During an August Spreenkler meeting at Bucketworks, Steve Glynn stands before a group of about 30, among them Web developers, designers, lawyers, PR reps and entrepreneurs.
As an account director for event technology at Fullhouse Media, he talks about what he sees in social media at the moment, what he sees in creative (marketing), and, specifically, what he sees in Milwaukee. He invites feedback on his thoughts and encourages independent -- even contradictory -- insight from the audience.
As the founder and president of Spreenkler, a newly formed community of forward-thinking creative minds helping to strengthen Milwaukee's brainpower and support local start-ups, he's warming up the crowd with an Idea Share session before his monthly speaker, this time SkinnyCorp / Threadless founder Harper Reed, takes the floor to discuss his booming company's open-source business model.
By the time Reed concludes, the group is buzzing with inspiration and chatting in small pockets. Connections are made; coffee dates are set.
This, he says, is the path to the "new Milwaukee."
Unlike traditional networking groups that are industry or discipline focused, Glynn launched Spreenkler in early 2007 to be a multi-faceted resource for young professionals, students, business owners -- or potential business owners -- to see their ideas through.
Comet Branding's Al Krueger came to Glynn with an idea for a start-up earlier this year.
"Steve didn't just tell me who I should get in touch with to make it happen, he introduced me to them," Krueger says. "Through this community of people who are involved in Spreenkler, I've been able to move this idea along and make it even more viable."
"If you need a lawyer, we won't just give you a list of 25 lawyers in Milwaukee and leave it up to you to figure out which one is best," says Glynn. "If we set you up with a resource, you are going to be completely prepped for that conversation and they will be prepped for receiving your call. We meet you half way."
Glynn's altruism sounds almost too good to be true, but he cites his vision for a better Milwaukee as all the compensation he needs.
"The premise of Spreenkler is to create these pockets so that people who have an idea don't give up on it or leave town; they stay and make it happen in the Milwaukee region. However we can support these ideas, keep people energized and keep them focused and continuing on with their plan, we'll do it."
Spreenkler uses online tech tools like Twitter and blog sites to keep the buzz going and instantly connect with people as soon as ideas are born. It's already earned the support of Spirit of Milwaukee president Dean Amhaus and Dave Fantle, vice president of public relations for VISIT Milwaukee.
"What caught my attention was Steve's enthusiasm and the group's interest in improving the community," says Fantle.
"It's a group that doesn't receive the publicity, but is quietly and thoughtfully working to make Milwaukee a cooler place for young professionals. They are bringing to the table enthusiasm, ideas and involvement. They are taking a 'glass is half full' approach by building on Milwaukee's strengths. It's really impressive that this group convenes after work hours, brings in a diverse group of speakers and throws out so many ideas for discussion. That's commitment."
Glynn describes his efforts as a feeder system for new ideas, so that, he says, if a company like Miller decides to partially leave Milwaukee, "it sucks, but there are 10 other companies that are the same size, and five behind that that are following up and 20 behind that that are at the early stages. We can continually feed the Milwaukee environment with new ideas, new businesses and new jobs."
Spreenkler officially meets on the first Wednesday of the month at Bucketworks -- though "members" can connect online or in person as desired -- during which Glynn invites a guest speaker to lead a night of conversation on a range of topics, from communication to technology to user experience and more. The next meeting is set for Wednesday, Sept. 10. At press time, the guest speaker was not yet named.
The meetings are free and follow a loose schedule that allows for impromptu presentation and the inevitable tangents that so often surface with fresh ideas. The bottom line, says Glynn, is to move these ideas from conversation to action and provide opportunities for innovative Milwaukeeans to put their skills to work.
"I think Milwaukee is going to be defined and lead by this creative class," says Krueger. "By us helping other people, it helps Milwaukee. In turn, it then gives them the opportunity to help other people. It's the whole pay it forward concept."
OnMilwaukee.com staff writer Julie Lawrence grew up in Wauwatosa and has lived her whole life in the Milwaukee area.
As any “word nerd” can attest, you never know when inspiration will strike, so from a very early age Julie has rarely been seen sans pen and little notebook. At the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee it seemed only natural that she major in journalism. When OnMilwaukee.com offered her an avenue to combine her writing and the city she knows and loves in late 2004, she knew it was meant to be. Around the office, she answers to a plethora of nicknames, including “Lar,” (short for “Larry,” which is short for “Lawrence”) as well as the mysteriously-sourced “Bill Murray.”