I first discovered networking in October of 2013
when my mentor told me I needed to go meet other business people. I had recently relaunched my graphic design business, and wanted to do more business locally instead of just crowdsourcing online. As an introvert, I was reluctant but I knew that I need to give it a try. I was very intimidated when I walked into the that first meeting, but I maintained my composure the best I could. The people were so nice, I relaxed and started to actually enjoy myself. I was amazed to discover that people of various industries were regularly meeting for the purpose of referring and doing business with each other. That morning, I shook hands and exchanged business cards with probably two dozen people, and was invited to another networking event the following day. What did I have to lose? If it was anything like this group I would be fine.
The next day I discovered that not all networking is created equal. This group was a little more structured, with everyone getting a chance to address the room while they passed cards around. My heart palpated with anxiety as I waited for my turn. I got up, said my name, described my business and quickly sat back down. That wasn’t so bad!
I was hooked. I didn’t do business with anyone that day, but the potential was tremendous. I kept going back, week after week, and learned about other networking groups and visited those as well. I started to see some of the same faces over and over, and a mutual trust developed. I was hired to do a small job for somebody. Then another. Then another. As I built rapport with people, they referred me to other business owners, and then I began to see then real value of networking. Not only that; networking became fun to me. I developed friendships with other networkers, such as the lovely ladies above that I would never have met had it not been for local networking. (Photo cred. Cherie Clark Photography) Before long I looked forward to going to networking to see my friends…and meet new people…and do business.
Today, I meet people all the time who are new to networking. They don’t know what to expect or where to go, and I’ll give them advice and scribble down other groups on a business card or napkin. After doing that several times over the course of a few weeks, I began looking for an online list to point people to, but found none. So I decided to make one. This website is meant to be a resource for people who are looking for more places to network and for people who aren’t even sure if networking will work for them. Check out Networking 101 if you know you need to network, but aren’t sure where to start. And try out some of these groups…I will be glad to see you there.
Rachel is a graphic and web designer who helps small businesses and non-profits improve their marketing efforts. She owes a major part of the success of her design business to local networking, both through the people she has met and the principles she has learned.