Bonding and Networking the Grateful Dead Way

What makes for a hell of a night when you bring together people from sectors as wide-ranging as computing, radiology, law, speech-language pathology, financial planning, and real estate?  Well, Cleveland’s Networking is Dead appears to have struck the right chord as many diehard Grateful Dead Fans and others, descended upon the Bop Stop for an evening of live music, good vibes, camaraderie and business connections on May 18.

Deadhead fans enjoying music in the Bop Stop on May 18

Bringing Like-Minded People Together

Posing on the night for selfies beside life-sized cardboard cutouts of Jerry Garcia, Ken Vinikoff, Special Care Planner at Skylight and founder of this unique networking group explains “It’s about bringing like-minded people together who share a passion for the Grateful Dead’s music.  Other networking organizations are mostly themed around professional interests but we share something in common at a personal level.  People love that it’s laid-back and casual. We are a community trying to build something.  People like it and keep coming back!”

Evolving and growing steadily

When Ken, along with his long-time friend and fellow Deadhead Dave Lowery, held the first Networking is Dead event back in Fall 2016, he didn’t really know to expect.  Ken had gotten the idea from a similar group in New York and wanted to replicate the fun and friendly culture akin to the Grateful Dead, where people get to know each other and look out for each other. The first event, however, only attracted 25 people and Ken admits that most of those who attended were his friends who came out to support him.  Since then, however, these gatherings have evolved and grown steadily.  May’s event at the Bop Stop, dubbed “Everything Delightful” (from a Dead song lyric) reached full capacity with 100 people turning up to enjoy a fun evening of conversation, beer, wine, and entertainment provided by a local Grateful Dead cover band, “Sunshine Daydream”.

Ken meeting Deborah Solomon from Wall Street Dead aHead for breakfast and brainstorming

There’s no fee to join and membership has now reached over 250 people.  Events, like the one in the Bop Stop, are held twice yearly, as well as informal meet-ups at Grateful Dead-related concerts.  The next event is set for September 27 at the Bop Stop, featuring “Sugar Magnolia”.

“It’s cool to see our gatherings take off.  People initially come for many different reasons whether it’s to meet other Dead fans, hear great music, to network or to support our benefiting non-profit organization.  They wind up loving the whole vibe and come back to our next event.  The music is timeless and brings in influences from jazz, blues, rock, country and psychedelic.  In my mind, the Grateful Dead is the most American band ever and even people who may not have grown up with the music in the ‘60s and ‘70s still love it.  People are always asking for more events” said Ken.

Business Connections Emerging Organically

For Ken, the spirit of the events is about community, fun and connecting and if this leads to business then well and good.  Yet organically good business connections are being made.  Ken has seen many people get to know about each other and connect at events which lead to them meeting offline.  One engineering firm, for example, struck up a relationship with the Port of Cleveland, which resulted in them submitting a bid.

Once a year, the group also posts out a printed directory of participants which includes names, phone numbers, businesses and their favorite Dead song.  Emails are deliberately excluded.  “If people want to strike up business relations, then it needs to be done in a personalized way,” says Ken.

Ken Vinikoff presenting check to Toni Mullee of Upside of Downs

Spirit of Togetherness

True to their spirit of togetherness, any net proceeds raised from auctions and raffles are donated to a non-profit.  Following May’s event, Ken presented the proceeds to Toni Mullee, Executive Director of The Upside of Downs, a non-profit that provides support, education, and advocacy for people with Down syndrome and their families.  This is an organization, near and dear to Ken, as he served on their board for four years and works as a Special Care planner at Skylight specializing in financial planning for families with children and adult children with Special Needs.

Check out Networking is Dead website and Facebook for information on future events.  As they say, “Let the Good Times Roll”.

Kenneth Vinikoff is a registered representative of and offers securities, investment advisory and financial planning services through MML Investors Services, LLC Member SIPC. 2012 W. 25th Street, Suite 900, Cleveland OH 44113. 216-621-5680. CRN202006-232383