• April 2019

Celebrating a milestone
Young Professionals Network marks 10-year anniversary

By Kayla Huizing,
Sioux Falls Area Chamber of Commerce


The Young Professionals Network is celebrating its 10-year anniversary. The YPN, a program of the Sioux Falls Area Chamber of Commerce, officially launched in April 2009. Over the course of the last decade, the YPN has helped develop and connect nearly 3,000 members.

The formation of YPN was the result of the hard work of a group of dedicated individuals. In 2008, the Chamber's Board of Directors identified a need to create a space for young professionals to build connections and engage in the community. A startup team was gathered to help launch YPN. Steffanie Liston-Holtrop, owner of Hood Parenting Magazine and MED Medical Magazine, and Tim Schut, Vice President of Private Banking and Wealth Management at First PREMIER Bank, served as co-chairs of the startup team. "I had mentioned how scary the Mixers can be for young professionals when you don't know anyone," Liston-Holtrop recalled. "The Chamber let me know they were starting a committee for young professionals and asked me if I would like to be a part of it."

Eighteen people agreed to serve on the startup team. They represented a variety of industries and backgrounds. The group was tasked with developing a structure and programming for the new YPN program. Liston-Holtrop noted that despite many of the team members meeting for the first time, everyone jumped in and did what needed to be done to accomplish their goal. "There were only a few of us, so we had to wear many hats. It allowed me to meet so many amazing people and learn about their work and their businesses," she said.

Once a program of work was in place, the group began preparing for a launch party to be held in April 2009. The party was held at Cherapa Place, which had just opened two years earlier. The startup team didn't know how many people to expect and were pleasantly surprised when the party had to be moved outdoors because so many attended. "I remember standing up there with Tim Schut and both of us were in such awe," said Liston-Holtop. "It was then we knew how much we really needed an organization like YPN in Sioux Falls. The first year was amazing. So many young professionals stepped up and wanted to help out on different committees and events."

Following the launch, YPN grew quickly, reaching over 400 members in its first year. One of the signature events included a round table lunch with a prominent leader in our community called "A Seat at the Table" – an event that remains one of the YPN's most popular offerings. Other events included workshops on topics relevant to young professionals, Off the Clock socials at different Chamber member establishments and other annual events such as the Kringle Holiday Party and the YPN Golf Tournament. YPN's largest event, the Crossroads Summit, began in 2011 and since then has been held every other year.

Events are the backbone of YPN's programming, but it is the relationships members build by participating that are the key to success. Marty DesLauriers joined YPN in 2011. "My involvement with YPN provided access to many leadership opportunities and, more importantly, got me in the room with the right people to prove my ability to lead," he said.

DesLauriers started on the marketing subcommittee, which led to other positions on the YPN Steering Committee. He now serves on the Chamber's Board of Directors. DesLauriers said, "When you are in a leadership position with the Chamber, you actually get to focus on leading the group to a greater mission rather than being bogged down in all the details, which has been a very important part in my own personal development."

The YPN Steering Committee is currently chaired by Brittany Kelley Elsasser, MetaBank. She expects that YPN will continue to have a big impact on the community in the future. "YPN being more involved in community and policy issues, being more informed about what is going on in our community and being able to help, voice our concerns, and most important getting educated on the issues to be a more informed citizen."

In the 10 years since YPN was formed, its goal has remained the same: to develop and connect young professionals through a variety of professional development and social events. YPN is accomplishing this, said Liston-Holtrop. "I really wanted to make a difference for future young professionals. I remember it being so hard to network and find ways to grow myself and my company. I think it is one of the things the YPN has done a great job at."

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