West Virginia Executive Summer 2014 - Page 97

[ happy hour ] Finding What WorX Morgantown Social NetworX is Connecting a City Morgantown’s locals are reaching out and getting connected through events collectively called Morgantown Social NetworX, or MSNX. The group has monthly, happy hour-based events in venues throughout the Morgantown area that allow for attendees to meet new people while experiencing the best the city has to offer. The group’s coordinator, Mary Lynn Ulch, is a full-time employee at the West Virginia University (WVU) Foundation, but she has invested her spare time in creating a community that allows residents in the area to connect. Ulch was born in Morgantown but moved to Orlando, FL at a young age. She found herself back in the Mountain State numerous times since then—attending WVU and visiting family—before making Morgantown her home in 2011. In a way, MSNX began long before Ulch knew she would find herself back in West Virginia; she has been coordinating networking events for years. In 2002, Ulch was living in Phoenix, AZ, and her single girlfriends wanted to meet some single males. “Initially, my plan was to host a happy hour for these friends to all meet in a group setting at a local bar or restaurant without any formality,” she says. “As the evening was ending, many asked for the date of the next event. I figured it was simple to do, and I would plan them monthly.” That format is the same one that Ulch used to start up MSNX in July 2012 at Mountain State Brewing Company, both for her benefit as someone new in town and for locals and restaurants in the area. “Invitations for the first event were distributed by email, with 35 attending,” says Ulch. “The distribution list grew, and I decided to start using Evite. Since it is free, it allows me to keep the emails private and track RSVPs. I also created fliers to be shared at various locations.” Since its beginning in 2012, MSNX’s distribution list has grown to 600 for the Where It’s At The Morgantown Social NetworX (MSNX) events are becoming so popular that Ulch doesn’t have to seek out great locations for the monthly events like she used to—now, they contact her. These Morgantown businesses have hosted or will host an MSNX event: Bartini Big Whiskey Dance Hall & Saloon Black Bear Burritos Café Bacchus Iron Horse Tavern Jameson’s Pub & Eatery Lebanese Bistro The Montmartre Morgantown Brewing Company Mountain State Brewing Co. Oliverio’s Ristorante Pies & Pints The Rat Pack Lounge Regatta Bar & Grille RockTop Lounge Sargasso Table 9 Tin 202 The Vintage Room The Wine Bar at Vintner Valley Yesterday’s Restaurant Bar and Grille events that are held monthly on Thursday evenings from 5-8 p.m. Ulch has reached out to many bars and restaurants in Morgantown since the start, and now, the venue-operators from around the area are reaching out to her. In February 2014, Dub V Nightlife, a Web site that promotes the nightlife in Morgantown, began featuring MSNX events on their site, as well as through their social media presence. Growth for MSNX also means a more exciting payoff for attendees. With attendance as high as 90 individuals, the group benefits locals in more ways than one. Community businesses have begun featuring giveaways and door prizes at the events, and the attendees have been able to build their personal networks for friendships, dating and business. “As a younger business professional, I have attended several different networking events to help grow my business practice,” says Christopher Phillips, an agent with New York Life Insurance. “I have found other events to be a bit too formal. I look forward to the MSNX happy hour events each month because there always tends to be a good mix of both older and younger working professionals from the area, and it is a very relaxed atmosphere, which makes it easy to meet new contacts.” Ulch loves seeing the networking that occurs at each event. “The concept has a grassroots feel and is simple in nature,” she says. “Most people ask, ‘Why are you doing this?’ Simply put: I love Morgantown, and I wanted to support local business. Local business has been a key to Morgantown’s success, and I feel it is important to support them.” Each event is promoted through email distribution and the Morgantown Social NetworX Facebook page, which can be found at www.facebook.com/MorgantownSocialNetworX. The calendar for 2014 includes monthly events on September 11, October 16, November 13 and December 4. Ulch works to make information available through social media that is frequently updated, as well as encouraging any and all feedback for each gathering. At the end of the day, Ulch just wants to do her part to achieve something beneficial for the community. “I am extremely excited by the growth of Morgantown. I fell in love with it because of the small town appeal, energy of the university and the city’s natural beauty. West Virginia, Morgantown and West Virginia University are in my blood.”  By Amy Arnett www.wvexecutive.com summer 2014 97