A new grassroots media organization holds it inaugural event in Los Angeles, and what starts as a networking event becomes a call to arms for media professionals to figure out new ways of working as the economy and old media empires are crumbling.
In the weeks since Barack Obama was elected the 44th president of the United States, a notable shift has occurred in the American psyche. Whether it’s strictly attributable to the grassroots movement that propelled an African-American into the White House or the sheer vulnerability created by a sudden and continuing collapse of the world economy is neither here nor there. Free-market Americans have suddenly warmed to socialism.
Nowhere was that shift more on display than on Sunday at a brunch held at Good magazine’s exhibition space in Los Angeles where Uncompany -- a “collective” of the city’s professionals in media, design, fashion, architecture, and entertainment -- came together to meet, eat pastries, and drink mimosas.
The crowd sticking name tags on a makeshift org chart initially seemed tentative. After all, few, aside from the five founders -- Bill Benjamin, Jessica Fleischmann, Edie Kahula Pereira, Caroline Ryder, and Jennifer Uner -- actually knew what Uncompany was. But the invite had sounded intriguing enough: “Meet like-minded creative souls and discuss new ways in which we can work together at this gathering of forward-thinking professionals. Treats courtesy of La Brea Bakery, Intellegentsia, Mighty Leaf tea, and Sunday papers from both coasts.” While this creative soul didn’t see any copies of the Sunday New York Times, the cinnamon rolls were truly amazing, and the room was packed with interesting minds.
“I used to come to these kinds of events to find people I could get work from,” said Fleischmann, founder of the graphic design firm Still Room, during her introductory remarks. “Now I look for people I can work with.”
Ryder spoke of her recent layoff from Variety’s Stylephile blog and how that gave rise to lunch with fellow Uncompany cofounders. “I went into that lunch anxious,” she recounted, “and I left energized and optimistic.”
The same transition could be seen at Sunday’s event. Conversations among the some 150 attendees about the “anemic” job opportunities and the growing number of unpaid invoices quickly led to discussions about innovative projects people like Lauren Gropper, founder of a green building firm and host of HGTV’s Green Force, are working on. Gropper, incidentally, provided the compostable plastic cups for the mimosas -- free of charge.
And while networking will always be a factor in a town known for making deals during 12-step meetings, the goal for that afternoon was a little less about what an individual could get and more about what “we” might do. Ryder, for one, plans to propose that Uncompany mobilize in the fight to overturn Prop. 8 at the group’s next meeting in February.
Because in this age of bankruptcies and government bailouts, Uncompany believes that only by joining forces can we also become too big to fail. “This is just the beginning,” reads its mission statement. “Your ideas, and above all, your participation are encouraged. Because only when we unite are we greater than the sum of our parts.”
To become a partner in Uncompany’s collective -- or to get invited to the next event -- check out the group’s Facebook page or join its blog at theuncompanycollective.blogspot.com.