The Jarvis Report

Community Dining and Defining “Success”

Posted September 5, 2017 by

When Paul Sippil got his Inside8 test results, he probably wasn’t surprised to see that people in his group―Inside8 Individualists―are known for valuing “the wider community and interpersonal relationships.” In 2015, Paul started Community Dining in Chicago. At that point, the group was an offshoot of Paul’s personal, and incredibly extensive, research into food. A lover of both wellness and data, Paul conducted his own health-and-nutrition-based investigations into, as he says, hundreds of Chicago “restaurants, bakeries, caterers, grocery stores, specialty stores, juice bars, and delivery services that focus on the most sustainable and highest-quality sourcing.”

CommunityDining-GrangeHallBurgerBarEvent(47of105) With the launch of Community Dining, Paul gave himself a way to share his research and insights with like-minded folks. Since then, Community Dining has organized 43 private dinners. Some of these events have been themed affairs with up to 100 guests, including politicians and luminaries from the Chicago business world. In a mere two years, Paul has accumulated an impressive list of email subscribers, most of whom he has met personally. Plus, many Community Dining members who moved away from Chicago have contacted Paul about setting up expansion cities.

So, the stage is set for Community Dining to expand. But you won’t hear Paul talking about getting bigger, at least not in any conventional sense. In fact, he’s actively trying to keep the community small, defining “success” on his own terms.

Joe Jarvis

You work as a financial planner. How did Community Dining come into being?

Paul Sippil

The idea was to connect people through a shared meal experience, to create these authentic social experiences that go beyond mere networking. Instead of just bringing part of yourself (to a networking event) and exchanging part of yourself, in return for a short term benefit, the environment and intention behind Community Dining is very different. It’s focused on bringing your whole self. If you don’t have a Rolodex full of contacts to share, or you don’t have an intention of introducing people to each other, you could still be a valuable member of the community.

It was much more focused on health and wellness initially. That’s how we started, with my database, but it became much more than that.

Joe

How would you describe that evolution? What has Community Dining turned into?

Paul

What started as a group about food became a group about creating authentic human connections with a shared meal. I started thinking about the energy I was putting out, going to different events and doing different activities every night so I could keep meeting more people. Every second I spent trying to meet somebody else took away from the time I could be spending with the existing people I’ve already met. I started thinking, “Wait a minute―I already have more than enough people to build something really special,” so now my focus is much more on having meaningful interactions with those I’ve already met and connected with on a little bit of a deeper level.

Joe

So whereas a traditional business or membership would be all about getting bigger and bigger, you’re actually thinking about the depth or quality of the experiences that people are having. In a way, you don’t even want to get bigger. Is that right?

Paul

I used to be drained by Community Dining. The higher-end events, as great as they are, take a tremendous amount of planning. Although the payoff was good in terms of the experience everyone had, not only did they not have the level of intimacy, but they weren’t as scalable. With home dinners, not only will I be able to do more of them, but they will open a path for sustainability. I’m really focused on these lower scale, smaller cost, more affordable private home-based dinners of 7–10 people―maybe even fewer, to create that intimate experience.

To learn more about Paul and Community Dining, visit the Community Dining website and Facebook page.

Joe Jarvis

Joe Jarvis

Joe Jarvis is co-founder and editor of Someone Else, a style journal and production agency based in Chicago. Joe focuses on the core motivations of clothing designers and artists, to help tell their stories. With The Jarvis Report, Joe uses the same approach to discuss personal fulfillment with people in the world of Inside8.

All stories by: Joe Jarvis

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