There is just something about jump-starting the day with a shot of inspiration. The 10th anniversary YP Summit delivered on March 5 with a live band, a beatboxing “call to order,” some laughs, some tears and plenty of positive energy – and that was only the first 90 minutes. 

“This is going to be a crazy-fun event,” said master of ceremonies DeWayne (D-Wayne) Taylor, beatboxer and public speaker.

“It’s focused on you today, the attendee. We hope you find lots of ways to engage and be inspired,” said Sarah Tucker who co-chaired and kicked off the Summit with Kenley Sturdivant-Wilson.

The first course of inspiration arrived just after scrambled eggs and gluten-free muffins. In a break from tradition, the Summit opened in earnest with a “keynote conversation” between guest speakers Shabnam Mogharabi, CEO and executive producer of SoulPancake, and Baratunde Thurston, CEO and co-founder of Cultivated Wit.  

While the two creative-executives interacted with each other and detailed their personal journeys, a message emerged about following one’s passions.

“Why can’t I be part of it? Why can’t I find a way? … I know I can contribute to this so why don’t I find a way?” said Mogharabi, recalling how she decided to get involved with SoulPancake, a digital media company that meshed with her passion for inspirational, spiritual and joyful content.

She said, “Inspirational content is extremely powerful. I think it truly has the power to change the way we look at everything. Right now, I think there is a huge shift happening online away from negativity and towards positivity.”

Thurston, for his part, was working as a strategic consultant for the telecom industry when his then-wife pushed him into pursuing his passion for writing and humor.

“Once I started accepting and embracing this part of me, I started seeing all these opportunities that were always there,” he told the crowd of almost 1500, the second largest Summit attendance in its history. 

With a first name that means “one who is chosen,” Thurston said he believes he is “chosen to communicate ideas effectively. Listen to the world, translate things and put them back out there in a way that folks might actually want to hear them.”

Designed to connect, engage and inspire young professionals and business and community leaders, the Summit – the largest young professionals event in the region – focused on the theme “CORE! Develop You. Develop Us. Develop Growth.” After breakfast, attendees dispersed into a daylong series of breakout sessions, which encouraged them to:

  • Benefit from professional development and relationship building (Develop You) 
  • Learn how to contribute to the Greater Omaha community, create impactful partnerships and implement innovative ideas (Develop Us)
  • Explore ways to harness the power of STEAM (science, technology, engineering, arts and math) and impact growth in the region (Develop Growth) 

The Summit concluded as it began with another dose of inspiration – this time from author and closing speaker Frank Warren, founder of PostSecret. The wildly-popular project, based on anonymous secrets, has evolved into a website viewed almost 700 million times, museum exhibitions and six books. Warren left attendees with a collection of wise words, including:

  • “At times, it’s the smallest things we do that can save someone’s life.”
  • “We earn our soul through suffering.”
  • “We’re all part of something bigger, and we’re part of it together.”

The first Summit in 2005 drew 200 attendees. How the event – and the impact of local young professionals – has grown over the years did not go unheralded.

“I remember, eleven years ago, when we first started talking about the Young Professionals Council,” recalled Chamber President and CEO David G. Brown. “Six of your colleagues met with then-Chamber Chairperson Linda Lovgren and me and said, ‘There’s a whole lot of us who would love to get more engaged in our community and the Chamber, but we just don’t know how to do it.’ … Look what you did!”

Clark Lauritzen, executive vice president of First National Bank, also addressed the Summit crowd. He carries the distinction of being the first young professional to chair the Chamber Board.

“What you do matters. What you’re doing today matters. People are listening,” he said. “I can tell you at the Chamber, we absolutely listen to the young professionals to help shape our agenda and our public policy initiatives. It really is making a difference.”

Omaha Mayor Jean Stothert echoed those sentiments: “I am continually impressed with the work the young professionals do in our community and with our local government. You are involved; you are engaged. I see you sitting on local boards and being advocates for our community.”

The YP Summit is presented by the Greater Omaha Young Professionals, a program of the Greater Omaha Chamber. Creighton University Heider College of Business, a program partner of the Greater Omaha Young Professionals, is the Summit lead sponsor.