Introducing the Newest Launch 18-Month Partner, Urban Harvest STL! posted 02/05/18


After an extensive review process, Launch St. Louis’ 18-month partnership committee is thrilled to announce we have partnered with Urban Harvest STL to help them develop a new Young Friends board, the Young Friends of Urban Harvest!

The mission of Urban Harvest STL is one that we at Launch are incredibly passionate about for many reasons, one of which is how targeted it is to the St. Louis community. Their goal of eliminating food deserts and food insecurity in St. Louis while also creating atmospheres for community interaction is not only appealing to many diverse groups, but will have a ripple effect that will influence development in St. Louis for years to come.

Urban Harvest STL has a strong vision and purpose for the Young Friends board Launch will be helping them to create and manage. Young people are a very important part of what Urban Harvest does, and the Young Friends group will help to organize and focus these volunteers. The board will also bring a new level of skill, expertise and passion to the team, and help to develop events and ideas that will allow Urban Harvest STL to flourish and evolve. Finally, and perhaps most importantly, the Young Friends of Urban Harvest STL will form a pipeline of new leadership to eventually serve as the next generation on the parent board.

To kick off recruitment for the Young Friends of Urban Harvest, Launch St. Louis and Urban Harvest STL are holding a happy hour this week Thursday at Urban Chestnut in the Grove.  Please see here for more information and we look forward to seeing you there!

A Year in Review posted 01/25/18

Another year has come and gone, and 2017 was a particularly exciting one for us here at Launch St. Louis.  As focused as we are on the future and all the wonderful things 2018 is bound to bring, we thought it would be nice to take a moment and look back on the last 12 months here at Launch.  Check out a few updates from our team below, and we look forward to celebrating another amazing year with you!

Our 2016/2017 Partnership with the APA

We recently finished our partnership with the Young Friends of the APA Adoption Center. It was a sad goodbye, but we are thrilled with all they achieved over 18 months. The Young Friends of APA have a mission of helping the APA connect thousands of St. Louis’ homeless dogs, cats and other animals with loving homes. Along with representing the APA at events, volunteering at the APA and fostering animals in need, the group hosted their first signature event, Paws + Prints. The event was a huge success, raising $8,000!

Introducing Our 2018/2019 18-Month Partnership

We received applications from many wonderful nonprofit organizations across St. Louis for our 2018/2019 18-Month Partnership. With 28 applicants, it was a long and difficult selection process. We’re pleased to announce that we have chosen Urban Harvest Food Roof for our new partnership and we can’t wait to tell you all about it soon!

Learn more about the Launch St. Louis 18-Month Partnership


LaunchMe is the newest Launch St. Louis endeavor! Created in 2017, Launch Me is designed to help young professionals find and engage with a variety of young friends groups in the St. Louis region.  In 2017, Launch St. Louis was able to connect sixty-nine young professionals to fill young friends board positions for various non-profit organizations. Collaborating with many local organizations, LaunchMe makes it easy to connect young and talented professionals with organizations and causes they feel passionate about to help build a stronger region.

Learn more about LaunchMe.


2018 will be an exciting year for the LaunchU program. The goal of LaunchU is to coach St. Louis non-profit organizations on how to establish young friend’s boards with local young professionals. Launch St. Louis is upgrading the workshops for 2018 to be even more engaging with an additional focus on networking and building strong ties between the workshop participants.

In 2017, five non-profits participated in the workshop programs. The organizations attending ranged from non-profits that were just starting to engage young professionals to experienced non-profits with already existing young friends groups seeking to perfect their board structure. Attendees last year included the Missouri History Museum, the Chess Club and Scholastic Center of Saint Louis, the National Children’s Cancer Society, Partners in Sustainable Development International and the Hawthorn Leadership School for Girls.

The 2018 LaunchU program will be starting at the end of January and consists of one workshop each month. Last minute applications are still being accepted here.

2017 Gateway to the Future Summit

Nearly 100 St. Louis young professionals and nonprofit leaders gathered at T-REX in September for the 5th Annual Launch St. Louis Gateway to the Future Summit to discuss ways to create a more charitable and connected community.

