by Alyssa Oursler
I met Mike Lewis (the creator of When to Jump) last fall at a coffeeshop in San Francisco. He asked me to watch his things while he went to spray paint a board—a board I would later learn was for an event he was putting on called "Jump Club." I had quit a desk job to be a freelance writer over a year before, so I connected immediately to the philosophy. But I was a sliver skeptical of the event (as most writers are of most things), worried it could end up feeling like a cheesy episode of Dr. Phil.
Of course, I went anyway and the first speaker, Kyle Battle, won over me (and the audience, I’m sure). His talk had spoken word poetry and sports—two of my favorite things. He told a story of being offered (and then un-offered) a job with the Detroit Lions. And it was confirmed: This wasn't going to be cliche. It wasn't some self-help bullshit.
The people on-stage weren't the only impressive ones, either. One of the break-out groups I attended was led by a woman who'd done conflict resolution in the Middle East and now worked doing cooperative discipline in San Francisco schools. Which brings me to the other thing I loved about the event: While the message and stories at the inaugural Jump Club were universal, there was still a uniquely San Francisco vibe.
Mike brought in some of the city’s most popular food vendors, for example, giving them each a few minutes to tell their "jump" stories before attendees dug into their specialties. Cool cities stay that way when people living in them do cool things. These stories are part of the city's story.
Smitten founder Robyn Sue Fisher was my personal favorite; I had recently interviewed her for a blog series (currently on hiatus) that showcased the origin stories of San Francisco small businesses. The point of the series was to remind folks "startups" have been around long before they became tech-y and trendy—a message that aligns seamlessly with Jump Club. Smitten, along with Souvla (who’s founder I interviewed as a result of the event), are two San Francisco staples.
Of course, tech’s presence in the Bay Area is undeniable as well—which is why having Sheryl Sandberg as a keynote was natural and inspiring.
Despite growing up on the east coast, I don’t know New York City all that well. I mean, I know everyone from Jay-Z to Taylor Swift loves it enough to write songs about it. But why?
When I realized I’d be back east at the same time Mike was putting on Jump Club II, I was stoked. I wouldn’t just have the chance to meet more awesome people, but I’d get to see New York from a new vantage point.
Instead of Sheryl Sandberg, New York’s event will have Kate Siegel, the creator of Crazy Jewish Mom—an Instagram account that my friends and I share and laugh at regularly. Just at a glance, having a new media star on-stage seems to fit New York perfectly. But I'm most excited to go deeper. Cacao Prieto, Birch Coffee, Inday and Sweet Loren’s are just a few of the food vendors participating, while Jesse Israel (creator the large-scale meditation org The Big Quiet) and Kunle Oladehin (creator of Everybody Dance Now!) will also take the stage. And I have little doubt the audience will be just as impressive.
If you're in the area, Jump Club II—Saturday, April 29th in Brooklyn—should be on your calendar. Maybe you’ll leave reassured of an idea you’ve been sitting with. Maybe you’ll leave with a new idea. Maybe you’ll leave with the business card of a future co-founder. Or maybe you’ll just leave with new music and a new favorite place to grab a snack.
Based on my experience in San Francisco, I'm willing to bet you'll leave with more than one thing from that list, though—and a new appreciation for the self-starters you're surrounded by.
Alyssa Oursler is a freelance writer. You can find her on Twitter: @alyssaoursler.
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