WHAT STARTED OUT AS A DREAM...
Many a great thing has started as a dream. This tale is no different.
It begins in 2013 when a guy wanted to make a gal's dream come true. He set in motion a spark that ignited a philosophy which drives what IKAGG is about to this day.
Many of us have seen The Amazing Race on television. It is an endurance race around the globe where teams of two race from country to country performing tasks and then speeding to the finish line to avoid elimination. Deanna Ley, Founder and CEO of IKAGG, has been a fan of this show for years and years. Her dream was (and still is) to be a contestant on The Amazing Race.
Deanna's husband Chris, Co-Founder and President of IKAGG, discovered the casting calls for The Amazing Race were taking place near their home. He immediately arranged to surprise Deanna and take her to the tryouts. This was his shot to hopefully make her dream come true, and he was going to make it happen.
Team Ley, as they were called, decided to camp out the night before tryouts. When they arrived, they were the fifth couple in line. Excitement was in the air as many others gathered for their shot as well. Everyone was talking and sharing stories about what brought them there. Friendships blossomed. There were people in line from all over the metro area, and even some who had traveled from several states away. They all had something in common - a desire to make their dream a reality.
The time came the next day to try out. Team Ley knew they needed to stand out from the crowd and be memorable in their interview, so they decided to tell the story of about how a Facebook page that Chris has started just 24 hours before had built an international following. They shared how it grew from zero followers to 1,200 in less than a day! (This was no small feat when you consider pages weren't even very relevant to Facebook back in 2013). They expressed how it would be a dream come true for Deanna to make it onto the show and that they would be representing all of the people across the world who were supporting them and cheering them on - "Team Ley, all the way!". They shared how #TogetherIsAmazing and how that one statement pulled people together to be a part of something bigger than themselves. They shared their hearts during that very short interview, and hoped it would be enough.
With the tryouts over, the waiting began. For over 5 months the Facebook page gained traction and set in motion the #TogetherIsAmazing philosophy. While simple in concept, it has a profound effect - when we all pull together in the same direction for the benefit of the group and each other, AMAZING things happen.
Sadly, they were not chosen as contestants on The Amazing Race. While it was disappointing, it was just the start of something so much bigger.
Fast forward to 2018. Do you remember that spark we mentioned? Trying out for The Amazing Race and the beautiful community that was created because of it ignited a passion. A passion to bring people together. A passion to help others. A passion to make this world a little better every single day.
On February 6th, 2018, Deanna started a Facebook group in St. Louis called I Know a Guy / Gal (IKAGG). Deanna and Chris invited the people that they had met through their years of networking in St. Louis to join, and they invited their friends as well.
This philosophy guided many decisions in the life of the Leys and every step in the design ofIKAGG. The belief that when we all pull in the same direction, trying to help others before worrying about ourselves, has been the fuel behind IKAGG from the start.
This Facebook group is very different than other groups. There are daily themes where businesses can share their services and offerings. It's structured in a way that allows people to ask for and receive referrals for work they need done or products they are looking for. People can also leave testimonials and kudos for the work they've had done as well. The IKAGG Facebook group is one of positivity, collaboration, and giving. Because it was founded on the #TogetherIsAmazing philosophy, the group has a different "feel" to it, and it's very noticeable. It's a place where kindness is expected, where bullying and negativity aren't tolerated, where businesses can be spotlighted, and where everyone knows that it's a place of encouragement and support for those doing amazing things.
That Facebook group grew a thousand people a month for the first five months. Today, the group has over 17,000 members and is still going strong. It has been the place where thousands of referrals have been requested and fulfilled. It's still very active over three years later, with hundreds of requests being made each week. It's been a win-win for businesses and consumers alike.
Having been in the networking world for quite some time, Deanna and Chris also saw a need for a new type of networking group for business people. One where everyone feels like they belong. One where the #TogetherIsAmazing philosophy is at the center. One where there's a culture unlike any other out there. One that grows on a foundation of relationships. One where everyone truly lives a giving mindset. They spent countless hours in front of a white board with a dream to create a networking organization that was different than anything else out there.
On the morning of October 2nd, 2018, two very amazing things happened. Deanna and Chris became grandparents for the first time as their beautiful granddaughter Aria was born. Just over an hour later, Chris held an informational meeting to introduce their new weekly networking organization, IKAGG CONNECT, to 65 people. It was a special day indeed!
Since then, hundreds of people have experienced CONNECT and what it has to offer. Lives have been changed because of the culture of CONNECT. The members who embody and embrace that culture live it every day and it shows! The BEST part of CONNECT is its members. It is truly a family built on strong relationships and referral partnerships.
Chris shares, "At CONNECT, we have a family approach. We accept each other where we are and look for ways to help each other like a family would. We build deep relationships and never keep score. We don't serve others because we feel obligated, we serve others because it is the right thing to do."
Today, IKAGG has numerous ways that business professionals can Connect, Collaborate, and Grow.
IKAGG CONNECT is still growing strong. There are eight meetings each week - six in St Louis (five in-person, one virtual), and two in Wilmington, NC. There are plans to start one in Charlotte, NC in 2023, as well. Where we grow next is yet to be seen. If you are interested in having an IKAGG CONNECT in your area, please reach out. There's no stopping the AMAZING things that IKAGG is about and all that it provides to help businesses Connect, Collaborate, and Grow.
The IKAGG Platform doesn't stop at CONNECT. There are offerings to fit any business's networking needs.
In March 2019, the IKAGGdirectory.com was launched. It is a business directory like no other. It offers robust profiles and is an SEO machine. With over 900 business categories to choose from, it’s gives members the ability to be a one-stop shop for potential customers looking to do business with them.
In March 2021, Chris started IKAGG B2B, a networking organization specifically for the business-to-business professional. The one-of-a-kind approach will forever change the way B2B businesses work together.
In Fall 2022, IKAGG added some exciting new offerings. The first, IKAGG CONNECTions, is free monthly meeting that is open to anyone and everyone who's looking to network in a setting where relationships are at the center, collaboration is celebrated, and giving comes first. The second, The IKAGG Podcast, is a weekly podcast that interviews business owners and networking professionals, as well provides applicable tools for your tool belt that will help you up-level and elevate the way you network.
Team Ley continues to serve the business community in all they do. They continue to innovate and bring fresh ideas to the networking world to meet the needs of ambitious professionals. They strive to bring a community of givers together, because after all #TogetherIsAmazing.
All from a spark that ignited a passion that started with a dream.