Jon Severson is a people person. Since moving to Colorado Springs more than 10 years ago, the 39-year-old Minnesota native has started a slew of Colorado Young Professionals groups across the state and is now connected to 40,000 Coloradans in their 20s, 30s and early 40s. Colorado Springs Young Professionals celebrated its 10th anniversary last month and Severson said it now includes more than 3,500 locals. The self-
described “connector” of individuals, businesses and communities spoke to the Business Journal this week about his mission to inspire human interaction, still continuing after a decade of networking.
Can you talk about your background and how you got started?
Growing up in the Midwest, you work more than you talk. You work smarter, not harder. You just do things. That is the long and the short of it. It’s that Scandinavian, Garrison Keillor attitude and work ethic that is just very real.
How did your education at Luther College and your history/political science majors affect how you manage the groups?
History is the best major anybody could have, because it teaches you to look at everything. There is never any one thing that causes any one problem, and history is what gives you your identity. If you don’t know your history, you have no identity. There is a great history to Colorado Springs that I think people should get to know, and people should be proud to live here.
How did the local group start, and why?
It just kind of happened, because I didn’t really know people and there was no good way for young people to meet each other. There were very few outlets. … There have been hundreds of people over the past 10 years who have made their circle of friends and decided to stay here because they now have history — they’ve participated. They know people now. They know who their bartenders are, they know people walking down the street, and now they can come somewhere they know everyone.
What do you feel CSYP has accomplished in 10 years?
We were the first in Colorado, we are the largest in Colorado, and we’re still viewed by many as the best in Colorado. … Young Professionals is just a great way to keep people connected and meet people, and I feel like it is my duty to keep providing that.
What is the mission or ethos of CSYP?
Put a bunch of good people in a room and things will happen.
What title would you give yourself?
Connector is probably the best way I’ve heard it described, which comes from one of Malcolm Gladwell’s books. … As far as Young Professionals goes, I’m the Wizard of Oz — I’m the man behind the curtain that figures out how to make it all work but doesn’t like to show his face. These events are not about me, they are about getting people from a wide demographic to show up, make new friends and plant roots in towns.
What do you identify as the group’s primary goal?
People need to get out from behind their computers — they need to meet people and spend more time actually going out and meeting with people. See your friends, get to know other people and find somewhere to do that. You don’t get any of that done sitting behind a computer … unless you’re coding.
Anything else you would like to add?
For me, it’s all about young professionals, connecting businesses, doing contract work, helping businesses. … It all kind of connects and it’s all about connecting people.