When I first set up my business it was pretty daunting. There was so much to learn and I was lucky enough to receive great advice from family and friends. It is important as a new business to market yourself and get your name out there in a cost effective way.
I found that the best way to do this was by networking
My first networking event was an experience. I walked into a room full of men in suits and boy did I feel out of place! The event organiser advised me to go up to people and start talking to them. However, looking around, everyone was deep in conversation and I didn’t want to interrupt.
I took a deep breath and walked up to a group and they started to include me in the conversation. It really was as easy at that!
I attended as many free events as I could and starting meeting other business owners. I didn’t expect anything to happen overnight as you quickly learn that business only takes place once a relationship is built and trust is formed within the group.
Thurrock Network Group
There wasn’t a network group in Grays at the time, so I decided to set up my own group and with the support of the FSB (Federation of Small Businesses) the Thurrock Network Group was launched.
We meet on the 3rd Thursday of every month and network over refreshments. It is a great opportunity to meet with other local businesses to discuss ideas and issues.
My aim was to create a relaxed and informal group. I think this works well as we have a regular number of attendees each month and I receive lovely comments.
It’s nice to see new businesses coming along each month. I remember what it was like to be in that situation and I feel like I am doing my bit to help support them. The group has a wealth of experience and it is great to see businesses sharing their knowledge and doing business with each other.
We have had guest speakers attending talking about issues relevant to all businesses. A memorable moment was when Ray, an Osteopath talked about posture in the workplace and brought his buddy, the skeleton. Everybody became conscious of the way they were sitting and their posture. He gave some good tips and advice.
We had a first-year anniversary party with local MPs and local press in attendance. It was a good event for the local businesses and I received some great feedback.
Shortly after celebrating our first year, I was invited to represent the small businesses of Thurrock Network Group by sitting on the Thurrock Business Board. I am the voice of small businesses and communicate any relevant information back to the group at the meetings and on social media.
I am also involved with the Grays Town Management Partnership Board and Love Grays with other small businesses. It’s good to see businesses involved and working together on projects.
Still going strong
When I set up Thurrock Network Group I wanted it to be structured but fairly informal and relaxed. I make sure I welcome everyone and spend a little time with new attendees to help make them feel relaxed. I’ve been where they are and know that a welcoming face can make the world of difference.
It’s been great to see how the group has developed over the years. If someone has a testimonial they say it to the group so it’s brilliant to see that business is happening within the group.
It’s still going strong 7 years down the line so I must be doing something right!
The Thurrock Network Group meetings are held at The Old Courthouse in Grays from 8.00am to 9.30am.
Learn more about Louise and her business, dotty hippo design here.