VOL. 129 | NO. 146 | Tuesday, July 29, 2014
By Andy Meek
When Patrick Woods and three colleagues decided to launch a social organization to connect young professionals in Memphis, the name they gave it reflected the similarity of its demographic to a particular flow of water that moves beneath the surface, one that’s unwise to ignore.
Undercurrent is an event series for young professionals that launched a year ago this month. It’s grown from small gatherings to large events with an average of about 250 people who come to enjoy food, drinks and each other’s company.
Their brainchild was Undercurrent, an event series that launched a year ago this month and has grown from small gatherings to bona fide bashes that pack the house with an average of about 250 people who come to enjoy food, drinks and each other’s company.
Woods is the director of the division at archer-malmo that invests in digital startups, and working with three archer-malmo colleagues – Dan Price, Richie Weaver and Rachel Smith – the monthly event series they launched just celebrated its year anniversary with a party July 21 at Felicia Suzanne’s. The gathering ran from 8 p.m. till midnight and attracted about 320 people.
Looking at the entire year of events Undercurrent has hosted since its launch, the series has so far connected more than 2,500 creative professionals, entrepreneurs, nonprofit leaders and other engaged Memphians. That’s the kind of thing that’s led the team behind Undercurrent to believe they’re on the right track and to plan for another equally strong, well-attended year.
In fact, a reflection of the event’s popularity can be seen in how it’s in danger of outgrowing many of the most obvious venues available for its events as a result of the robust attendance.
“For the first event at Local in Midtown a year ago, we had 90 to 100 people, friends we’d cajoled into coming,” Woods said. “It quickly blossomed from our immediate network to people we’d never met, people who were new to Memphis and people interested in networking and making connections.”
Undercurrent makes it easy to do all of that. The setting is a different local bar, restaurant, event space or unusual venue each time, and the whole thing is funded by sponsorship from businesses and other organizations around the city.
Undercurrent also is about more than the monthly events. It also produces Ignite Memphis, an event series built around enlisting presenters to make timed, slide-based presentations about a range of topics.
“We just want people to make new connections at Undercurrent,” Price said. “And we’ve found that attendees are making new friends, finding jobs, and even dating as a result of the events. There are no speeches, programming, or agenda, just an environment where good things organically happen.”
Woods, 30, said he came to Memphis four years ago and, at the time, found culture in general on the rise and a general positive sentiment among 20- and 30-somethings. He arrived at a theory: that if a group, like Undercurrent, could curate a series of high-quality events, young professionals looking to connect with people like themselves might be interested in something like that.
“One of the things we tell people when they get there is, ‘Thanks for coming. All we ask is that you make a new friend tonight,’” Woods said. “Our recipe for success will be to maintain the events we have with great food in a great atmosphere where people can connect.
“As the name reflects, there’s this idea that there’s a group of young people in Memphis who love the city, who are active and engaged. And Memphis is a place where there’s an undercurrent about that ethos, where people are making connections and doing great things.”