SpiceCorps of Western Chicagoland Suburbs
Based in Elgin, Ilinois
SpiceCorps are local in-person networking groups for IT professionals. Most meetups feature a vendor that sponsors food and drink and gives a presentation about a relevant topic - anything from security to virtualization to storage to backups to cloud software and everything in between.
Interested in checking out one of our meetups? All meetups are posted on my SpiceCorps page on Spiceworks: https://community.spiceworks.com/spicecorps/elgin-il
Interested in sponsoring a meetup? Drop me a line - I'm always looking for new sponsors, and happy to pass your info to other SpiceLeaders worldwide.
I started up my SpiceCorps in 2016; I'd just moved at the end of 2015 and after the move all 3 established SpiceCorps in Northern Illinois were over an hour away from me. I started my group in Aurora, IL to attract attendees - even though this was still almost an hour away from me, it was much further from the Rockford, Mount Prospect, and Downtown Chicago groups and would therefore draw more people. At my first meeting I had almost 20 people, which was phenomenal - most first meetups have around 5-10 people. In 2018, I moved our base from Hopvine in Aurora to Tap House Grill in St. Charles since this was a much closer drive for me. Most of my meetups are attended by around 12-15 IT pros now that my group is more established. When covid hit in 2020, we paused meetups, and some life changes prolonged the hiatus a bit longer than I'd anticipated. In 2023, I moved our home base to Elgin, IL and started work on reviving the group.
So what's a meetup actually like?
The most common question I get from people unfamiliar with SpiceCorps is "What the heck is it?" SpiceCorps are a way to take the world's largest IT community offline and make it personal. They are regional in-person meetups organized by a SpiceLeader, and often featuring a sponsor that provides food (and sometimes beer!), some swag, and a presentation from an expert. Most IT pros are drawn by the sponsor and content, but providing food and swag helps to drive attendance. IT pros appreciate technical presentations and product demos, rather than sales pitches, so the sponsors we work with always make sure to send people that can answer the tough questions.
When there's no company or vendor sponsoring the meetup, the SpiceLeader or one of their group's members often presents a topic they have familiarity with. I've presented on password theory and security before, and have had member presentations on Apple management and VoIP as some examples.
After the presentation, we do some raffles to raffle off swag - SpiceLeaders get a swag pack from Spiceworks to give away at each meetup, and sponsors often bring branded swag to give away, sometimes including a larger prize to raffle off. We close the night with Q&A and general discussion, and leave time for individuals to talk directly to each other and to the sponsor reps.
This is a typical meetup format for my group, as well as for a few other groups I've attended meetups with, but each SpiceCorps may be run a bit differently. If you're considering attending or sponsoring a meetup, definitely reach out to the SpiceLeader of your local group to see how they run their meetups.
SpiceCorps Sponsors: How to get started
In addition to the time I put into running my SpiceCorps, I also am always on the lookout for new companies and vendors to get into sponsorship. As SpiceLeaders, having a sponsor for our meetup is extremely valuable - not only does it mean we'll have a meal provided (food and drink helps drive attendance), it means we'll have a presentation from an expert in their field. Our attendees love technical presentations and product demos, not sales pitches, and they value being able to network with company reps face-to-face.
The top question on most potential sponsors' minds is "How much is this gonna cost me?" as budgets often have to be approved by Marketing departments. The short answer is: it really varies by SpiceCorps group and what the sponsor wants to do. I've hosted and attended meetups where vendors hosted at a local HQ and provided pizza and pop for a dozen people, and I've hosted and attended meetups at restaurants where it was closer to $25-$30 per head for around 10 people (more if the sponsor chooses to include a beer/wine package). Some sponsors get creative and host meetups at paintball ranges, escape rooms, laser tag ranges, or other fun activities. The cost all comes down to what you, as a sponsor, feel is worthwhile to get your company in front of a group of IT pros.
If you'd like more information, or want to discuss getting involved with Spiceworks, drop me a line.
SpiceCorps Demographics Information
Since I personally put a big focus on getting new vendors involved with Spiceworks and SpiceCorps, I put together a survey in late 2018 to get some demographics information on the attendees of my SpiceCorps. After this gave some great information, I put together a more in-depth survey in early 2019 targeted towards SpiceCorps members worldwide. The most recent analysis of the results can be found below.