Never underestimate the power of networking in person.
It not only allows you to make new friends, contacts and connections but it also beats constantly staring at and typing into your smartphone.
Some 140 young professionals, entrepreneurs and small business owners were spotted after work on Thursday mingling on the rooftop patio outside of Bazille restaurant at upscale fashion retailer Nordstrom, located at the Rideau Centre. They were taking part in the latest RÄNDĀ VO͞O, a business social created by 34-year-old Aaron McFarlane to bring people just like them together in a relaxed and engaging way while also helping out a local charity.
With summer still going strong, it was the perfect night for being outdoors with drinks and hors d’oeuvres.
RÄNDĀ VO͞O has to date raised more than $14,000 for the Youth Services Bureau, one of the largest agencies in Ottawa serving youth in such areas as homelessness, mental health, employment, diversity and youth justice. Proceeds are supporting YSB’s housing initiatives, said Oliver Saner, fundraising coordinator for the non-profit organization.
“We’re so honoured and grateful to have had Aaron’s support over the last year through his RÄNDĀ VO͞O Business Network," Saner told OBJ.social.
McFarlane first launched RÄNDĀ VO͞O in 2018 before taking a pause during the height of the pandemic. The business socials have been garnering more interest than usual this year, he noted. “There’s been a lot of engagement lately.”
And while RÄNDĀ VO͞O sounds exotic, the name comes from the phonetic spelling of “rendezvous.”
The networking event focuses on social innovation and inclusive design. “There are a lot of young professionals in the city who are doing well and are searching for places to give back, to do good,” said McFarlane. “It’s a cool avenue for high-achieving professionals who want to learn, mature, find mentorship and give back to the community.”
RÄNDĀ VO͞O offers different pricing options for tickets, ranging from $30 to $95.
Attendees included prominent businessman Pat Nicastro, owner of La Bottega fine food shop in the ByWard Market. Nicatro said he likes the concept of socializing for a couple of hours with like-minded business people after work. He was among the business leaders to donate items to the raffle. So was Renaldo Saikali from ScotiaMcLeod, fragrance stylist Sid Cratzbarg, David Foran from Cru Wine, The Shore Club and The Rabbit Hole restaurant.
McFarlane, Saikali and Denis Condie, founder and CEO of Smart Parking Applications, helped to raise $3,500 that night as matching sponsors.
Integrated marketing specialist Kassondra Walters was back for her second time after enjoying herself so much at the RÄNDĀ VO͞O held in June. “These are genuine people who are looking to connect,” said Walters.
Josh Raganold, business development manager at Welch LLP, is a RÄNDĀ VO͞O regular. The networking events afford him the opportunity to meet business people he might not otherwise cross paths with, he said. “It’s a very diverse crowd.”
For McFarlane, RÄNDĀ VO͞O is a side gig. His day job involves working for the City of Ottawa as an economic development contractor, helping merchants in the Preston Street area.
McFarlane previously ran a fundraising gala to improve access to oral healthcare for those in need. It was through his involvement with the Sparkle Dental Charity Ball that he realized his passion for bringing people together. So much so that in 2018 he left his job as a quality assurance analyst with the RCMP, where he had worked for 10 years.
McFarlane said it’s important to him that RÄNDĀ VO͞O helps the community and, in particular, youth. He and his two younger brothers grew up in Orlèans, raised by a single mom who worked three jobs in order to keep a suburban roof over their heads. His mother, who went back to school after the boys got older, has since become a lawyer.
“Anything that supports vulnerable youth kind of speaks to me,” said the alumnus of the University of Ottawa. “I feel like I was one degree away from where some of their experiences are. I can understand and relate to their struggles.”
Also present was Lydia Blanchard, new chief development officer at the Ottawa Art Gallery. It's the venue for the next RÄNDĀ VO͞O on Nov. 10th. “We’re looking forward to hosting the young, vibrant business community,” she told OBJ.social. “The OAG is always proud to support charitable organizations, such as our neighbours at the Youth Services Bureau.”