Laine Hoke felt like an anomaly. She had just graduated from the University of North Georgia in 2013 and immediately taken a job with a startup technology company in Atlanta. While Hoke lived at her parents’ home in north Forsyth County right after graduation, it seemed like the entire tech community lived inside Interstate 285.
Not surprisingly, that’s where all the networking and social events seemed to be too. If she wanted to meet people in the industry and make connections with other Millennial professionals like herself, Hoke had to make those seemingly interminable drives to inside the perimeter.
“That can get kind of annoying,” Hoke said.
So Hoke set out to fix that. Over the past year, Hoke worked to create Network Millennial, a venture that seeks to create opportunities for young professionals who live outside the perimeter to meet and network.
Right now, the plan is simple: Hoke hopes to organize gatherings once a month at a local business and partner with a local charity at each event.
“I’m just hoping to grow a community of young professionals outside of the perimeter,” Hoke said.
Hoke conceived of the idea as she started her own marketing agency in the county. She went looking to network at Forsyth County Commission meetings and local Chamber of Commerce events but found little to no Millennial presence.
Eventually, Hoke decided it was time to take matters into her own hands.
“So I just dubbed myself the OTP party planner,” Hoke said.
Hoke connected with Cherry Street Brewing in Vickery Village to host the first event. She created a website and started to promote Network Millennial through Facebook, Instagram and email. A friend filmed a video shoot.
After a few months of promotion, Hoke expected about 30 people to stop by from Forsyth County as well as Alpharetta, Dahlonega, Gainesville and Roswell, all among the category of those born between 1982 and 2000 that now outnumber Baby Boomers, according to a report by the U.S. Census Bureau.
Millennials have been the subject of intense pop culture scrutiny, and among the many values ascribed to them is a preference for cities over suburbs. Research has started to debunk that assumption, but Hoke feels the opportunities haven’t caught up.
“It’s unfortunate that there are Millennials here and it’s just an underserved audience,” Hoke said.
Hoke acknowledges other stereotypes associated with Millennials — they’re whiny, needy, lazy, addicted to their phones.
Not so, Hoke says, at least for those who helped get Network Millennials started.
“Everyone is so generous and is so willing to give of their time and their connections,” Hoke said. “They want other Millennials and young professionals to have good experiences outside the Perimeter.”
Wednesday night was a good start. Instead of 30 people, Hoke said more than 100 attended. On Thursday morning, Hoke said she was still feeling the adrenaline from the turnout.
Hoke hopes to grow Network Millennial communities in other nearby cities outside of the perimeter, from Athens to Marietta and everywhere in between.
“It’s a little movement that I’m trying to start,” Hoke said, “but we are founded right here in Forsyth County.”