December 3, 2013 by
Photography by Bill Sitzmann

There are really two different shifts for breakfast, Jeff Slobotski explains. Some show up at the 11-Worth Cafe at 7 a.m., and others don’t roll in until 8:30. But that’s okay, because the First Monday of the Month Breakfast Club of Champions isn’t 
about structure.

The idea for a monthly breakfast of professionals from all disciplines is one of those brainwaves you can’t assign to one person. Slobotski, co-founder of Silicon Prairie News, says he had a conversation with Omaha friends about getting people together around a meal. “It was that conversation and a San Francisco friend who said she was doing this first Monday of the month thing that made me think, this is a thing that should happen,” Slobotski says.

He put an open invitation on Facebook last June, inviting over 200 people to show up the following Monday at the 11-Worth Cafe on 24th and Leavenworth. “Basically we all show up for breakfast and just take over the place,” the event page reads. “We hang out, drink coffee, and get jazzed to start the day/week & month off right. Let’s do this thing. Go!”

“Honestly it wasn’t until the third time that I actually talked with Tony,” Slobotski admits. That’s Tony Caniglia, the owner of 11-Worth Cafe. Slobotski figured it would be nice to give the establishment a heads-up that things might get a little crazy for a few hours on certain Monday mornings. “We didn’t want their servers quitting after a Monday shift,” he says.

So 40-70 people show up for a chatty breakfast at a local diner. What’s the end goal here?

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“There’s this resurgence, this energy, in the city,” Slobotski says. “People want to be involved, and I think that shows a general passion for the city. Let’s all take our labels off and just come together as people. You don’t come to this wearing a name tag with a stack of business cards.”

“We’ve seen changes in the way business networking takes place,” says Mike Battershell, vice president of Bergman Incentives and a core First Monday breakfaster. “You’re looking for opportunities to get your name out there, but you’re also just looking for ways to make your community better.”

Slobotski describes Battershell as an instigator. “Mike’s the kind of guy who won’t just post to Facebook saying something needs to happen,” he says. “He’ll give you a phone number and a name. He’s an informed instigator.”

For Battershell, the breakfasts are about spreading that information. “You’re probably going to sit next to someone you wouldn’t otherwise sit with. Say you’re a programmer, and you’re sitting next to an artist who’s sitting across from an elected official,” he says. “That’s a catalyst for business opportunities and community improvement projects.”

Diverse backgrounds are key, both agree. “I’m very passionate about not creating another insular group,” Slobotski says. “How can we continue to be open? Be proactive? Be inviting to folks from different geographies and industries, different spheres within the city?”

The welcoming nature of the 11-Worth itself doesn’t hurt. “The wait staff at 11-Worth is great,” Battershell says. “If you get up and move, they’ll remember that you had the corned beef and hash.” In fact, he says he bounces from seat to seat about four times in the morning.

Oh yes, that’s allowed. “If there’s a break in conversation, it’s totally appropriate to jump up and move on,” Slobotski assures. After all: no structure, no special recognition, no food chain.

And no judgment.

Slobotski laughingly admits he orders the same breakfast every time. “The number 11. Two eggs sunny side up, two pieces of white toast, grape jam, massive side of hash browns. The place is underground-famous for its 
hash browns.”