LEMOORE — Amy Ward, CEO of small business consulting company Sparc!, and Dusty Ference, executive director of the Kings County Farm Bureau, met for coffee in December and got to talking about what they would like to see for the future of Kings County.
During their discussion, Ward and Ference came to the conclusion that there is no group in Kings County for the 40-ish and under crowd of professionals. Ward and Ference continued to talk about this idea and finally decided to start a group for young professionals. Hence, Kings Young Professionals was borne.
The goals of the group are for the professionals to network, share ideas and thoughts and learn leadership skills. The group has had a few steering committee meetings to determine what direction it would like to take in the future, and now has a May 3 date for its first ever mixer at Farmer’s Fury in Lemoore.
Lemoore Chamber of Commerce CEO Jenny MacMurdo was also part of the initial talks and is part of the steering committee that has met about once a month for the past few months. She said the committee has come up with a few solid ideas, like giving members of the group certain discounts if they are also a part of the Chamber of Commerce or Farm Bureau.
MacMurdo said there are people who actively seek networking groups because they are new to the area; a lot of the time they are family of military personnel coming from Lemoore Naval Air Station. She wants the group to be able to offer these up-and-coming professionals the tools they need to thrive in the county.
MacMurdo said she hopes the first mixer brings people who aren’t necessarily business owners or managers, but people who work for other people and are looking for guidance and education in how to work their way up in the professional world.
“It’s about bringing the community together in a positive way,” MacMurdo said about one goal of the group.
Ference said the group has gotten good interest and feedback and he’s excited about the opportunity to get people together and show them there are other like-minded people in Kings County. The first mixer would just be a chance to get to know other professionals and bounce ideas off each other.
“We’re doing a lot of this on kind of a shoestring budget,” Ference said. “But, it’s exciting to see how much excitement is out there for this.”
Ward said she doesn’t want people to think that just because they are in a certain industry that they can’t be a part of Kings Young Professionals. She encourages anyone who is looking to grow in their particular industry, whether it is agriculture, finance, retail, nonprofit, or anything else, to see what the group can do for them.
“What we realized is we’re losing a lot of people to other areas because we don’t really have a good networking group,” Ward said, adding larger cities have networking groups that draw talented people in and away from the Valley.
Ward said the group is still working out plan details and how often the group would meet, but she does know the group would like to hold regular networking opportunities for those involved and also provide leadership training opportunities at least four times a year for members.
“I think this is the community’s opportunity — especially for young professionals — to step up and help make Kings County what it can be,” Ward said.
At this point in time, Ward and Ference said they are very open to anyone who comes to them with ideas for the future of the group. Ward said she wants people to be engaged in the community and start conversations that show the Central Valley has a lot to offer in terms of jobs, growth and opportunities.
“There’s so much in Kings County that people don’t know about,” Ference said. “So come out and learn about why you want to live here, work here, start a business here and why you want to lead this community in the future.”
“The more people that we have giving us ideas and helping us, the bigger and better this is going to become,” Ward said. “If nothing else, come out to just have some fun and be a part of the conversation.”