I have to admit that it hurts a little to write this post. Read the copy on anything I produce and it will say that my company is a "virtual provider of..." My intention was always to be able to work from anywhere, and I can and do. Mostly my clients meet with me on the phone or via Skype but here is where there may be a little egg on my face - face-to-face networking.
When speaking with other entrepreneurs or small biz owners, they invariably bring up the fact that they get lonely. Maybe it is because I am a coach and they feel that they can share this. Not sure. But here is what I do know for certain: All of us who work alone need to get out and interact with other small biz owners. Don't tell me you don't have time. You can't afford not to make the time. Here is what you might get out of it:
- You may feel better knowing that others are experiencing something similar
- You may get a suggestion or a tip that you hadn't thought of for your business
- You may meet someone whose business is complementary to yours and fills in a gap
- You may meet a potential business parter
- You may meet a potential client
All good reasons to get your butt out of the house, right?
Here are some groups that I have enjoyed that meet in downtown Chicago. There are a zillion others but these are my favorites.
The Big Ooga - Besides the fun name, Big Ooga attracts a nice group of small biz owners and entrepreneurs. They have excellent speakers and also do workshops and classes. They meet the first Tuesday of the month usually at the very cool Catalyst Ranch in the West Loop. Friendly group with the goal of connecting people with what they need for their business.
BNC Entrepreneur Group - Part of Business Network Chicago, this group has periodic social networking functions and offers classes as well. I have attended several of their classes and found them to be helpful and enjoyable.
Social Media Club Chicago - Arguably the best party with the most fun people. Very reasonable admission usually includes free drinks, which may contribute to the fun party aspect :) And social media folk tend to be, well, social! But if you are new to social media, don't let that stop you from coming. They meet at a different location each month. I have made some great connections, met future clients, and found some business partners. Highly recommended.
Entrepreneurs Unpluggd - This group is tech startup focused. I have been to two of their events and found the programs to be excellent with several entrepreneurs sharing stories about a specific issue (e.g., how they got funding, disaster stories). They don't meet every month. Sign up for their newsletter or "like" their Facebook page to get announcements about upcoming programs.
What networking groups do you like in Chicago? Which ones would you recommend to others? Please leave a comment below so we can check them out!