VOL. 127 | NO. 35 | Tuesday, February 21, 2012
Instigators of Change
By Andy Meek
The Lipscomb Pitts Breakfast Club is an organization that defies a simple description.
Fariss Ivey, market development manager for Coca-Cola Co., introduces herself during a Female Business Leaders Lunch sponsored by the Lipscomb Pitts Breakfast Club last week at the Napa Cafe.
(Photo: Lance Murphey)
Is its purpose business networking? Community service? Career-building? Is it a civic booster, a promoter of nationally known speakers or a matchmaker between employees and employers?
The club is all of that, and more.
One additional descriptor of the organization is busy.
Last year, the club was involved in roughly 190 events. That includes the Lipscomb Pitts Breakfast Club radio show broadcast by KWAM 990 AM on Saturdays, which the breakfast club’s director Jeremy Park records earlier in the week with representatives of businesses and community groups as guests.
In 2012, Park expects the club to top 200 events.
And that still doesn’t encompass all of the club’s initiatives, such as a newsletter distributed to a mailing list each week or so that includes news, business updates and job postings, or the column Park writes each week for The Daily News called “Giving Back.”
Other initiatives include the club’s “Power of the Dollar” campaign, which is a Buy Local effort that promotes small and locally owned businesses.
“Our mission is to enrich business leaders and impact the community,” Park said. “And the beauty of it is, we’re a privately funded catalyst for the city. Consumers are increasingly now looking at corporate America to be part of the solution.”
Not surprisingly, the club’s efforts have resonated throughout the business community.
Its monthly breakfast that includes a visiting speaker routinely packs the Memphis Botanic Garden – and latecomers can usually expect to park in the garden’s overflow parking area and trek back to the facility.
The club also is at the forefront of change, of community service and is a powerful force for good. Over the past year, it’s done everything from spearheading efforts to clean up trash around McKellar Lake to hosting two Samaritans Feet shoe distributions.
“I hope our community realizes how fortunate we are to have the Lipscomb Pitts Breakfast Club and Jeremy Park in it,” said Michael Drake, the CEO of masterIT who’s long been involved with the club. “The club has evolved over the last six years into a catalyst to constantly spotlight and make good things happen in Memphis. I attribute a lot of that evolution to Jeremy Park.
“He is intensely passionate about serving others, and he has the background and talent to execute. Jeremy is the ultimate connector, facilitator and host. That’s something good in Memphis.”
Last year, 72 people got jobs thanks to the efforts of the club, primarily from its newsletter, according to Park. In addition, the 190 events in 2011 included 43 executive lunches, 28 lunch-and-learn seminars, eight signature breakfasts, eight receptions tied to those breakfasts, six female business leader lunches and more.
Park is known for having the boundless enthusiasm of an auctioneer mixed with the motivations of a civic champion. Memphis attorney Jenny Kiesewetter said Park never forgets a name or detail about someone’s business.
“He has also identified areas in Memphis where these business connections are not only needed but greatly appreciated on a deeper level, such as the (Breakfast Club’s) Female Business Leaders Lunch which was established and is currently run by Jeremy,” Kiesewetter said. “These lunches not only connect great women business leaders but identify successes, needs and other commonalities among these women in the business community. Jeremy has been able to tap into this on behalf of women, the brave man that he is, and has made this a huge success. I, for one, applaud him.”
Park said the club was started as part of what years ago was a national franchise of breakfast clubs around the country. After the local rights were purchased, Lipscomb Pitts Insurance chief manager Johnny Pitts got his company to put its weight behind the club’s local efforts, and Pitts approached his business friends such as Independent Bank co-founder Susan Stephenson and Kevin Adams, CEO of CB Richard Ellis – Memphis.
Eventually, Park was brought on board to direct the club’s efforts.
“Johnny and I sat down, we rewrote the business plan and said, ‘Here’s a rare opportunity to rewrite history,’” Park said. “To take what was once a simple organization focused on eight or nine breakfast events, pure networking, and transform it and make it 100 percent about using the potential of the partners to give back and make a difference in the community.”