Attendees arrived early to the half day summit to network with one another, connect with top nonprofit and community leaders, and learn about potential volunteer opportunities that align with their personal and professional interests.

The event kicked off with a passionate and inspiring keynote address from Ginger Imster, VP of Innovation and Entrepreneurship for the St. Louis Economic Development Partnership. Ginger shared her personal story of capitalizing on luck and opportunity, dealing with risk tolerance and maintaining a sense of humor when facing adversity.

When Ginger declared that the audience truly is St. Louis’ “Gateway to the Future,” everyone felt motivated to get more involved in making a positive impact in the community.

After the keynote, young professionals participated in thought-provoking breakout sessions led by influential St. Louis leaders and Launch STL board members. Breakout topics included “Technology Trends in Nonprofits”, “Pursuing Your Passion” and “Fundraising and Friendraising.”

Social media was buzzing with excitement as people shared pictures, ideas on how to improve our community and quotes from the panelists.

Ginger finished her keynote with a quote from Gilda Radner that sums it up best: “Life is about not knowing, having to change, taking the moment and making the best of it, without knowing what’s going to happen next.”

Launch Team

When it comes to Launch St. Louis, it is really the people that make the work so great.  2017 was a year of welcoming an exciting level of knowledge, resources and energy to our team on both the board and the committee level.  We were thrilled to welcome newest board members Jeanne Kaufmann and Ariel Zhang, as well as new committee members Katie Wall, Eric Williams, Katie Holtgrave, Derek May, Alex Goldberg, and Chelsey Green.

Sadly, saying hello can also sometimes mean saying good-bye, and 2017 ends with us saying thank you and farewell to Board Members Beth Casagrand and Jonathan Goldford.

Getting to Know You: Ariel Zhang posted 10/04/17


Launch St. Louis is thrilled and honored to welcome Ariel Zhang as our newest board member.  Ariel served on our 18-month partnership committee for two years, and brings that wealth of experience, along with an exceptional skillset developed as a Management Consultant at North Highland Worldwide, to Launch.

To officially introduce Ariel, we thought it might be fun to play a little game of “Getting to Know You”!  We hope you enjoying learning more about Ariel as much as we did, and look forward to having Ariel in her new role within the Launch community.

So without further ado, meet Ariel!

1) What brought you to St. Louis?

My family moved here when I was in high school for my mom’s job. It’s the longest I’ve ever lived in one place – almost nine years. I can’t believe it. It’s definitely considered my home now.

2) How did you first get involved with Launch St. Louis?

I was a part of the Young Professionals Network when I was working at one of the bigger companies in St. Louis. I volunteered a bit in college but wanted to get more active in the community after graduation. One day, I saw information about Launch at the bottom of one newsletter from the YPN and saw it as a great opportunity to get to know different nonprofits in St. Louis.

3) What inspires you to do the work that you do?

My parents immigrated to Canada from China when I was two and then we immigrated to America when I was 12. Being an immigrant gives you a different perspective I think. I watched my parents really fight to start something for us because we didn’t have roots and connections where we immigrated. I recognize that they gave me a world of opportunities so I think it’s my responsibility to be grateful and pass that on to someone else. I honestly think I’m lucky to have a life where my basic needs are met and am, therefore, able to give back.

4) What excites you must about the future for St. Louis?

So much! St. Louis has a huge opportunity to market itself to the world. I think St. Louis is the most underrated city that I’ve been. My favorite part is that it’s truly a community. We have a problems like any community would but never in another city would you find top CEOs willing to mentor college students, such high involvement in non-profits, and so many entrepreneurs trying to make a difference. It’s the combination of everything that makes us unique.

4) What is a cause you are passionate about?

Obviously I’m passionate about Launch. I took two years of just being on the committee level to truly understand the value of Launch before joining the board. We all have way too much on our plates and so I try to be selective on how I spend my time. I’m also passionate about Make-A-Wish and volunteer as a wish granter. I had to have major surgery when I was 13 and spent time away from school for quite a bit of time. I relate to those kids a lot and they help me keep perspective on life.

