With a transition in leadership in the mix, a still-budding network for young professional in Kansas City — and beyond — is just getting started tapping into its potential, The Loop KC’s founder said.
“Nothing is really by young people, for young people. Networking groups can be exclusive or cost too much for some people to be a part of,” said Emerson Hodes, detailing how the groups aims to bring value to its growing roster of members.
Hodes began the peer networking group in January 2019 in Kansas City, intending to build friendships with a group of motivated, business-driven millennials and Gen-Zers.
“When you get to the point where you can do business with people from the group, you can look back on this as a group of friends and not just networking connections,” said Hodes. “We’re trying to get past that surface level of networking.”
Additional chapters have already launched in two other cities: Scottsdale, Arizona, and Des Moines, Iowa, in 2021. Next: The Loop ATX in Austin, Texas, is joining the network and with plans to host its first recruiting event this month.
With its expansion, the group has grown to nearly 500 members — 150 in Kansas City.
“We just want to make sure that we’re building up all of our members along the way, professionally, socially, and community wise,” Hodes said. “That’s something that’s easily replicable.”
Keeping roots in KC
Focused on growing The Loop’s footprint to new cities and regions, Hodes recently appointed Christopher Stibbs, who joined The Loop KC in 2021, to the new role of president of the organization.
“This opportunity recognizes that Emerson’s schedule is busy,” said Stibbs. “And also that — although we are expanding — we still want to deepen our roots in Kansas City.”
Since assuming the position, Stibbs has significantly reorganized The Loop, overseeing changes in membership, refining the interview process, and improving event planning and execution, he said.
Motivated by The Loop KC’s impact on his own life, Stibbs believes his leadership at the organization marks a full circle moment.
“The people I’ve met here have become some of my best friends,” he said. “They’ve become supporters of my work, and I’ve become supporters of them.”
“It really has become a pivotal part of not only professional development, but my personal development,” Stibbs added
Building genuine relationships
The Loop puts forming long-lasting relationships between its members at the forefront, said Hodes.
“How do you build genuine friendships?” he asked. “You bring the same people together over and over and over again.”
The group’s recent marquee events have included fireside chats on topics like artificial intelligence and panels with speakers like Katherine Holland, executive director of KC2026, and Kathy Nelson, president and CEO of the KC Sports Commission, discussing sports and economic development.
The Loop also hosts quarterly happy hours for social connections and professional growth.
“It’s about finding that balance between building friendships and having fun, but also doing business and growing our skills and leadership,” said Stibbs.
Members are required to contribute to the community by serving on boards or actively volunteering with a nonprofit at least once a quarter. Stibbs, for example, also serves as the Vice President of Development at the local domestic violence shelter, Newhouse KC.
“We want to make sure our members are very well rounded, professionally, socially, and also philanthropically,” said Hodes.
Loopalooza, KC as the next recruitment hub
“This is the next booming city for young professionals,” said Hodes.
Noting growing eyeballs on the city with the coming World Cup, expansion of the KC Streetcar, the potential for a new Royals stadium and ballpark district, and the Chiefs’ latest Super Bowl run, Hodes said the time to advance The Loop is now.
“My ultimate goal with this expansion of the group is to have an event here where we bring young professionals from across the country, as a recruitment tool for Kansas City, putting the city on the map,” he said.
Hodes envisions “Loopalooza,” a Kansas-City based business and music festival for all of The Loop members nationwide. The event would feature workshops, networking, and noteworthy speakers — along with turning into a mini music festival on Saturday night.
To bring the idea to fruition, Hodes plans to grow The Loop to 1000 members nationally this year, focused on expanding to cities like Austin, Denver, and Nashville.
“I’m most proud that this doesn’t just work in Kansas City, there’s a need and an ability for this to be across the country,” he said.