piped in. “Our meetings are open to the public regardless of age or career. And we’re always open to suggestions.”
“In terms of using the title professional, it was a way to filter out people who aren’t serious about their career,” Gajewski said. “There’s people who stay a couple of seasons and leave and then there are people who stay one season and fall in love with it.”
Casey and Gajewski are currently focused on building a “loyal base of people who know each other” and as part of their winter plan, they held the first installment of “Don’t get left out in the cold” lecture series on Monday at Stellar Brew. “It’s a hard town to live in and make a career in,” Gajewski said. “People usually have to leave the establishment they are working for and create something new. But every business has a story and we’re hoping this will shed some light on the process.”
Camille Miller of Mammoth Fun Shop, and Andrea Walker, owner of Stellar Brew, shared their experience and advice about starting businesses in Mammoth.
Miller, 38, opened the Fun Shop in April after working in commercial real estate and designing her own toy line. She advised the small crowd to “do one thing every day that scares you. Dumb things daunt us, but doing the hard things teaches us lessons.”
Miller said she experiences “oscillating levels of terror” running her business and nothing is predictable. She’s in the store everyday, listening to customers and thinking of new ways to do things. Still, she also advised young professionals to “invest in personal relationships more than your business pursuits” and “grow yourself everyday” by doing something outside of work. “You don’t think you have time, but you do,” she said.
Walker, who recently was elected to the Board at the Chamber of Commerce, said she’s excited about the “young energy” in the business community. “There’s more of a push for change and connectivity.”
She talked about her experience going from a typical Mammoth employee with three or four jobs to a business owner. “I had a whole hell of a good time in the past but I guess now I’m becoming a professional,” she said. “I created a place that I wanted to go to. It’s a little building with big dreams.”
With “daddy’s help” and “community support,” Walker started Stellar Brew in spite of the widespread sentiment that she was “never going to make it.” She started with little knowledge of business: “At first I didn’t understand why I had to pay taxes [or] what a merchant services account was,” she said. “And I’ve had to learn to save the money we make in August for December.”
The volatility of the economy in Mammoth “messes with business plans,” Walker said. She advised young professionals to “walk through doors that open” and “pursue opportunities that present themselves…and, yeah, don’t be scared.”
A quick scan of the room showed the small group was 90 percent female. Mammoth is known to have an uneven gender ratio, with the amount of men far outnumbering women, so it was surprising to see the opposite true at the young professionals meeting. Sandra DiDomizio of Green Fox Events said she’s noticed more and more female business owners in town, although Gajewski said the events are typically more diverse.
Regardless if you’re male or female, young or just young in your career, get involved with the Mammoth Lakes Young Professionals Group on Facebook and find out more about future events, including an upcoming ski crawl in January.