5) How do you enjoy spending your free time?

I try to do too many things (^see above about learning to be selective on my time). Currently, I love salsa dancing, boxing, and rock climbing. I also LOVE food. All of my friends will tell you that food is my top priority on any given day. I love being creative in my cooking at home and try to cook food from different cultures. St. Louis also has an affordable (!!!), diverse, and top-notch food scene.

We Want You To Partner with Launch St. Louis! posted 06/23/17

31 members, an amazing signature event, and countless successful social media campaigns later, Launch’s 18-month partnership with the APA of MO (Animal Protective Association of Missouri) is coming to an end.

And what exactly is the Launch 18-month partnership? Over a year and a half, Launch St. Louis helps local non-for-profit organizations build a Young Friend’s board from the ground up. We recruit the members of the board and structure the organization in the first 6 months. Then in the final 12 months, we support with event planning, social media and mentorship.

You may be thinking “This all sounds great, but why even have a Young Friends board?” Well, here are just a few of the benefits the Young Friends of the APA board brought to their organization:

Connections with a different demographic.

Young Friends of the APA has 31 active members. Each of these young professionals spread awareness of the organization to their wider network and bring their friends along to the organization’s events.

Development of innovative ideas- particularly in event planning and social media marketing.

The Young Friends of the APA are so proficient at social media marketing that they have been asked to help on the big social media campaigns for key APA events.

Diversification of the fundraising base.

Yes, the big ticket donors are great, but through a Young Friend’s board there is the potential to raise money in fresh, new ways, like hosting the Young Friend’s signature event and collecting Young Friend’s member dues. The Young Friends of the APA raised a net income just shy of $20k in their first year.

So if you think forming a Young Friends board is the right next step for your organization, then what are you waiting for? Apply for the Launch 18-month partnership today!

Things To Consider Before You Join a Young Friends Board posted 12/21/16

Coworkers discussing in meeting room

Serving on a young professionals board is an honor and an incredible opportunity. An opportunity to help an organization you believe in. An opportunity to meet new people. An opportunity to grow professionally and personally. (more…)

Introducing LaunchMe posted 11/15/16

You want to make a difference in your community, but you don’t know the first place to start. It can be a cumbersome process, involving a lot of internet searching.  First, there is the search for nonprofits that align with your interests – clicking through different websites, trying to find whether they have a Young Friends Board or specific young professional opportunities.  (more…)

Why It Was Important For Me To Get Involved With the APA posted 11/07/16


Animal welfare has always been a cause close to my heart. When I was 8 years old my family moved to a small town in rural Missouri. We lived on a secluded gravel road, which was a popular spot for people to drop off their unwanted dogs. As a child, this was a new concept to me. It had never occurred to me that anyone would want to throw away or harm animals. (more…)

Jon Franko Joins Gateway to the Future posted 10/20/16

Jon is a founding partner of Gorilla 76. Jon was named to the 2010 St. Louis Business Journal’s “30 Under 30” class and was named as one of St. Louis’ “Top Young Entrepreneurs” by the Small Business Monthly. He’s a passionate Missouri Tiger and loves to spend his spare time hunting ducks and fishing for fish. Jon is a founding board member of Launch St. Louis, Friends of Clifton Park and is a former board member for Brightside St. Louis. He’s a graduate of the University of Missouri School of Journalism. (more…)

Welcome Wesley Hoffman to Gateway to the Future posted 10/04/16

Wesley Hoffman is no stranger to Gateway to the Future, and we are excited to welcome him back for the second year in a row. Through his career and networking service, Stay Connected, he helps connect people with businesses, job opportunities, and others who can help them find their career paths. (more…)

Light a Fire Under Your Communication Skills with Bonfyre posted 07/06/16

bonfyreThere are times in every year where the mere checking of our work inboxes can evoke a sense of dread.  Whether you’ve stepped away for an hour, an afternoon or (if you’re really lucky), a weekend, the opening of your inbox can often result in a flood of emails that can feel insurmountable. (more…)