2023: Year of the young professional in Rowan County
Published 12:00 am Saturday, March 4, 2023
Editor’s note: Mollie Ruf wrote this for “Your Rowan,” which was created to support Rowan County initiatives and to maximize the county’s overall brand equity. Its purpose is to embody the values, aspirations, interests, attitudes and culture of Rowan County. Your Rowan is a way for residents and visitors to share stories and be informed about the unique assets that make the county a great place to live, learn, work and play.
SALISBURY — One of the most challenging things about relocating to a new city for a new job opportunity, besides the obvious of finding a place to live and unpacking all those boxes, is making new friends. This can be especially difficult for introverts. It can be an intimidating task to venture out on your own in your new surroundings. A great way to break out of your isolation is to start exploring your hobbies, volunteering with local organizations, and networking with various groups. Luckily, if you’re a young professional between the ages of 21 and 45 living in or moving to Rowan County, North Carolina there’s a warm, welcoming group ready to greet you and connect you to potential friends.
My name is Mollie Ruf and I chair the Rowan Young Professionals which is a program of the Rowan County Chamber of Commerce. I know first-hand what it’s like to be a newcomer to this community because I moved here in 2009 after graduating college in Florida. Originally from Missouri, the only person I knew in the immediate area when I relocated was my now husband. It was a tough time to find a job in my field because of the Great Recession, and I remember feeling utterly lost and alone. Nearly 14 years later, it has been a very long time since I’ve felt that way thanks to all the connections I’ve made over the years, but it is the memory of those first-year feelings that has driven me to be so passionate about ensuring there is a vibrant and thriving group for young professionals in Rowan County.
Although it is a chamber program, you do not have to be a chamber member to participate in young professional events. This is a very intentional decision as we want the group to remain accessible. Many of our events are free to attend thanks to generous sponsors. Over the years there have been various renditions of a young professional’s group, but since a group of us relaunched it in 2019 momentum has quietly been building.
At the start of 2023, it became quickly apparent that momentum was starting to pick up speed. It all started with the announcement of the first-ever Young Professional of the Year award presented at the Rowan Chamber’s 97th Annual Meeting, a blinged-out affair with all the top movers and shakers in Rowan in attendance. I was honored to be the lucky recipient of this inaugural award, and ever since there has been an outpouring of interest in the group from various potential sponsors, organizations wanting to partner, and new young professionals joining our ranks.
With so many exciting prospects for Rowan Young Professionals on the horizon, and increased interest and demand for events, I am officially declaring 2023 as the Year of the Young Professional in Rowan County, North Carolina.
Commandeering the Young Professionals and Making It Our Own
The summer of 2019, I distinctly remember attending a Kannapolis Intimidators baseball game (now the Kannapolis Cannon Ballers). I was there manning a booth promoting why Rowan County is a great place to live, work, and play for Your Rowan (Rowan County’s marketing campaign). The crowd at the booth had thinned out so I started shooting the breeze with Alyssa Smith Harris who is now the Director of the Rowan Public Health Department. As we are both young professionals, we somehow found ourselves on that topic and agreed that it was vitally important to the future of Rowan County that the group be re-energized. So, we made a plan then and there, to, for lack of a better word, commandeer the group and make it what it should be. We hosted a handful of events before we were thwarted by the virus that shall not be named, and we looked for ways to still offer connections in 2020, but it was a struggle.
That all started to change the summer of 2021. We launched a networking event series called Live After 5 where young professionals could meet up weekly after work at City Tavern in Downtown Salisbury. There was magic in the air that summer, specifically with a group of young professional women. Many of us had felt isolated the previous year, and there were several newcomers to Rowan during the pandemic and they didn’t know anyone. Everyone was eager to connect and feel “normal” again. Lasting friendships were made, and we continued to strengthen those relationships the following year. As a group, we decided to increase the age limit from 40 to 45 after many discussions on how several of us felt our early career growth was stunted because of the previously mentioned recession. Now we have a great, diverse group of young professionals who actively support each other. Whether it be celebrating accolades, career advice, or even looking for tips about the best services in town, there’s always some topic of discussion on our official Facebook Group.
What Rowan Young Professionals Means to Our Members
“I found and joined Young Professionals a little over a year ago via Facebook, and I can’t say enough about how welcoming the group has been,” said Dillon Brewer, Alderman for the Town of Rockwell and president of Cheer City Riot. “Socially and professionally, I’ve benefited from all the relationships and friendships I’ve formed. My favorite part of the group is the unique experiences and events that are offered. For me particularly the Dragon Boat Festival and the Live After 5: Series are my favorites, they are awesome opportunities to network and get to know other Young Professionals in Rowan County.”
