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5 Questions with Jaimie Sousa, Fusion

Friday, May 8th, 2015

Earlier this year, we interviewed Mike Cashion of the Concord Young Professionals Group and learned a great deal about what motivates today’s young professionals when it comes to employment and workforce issues. However, that’s just one side of the young professional story.  

To explore more of the facets of young professional lives and how they affect the New Hampshire economy, we interviewed Jaimie Sousa, president of the board of directors for Fusion, the young professionals group in the Lakes Region. Fusion isn’t just about networking, as you’ll learn in the interview – it’s also deeply focused on civic engagement and community development.

Jaimie Sousa

1. Fusion is one of the newer YP groups in New Hampshire. Can you tell us a bit about the genesis of the organization and its guiding principles?

Fusion officially filed organizing documents on 3/1/13. We’re an all-volunteer organization focused on networking, education and giving back to our community. Along with the other groups under the Stay Work Play umbrella, Fusion is primarily focused on making it easy and fun to connect with like-minded people. Events are open to the public and typically have some type of activity that serves as a fun way to meet people. The activities also serve as a conversation starter, so there’s less pressure on starting a conversation with people you might not know yet.

2. When we interviewed Mike Cashion from the Concord YP group earlier this year, he called out Fusion on a shortlist of YP groups doing unique things in the state. How are you setting yourselves apart from the typical networking group?

That’s awesome! Stay Work Play hosts a conference call for all of the groups to chat about what is going on in their area each month and this allows us to exchange ideas and support each other. We have learned a lot from other groups, but we’ve also found a way to embrace the uniqueness of the Lakes Region.

We take advantage of our surroundings by including nearby activities and visiting new and longstanding local businesses for our events. We are planning our third year hosting a stand-up paddle boarding event at EKAL in Meredith – one of our most popular activities. We also had a great turnout for kickboxing at Beyond the Belt, which raised money for Gilford Got Lunch.

This is another thing that sets Fusion apart: Our events are not just fundraisers for our group. We raise funds for other charities in an effort to support the community that we love so much!

Finally, we’re often asked if there’s an age limit for Fusion events and the answer is no. Our goal is to develop a network across generations to enhance the sustainability of the Lakes Region in the future. If the young professionals are eventually to replace the generations that have come before them, it would be silly to attempt to start from scratch. We believe our community depends on us working together, and so we’re happy to welcome all who want to be involved.

3. How do you see Fusion playing a role in helping businesses grow in New Hampshire and in attracting out-of-state businesses to relocate or expand here?

Ultimately, businesses grow through the connections you make. We find that people come to our events and meet people they genuinely like and with whom they’d naturally do business. Our events are about getting to know the person behind the business card, and making connections that are lasting rather than transactional.

The fact that New Hampshire has the Stay Work Play network throughout the state serves as a benefit to out-of-state businesses or businesses expanding within the state. The concern with building or growing a business is often not being able to attract or retain a workforce in a rural environment. When I moved to New Hampshire from Massachusetts/Rhode Island, people thought I was going to live in a tent in the woods. Stay Work Play’s website has a ton of information showing that New Hampshire is so much more than that. And each region’s group works to help people feel a sense of community and belonging. We believe this will help with employee retention.

4. You started a new program, the IMPACT Awards, to recognize members of the community that personify the Fusion mission. What’s impressed you most about this year’s nominees?

The best part of the process so far has been listening in to the judges as they narrowed down the finalists. The nominees all have something within them that pushed them to become passionately involved in their community. These are the people that start something from nothing, push the community forward, and really make a difference.

5. After the IMPACT Awards are given out this week, what’s next for Fusion? How will you continue to make your mark on the Granite State in 2015?

Creating the IMPACT Awards was a big deal for us. Coupled with our Annual Networking Event, this gives Fusion two large-scale networking events each year, which is exciting because people were asking for more. We also enjoy our smaller scale events and activities that allow people to make deeper connections more quickly, so we think this is a good balance. Fusion will also continue our annual Bowl-A-Thon, which is scheduled for September this year.

Beyond the events we have scheduled, we’re excited to be growing as a board and gaining the ability to do more than ever before. Each year we get better, and the best way to keep up with our new events and programs is to connect with us on Facebook.