HomeBlocksFront-GridOn The Town: Young Professionals Group a Networking Hit

On The Town: Young Professionals Group a Networking Hit

Ellen Rahak of Run Out Groove Records, local artist Lena Merl, and Ali Bodager, executive director of Burbank-based Jacaranda Housing, were among those mixing, mingling and networking.

It was a full house at the Burbank Chamber of Commerce as the Burbank Young Professionals presented a Saint Patrick’s Day-themed open-house mixer for members and potential members alike this past week.
The organization’s chairperson, Ryan Chatterton, used his opening remarks to update members on what the group has been working on and has planned for the future. He also encouraged nonmembers to get involved no matter what their age.
“Yes, we are called Burbank Young Professionals, but we give a tremendous amount of leeway when it comes to the word ‘young.’ We welcome people of all ages who are young at heart and want to connect with, empower and inspire people who can be of help to you in your career or business,” said Chatterton.
Among the special guests at last week’s event were the organization’s co-founders, Romik Hacobian and Max Lopez.
Five years ago, BYP was the brainchild of Hacobian, who based the idea on a model created by the Glendale Chamber of Commerce.
Serving as an ambassador for the Burbank Chamber, Hacobian noticed there were no young people at any of that group’s mixers or networking events. He mentioned that concern to then-Chamber CEO Tom Flavin, who explained that since the Burbank Junior Chamber of Commerce was dissolved, his organization rarely saw involvement with young people.
Determined to change that dynamic, Hacobian sought out people working in Burbank by means of social media, placed fliers in the Magnolia Park and downtown Burbank business districts, and literally knocked on doors of businesses to introduce himself.
That work resulted in the establishment of BYP, which first formally met in October 2018, with more than 90 people in attendance.
Since that time the group has grown and, along with providing networking opportunities, has participated in numerous acts of community service. It sponsored a candidate forum and town hall meeting during Burbank’s last municipal campaign and has collaborated with numerous nonprofit organizations on various projects.
Along with community outreach, another positive thing that has come out of BYP is how it has impacted the lives of young people who have been involved. One in particular is Lopez, who worked with Hacobian to see the group come to fruition.
Lopez addressed last week’s gathering, noting that he had a hard time making it in the animation business when he first came to Burbank.
“When I started out, I had no idea who to talk to or what to do,” Lopez explained. “In a world where we all live online, we forget how vital it is to have the opportunity to be face to face with one another, to get out, meet new people and spend time together.
“That has a tangible effect on establishing relationships and resources to benefit us and our businesses,” added Lopez, who today owns a company with more than 35 employees. His company, Apartment D, does stop-motion animation for the Pleasant Co., which manufactures the American Girl doll, and for Mattel products such as Barbie and Hot Wheels.
“Providing the opportunity to make personal contacts and build relationships is our mission and our success story,” said Lopez, who explained how his participation in BYP has helped him meet people he would have never had the chance to meet and do things he would have never had the opportunity to do, including working with former Mayor Bob Frutos on his State of the City presentation.
“I have become involved in my community through BYP,” said Lopez. “At my company, we do a lot of work with toys throughout the year, and by virtue of connections I have made I have been put in touch with organizations that make it possible for us to donate those toys to children for the holidays. I have become Santa, which is now something that is the highlight of my year.”
The formal segment of last week’s open house concluded with David Knight — president of Angel City Data and a member of the Burbank Chamber of Commerce’s executive committee — lauding the work of BYP.
“The Burbank Young Professionals started out as the little brother to the Burbank Chamber of Commerce,” said Knight. “But as the years have gone by, the little brother has many times taken the lead and become vitally important to the big brother. When they first started out some of us just thought of them as the young hippies, but now they have, by all means, become the cool kids. They have given young people a path to get involved, have their voices heard, and become a valuable part of our community and its future.”
For information on becoming a member of Burbank Young Professionals, visit burbankyp.com.

David Laurell may be reached at dlaurell@aol.com or (818) 563-1007.

Burbank Young Professionals co-founders Romik Hacobian and Max Lopez flank their “big brother” David Knight at last week’s open house.
Enjoying an evening of meeting Burbank Young Professionals of all ages are Arda Tchakian, who serves as district representative for state Sen. Anthony Portantino, and public relations specialist Cynthia Wagner.
Among those in attendance at last week’s BYP event were Burbank Cultural Arts Commission members Cynthia Pease and Lusine Simonyan-Hacobian.

First published in the March 25 print issue of the Burbank Leader.

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