“Being a member of Rowan County Young Professionals is invaluable to me,” said Sherri Hill, Area Consultant with North Carolina Department of public Safety. “Not only has it connected me to resources in the business community, as well as other young professionals that I am able to network with often, I have also gained friends who support me both professionally and personally. The Rowan County Young Professionals have truly become part of my community.”
“Being a young professional is a unique phase of life that can be challenging, but having a group like Young Professionals to help navigate what being a “professional” means is special,” said Courtney Meece, Executive Director of Healthy Rowan and Community Health Manager with the Rowan Public Health Department. “I am a member of the Young Professionals because I want to be active in my community with like-minded people who want to see Rowan County thrive in every aspect.”
“As a member of the Rowan County Young Professional’s group, I find myself surrounded by individuals who share my drive for success and ambition for growth,” said Ryan Stowe of Stowe Law Firm PLLC of Salisbury. Being a part of this community not only offers valuable networking opportunities but also provides a supportive environment to learn from one another and collaborate towards achieving our goals. I’m inspired by our group we’re all reaching new heights in both our personal and professional lives.
“I have seen the Young Professionals as a positive force for me to own my life with friends who engage in an environment that is constructive, demonstrated experience, and engages in community events,” said Jonathan Barbee with Lab Casework Installers.
“Building professional relationships is one of the most important aspects of a successful young professional,” said Nicky Black, Business Development Specialist at Miller Davis Inc. “As you grow in your career, those relationships can continue to benefit you by providing advice, referrals, and job opportunities. Through Rowan County Young Professionals, I have developed business and personal connections. Because of those connections, I can confidently walk into any room in Rowan County and know I will have a friendly face to welcome me and a friend to sit with. Invest in your relationships, and your career will thank you for it!”
How Can You Get Involved
It may sound cheesy, but I consider myself a Rowan County cheerleader. I figure, if you love the place you live, why wouldn’t you want to let everyone know about what makes it great?! One of the things I love the most about this place is that you can be as involved as you want to be. If you want to be anonymous and have anonymity, you can. But if you want to feel connected and be treated like a local, it’s very easy. Simply put yourself out there and see what’s a good fit for you and your interests.
All our upcoming Rowan Young Professionals events can be found on Eventbrite.
Save-the-date for the Rowan Chamber’s annual Dragon Boat Festival where the young pros will have a team participating. If you’re interested in being on the team, contact me! Spots on the boat are limited.
You may think, “Oh, Rowan County is very rural. They won’t have anything for me.” Well, I’m happy to tell you you’d be wrong. Rowan is this little anomaly that you wouldn’t expect. There’s something for everyone here.
Here are just a few organizations, events, and groups you may want to investigate depending on your interests.
- Cheer City Riot
- Happy Roots
- High Rock Lake Association
- History Club
- History on Tap
- Leadership Rowan
- Lee Street theatre
- Minority Business Council
- New Sarum Run Club
- Get Involved in Local Government
- Grove Cartel Run Club
- Piedmont Players
- Rowan Chamber of Commerce
- Rowan Creek Week
- Salisbury Parks & Recreation
- Salisbury Pride
- Salisbury Rowan Runners
- Salisbury Symphony
- Vibes Creative Arts Incubator
- Waterworks Visual Arts Center
I Haven’t Moved Yet… I’m Just Thinking About It
If you’re thinking of a move to Rowan County, North Carolina and you stumbled across this blog, let me be the first to say that I hope you will give it serious consideration. No move should be taken lightly though so I encourage you to schedule a brief call with me to learn more. I will be happy to answer any questions you may have, and if I don’t know the answer, I will do my best to find it for you or connect you to the right person who does.
We also have an informative website for prospective newcomers I highly recommend you visit. I encourage you to fill out the form so you can receive occasional emails about Rowan County that will help you in your decision-making process. Don’t worry, we won’t spam you! Just go to www.RowanOriginal.com.
And remember, Rowan County, North Carolina is the place where you can truly be an original!
About the Author
Mollie Ruf is the marketing and communications manager at the Rowan Economic Development Council (EDC) and serve on the Rowan Chamber of Commerce Board of Directors. I have lived in Salisbury, North Carolina since June 2009 with my husband and our three hound doggies. I am passionate about performing arts and love to enjoy the outdoors at our many Rowan County public parks and local lakes. I also love touring wineries with my friends and traveling to new places. I am a motorsports enthusiast and love traveling to IMSA races with my husband and his team.