The first step to becoming a helpful part of a community is to discover a need that you can fill. When we pool our talents and work together, growth happens. Synapse, a networking group, facilitates connections between businesses, and between businesses and nonprofit groups for community and economic development. It's networking with a purpose, and Keith Reynolds is one of the founders. It's no wonder he was nominated for a High Five! Listen up.
H5 RVA: What do you think is Richmond's greatest challenge?
Keith: Richmond began as a city upon a hill, overlooking the cusp of a nation divided by race, gender, and socio-economic status. Stand at the edge of Libby Hill Park, and take in the beauty of the James River and the skyline of downtown Richmond. Yet the beauty of our city cannot mask the centuries of injustice that our leaders and citizens have purposely executed, including running one of the most robust slave markets in our country, decimating a predominantly African American neighborhood in order to give way to interstate I-95, and implementing housing policies resulting in the highest concentration of poverty in public housing on the east coast. Richmond’s greatest challenge begins in reconciling its history with the present and building a collective future for its diverse residents. The answer to this significant challenge lies in our ability to empower citizens to enact change on a neighborhood and grassroots level.
H5RVA: And our greatest strength?
Keith: Richmond is very fortunate to have such a robust, impressive mix of small businesses, large corporations and effective/efficient nonprofit organizations. While it is difficult to pick one strength that can really be considered Richmond’s greatest strength, the success and contributions of so many businesses and nonprofits all around Richmond really do stand out in my mind. Ultimately, it comes down to the quality of the people who call Richmond home.
H5RVA: How does Synapse make life better for those living and working in Richmond?
Keith: Synapse makes it easy for anyone to build personal/business relationships with quality people from a wide range of professional experiences while also encouraging those who visit our Hubs to consider how easy it can be to support some of our local nonprofit organizations in creative ways. We try to find positive, energetic, community-minded individuals around Richmond and help them to connect with others that seem to be cut from a similar cloth. Collectively, we can support each other while helping to raise awareness for our nonprofit friends.
H5RVA: What do you wish people know about you?
Keith: I am extremely shy. I have struggled with social anxiety disorder since high school, and I am absolutely an introvert. Because of what I do through Synapse, most people find this all very hard to believe. I have found it interesting that many people have referred to Synapse as networking for introverts. I want people to know that with practice, anyone can develop a comfort for speaking in front of an audience.
H5RVA: What do you love to do?
Keith: I love to support the booming local brewery scene as well as the local restaurants. I also love to unwind in the mountains with my dogs and my girlfriend. I grew up going to Wintergreen, so I am blessed to have an opportunity to escape to the mountains and appreciate the breweries and skiing in that area of this beautiful state. We are so fortunate to be so close to beaches, mountains and some of this country’s most historic cities and landmarks. RVA is right at the heart of it all.
H5RVA: How has learning about nonprofits in Richmond changed how you think?
Keith: Nonprofits are simply businesses with a higher purpose. The employees that do the good work of local nonprofit organizations are neighbors, family members and friends. Most importantly, the work that most nonprofit organizations do is VALUABLE! Sales professionals and business owners are better advisors for their clients if they are equipped with a better understanding of the resources nonprofits provide for the community.
H5RVA: What synapse connection are you most proud of?
Keith: We have so many powerful stories that show how valuable Synapse can be for those who actively participate. However, the connection I am probably most proud of happened at one of our first meetings of the original Synapse Hub, Hub 001 @ Richmond Metropolitan Habitat for Humanity. Richard Luck was invited by one of our members, J.C. Poma (now with The Doorways), and Richard was there to tell everyone about his vision for UnBoundRVA. After learning about what UnBoundRVA was trying to do, Jane Helfrich (the CEO of Richmond Metro Habitat for Humanity) thought about one of her recent Habitat home owners who worked so hard to earn his home. His name was Raheim Watson, and he had apparently expressed a desire to be an entrepreneur. Soon after the meeting, Jane introduced Raheim to UnBoundRVA. Raheim was one of 25 applications for the 1st class that UnBoundRVA worked with. Raheim ended up as one of the 5 finalists chosen to work with UnBoundRVA to start his own business, and Watson Windows & Exteriors was established in 2014. Synapse and UnBoundRVA have been connected ever since, and Hub 004 @ UnBoundRVA is one of our most popular Hubs. Today, several of the new entrepreneurs who have graduated from UnBoundRVA are active members in the Synapse network.