By Carla Zanoni
WASHINGTON HEIGHTS — It used to be that young people with big dreams thought they needed to go downtown to succeed in Manhattan.
But one group of young artists and entrepreneurs are looking to change that with their thriving networking events called the Bago Brunch.
What started as a small group of 10 to 12 people quickly expanded, and last month when the Bago Brunch celebrated its one-year anniversary, which featured a talk by "In the Heights" creator and Inwood native Lin-Manuel Miranda, the invite list topped 150 guests.
"It is vital that artists and entrepreneurs unite and know that there are talented people that exist in Upper Manhattan and we do not have to go downtown to meet," said Michael Diaz, one of the brunch’s organizers.
Diaz, who grew up in Washington Heights, owns the media company Heights Entertainment, which he began in 2007 to find a place to showcase his talents and that of the artists he knew in Upper Manhattan.
Diaz and his partners, Paola Soto and Frank Nibbs, set out to "create a consistent networking brunch for Latinos." But all are welcome — even the bridge and tunnel folks – so long as they are willing to press business cards to flesh.
"We want to be able to not only have a great network of people meet and build in Upper Manhattan but to also have great events and to unite and create an art movement in Upper Manhattan," Diaz said, noting a recently cemented collaboration with local arts group Northern Manhattan Arts Alliance.
Although originally only scheduled for weekend mornings, Bago Brunch has expanded to host nighttime mixers for those who can't "wake up on time on a weekend to attend a brunch."
"Same vibe just an evening version, so trade the paninis for beer nuts," Diaz said.
And for those intimidated by the prospect of meeting dozens of strangers, Diaz has some tips for getting good at networking.
"I think you have to always remind yourself that if you want to be successful you need to be able to be confident and approach anyone," he said. "Also it take practice, and eventually it will become second nature."