Below is a conversation four Sugarmaples members had (recorded with their express permission) right after the 2016 U.S. election.
The conversation starter was an article from the Washington Post discussing Trump supporters’ perception of the election results.
The participants, in order of appearance:
Suzanne, a novelist from Atlanta, Emma, a tech entrepreneur from Seattle, Kat, an organizational training consultant from Upstate New York, and Claire Michelle, a children’s librarian from central Pennsylvania.
I’ve been connecting pairs of potential friends, myself, for the pure joy of it, since the mid-Eighties. Usually by sending them out to lunch.
Though I love getting potential friends together in person, I got a hankering a few years back to introduce folks from different cities. And Sugarmaples is the vehicle I came up with.
I wish I’d started Sugarmaples ten years ago.
Each Friday, I send a text to every Sugarmaples member.
Something like this:
“Are you up for a conversation during this upcoming week? If so, let me know on which evenings you have a free hour.”
I scan all the responses. Then I hand-assemble groups of four I’m confident will enjoy talking with one another.
I send each member of each group the day and start time for their conversation along with a phone number they’ll use to call in.
Then I ask one of the people from each group to pick out a conversation starter (a question, article, video, tweet, etc.).
Finally, I send the conversation starter to the other three members of their group, so they can look at it before the phone call.
You can try out two conversations for free. After that, membership is $38 per month.
Frequently asked questions.
Are there prequisites for becoming a member?
During our interview, I’m only trying to figure out one thing: whether or not you’re likely to hit it off with a good percentage of our existing members. If my intuition tells me you are, I invite you to become a member.
How many members are there?
Who are you? What do you do for a living?
Are all the conversations about very serious topics?
The conversations range from very serious to completely silly. And often are a mix of the two.
Why do you call the project 'Sugarmaples'?
Sugar maple trees remind me of my childhood trumpet teacher, Edward Treutel. If he were alive today, I would have invited him to be our first member. He would have loved this.
Mr. Treutel had a big, beautiful sugar maple tree in front of his studio. I waited under it for my mom to pick me up after each lesson, every single Tuesday from 1974 through 1986.
What’s your long-term vision?
When members travel or relocate to cities around the world, I’d love it if there could always be a decent-sized community of well-matched members waiting for them. In Barcelona, Chicago, Melbourne, Tel-Aviv, wherever.
And I want to have physical Sugarmaples places that make it easy for well-matched members to meet and spend time together. Co-working spaces. Coffee shops. Performance venues. B&B’s. Vacation homes.
Can you tell me more about your mom?
It’s hard to overstate her influence on my friend connecting.
She spent her whole life sprouting, fertilizing, and pondering friendships.
Are the calls recorded?
On occasion, for sharing purposes, but only with the express permission of the participants.
Can I reach out to you by email instead of phone?
How often can I participate in these conversations?
As often as you want. Some members participate in multiple conversations each week.
Why do the conversations take place over the phone?
The members find video isn’t necessary. And going audio-only allows folks to walk around during the conversation and/or stay in their PJs.
Does it matter where I live?
Nope, as long as you speak English. Belgium, Brazil, or Bhutan — any country works.
Can I send someone your way?
Is there any social network component or discussion forum?
No. It’s all calls. I want Sugarmaples to be something that doesn’t add noise, weight, or interruption to our members’ daily lives.
How will I get in touch with the members I meet?
After every call, I privately ask each of the four participants if there was anyone on the call they particularly resonated with. When two people express mutual interest, I send them one another’s contact info.
Who created the illustration of the trees and leaves?
Who created the logo?