Best Local Business Organizations to Build Your Network
Running a business can sometimes be a lonely endeavor. Whether it is the isolation of working for yourself as a freelancer or the isolation of being the boss, it is always a good idea to get out there and build your network. It may lead to a new friendship, a new client, or even a new job. It never hurts to meet someone new! Here are a few local places you can look to build your network and meet new people from the business world.
Chamber of Commerce
Your first stop when looking to meet other business leaders should be the local Chamber of Commerce. Growing up with a dad who owned his own business before joining the Chamber staff full-time, I was able to see first-hand how much a Chamber can help someone grow and develop into a successful business leader with the right community support.
Even though I wasn’t looking for clients myself, I joined the local Ventura Chamber of Commerce so I could meet other business owners and community influencers. Because a Chamber of Commerce also advocates for businesses to local government, the Chamber may even get your foot in the door with the mayor, city council members, or other local bigwigs.
A Chamber of Commerce typically offers some free events and resources, but you have to join and become a dues-paying member to get everything your Chamber has to offer. But for a reasonable price to access the most important network of local business and government leaders, that fee could be well worth it for you. Plus, you may be able to write it off as a business marketing expense!
Your next stop after the Chamber should be coworking. Coworking spaces, or coworking offices, are another excellent place to build your business network. If you are not yet familiar, think of coworking offices as community offices. Every coworking space is a little different, but in general, membership gives you access to a place to work, high-speed internet, coffee, and a printer.
But the best value doesn’t come from having a place to work, it comes from the people you work with. Coworking tends to attract online entrepreneurs, startups, and the type of people someone who runs a business would want to know. Not only can you grow your network, you may find some good friends out of going to a coworking space.
Coworking is particularly useful for new freelancers or anyone new to an area. You get the best of an office environment with none of the downfalls of having a boss looking over your shoulder.
Small Business Development Centers
Small Business Development Centers, or SBDCs, are offices supported by the United States Small Business Administration and often tie into a local university or economic development agency. Just as the name implies, these centers are a place small business owners and hopefuls can go for free and inexpensive training, resources, and support.
What they don’t tell you is that your local SBDC may also be a good place to network. Just like a Chamber or coworking space, an SBDC tends to attract business owners and those who support local businesses. In either case, those are good people to know.
According to the SBA website, you can find all of these services at an SBDC: business plan development, manufacturing assistance, financial packaging and lending assistance, exporting and importing support, disaster recovery assistance, procurement and contracting aid, market research help, 8(a) program support, and healthcare guidance.
Even if you are somewhat successful, you can certainly to learn something new, or maybe even connect with a mentor or other experienced business leader to lean on for advice. Because much of what an SBDC offers is free, you have little to lose stopping by.
Bonus: happy hours
There’s nothing like a little alcohol at 4:30 pm on a weekday to grease up the social skills. Young professional and other business happy hours are a great way to meet other local business leaders, and they are often free outside of a possible membership requirement and the cost to buy your drinks. But the cost of a few drinks may be well worth it if it leads to new customers or job opportunities.
While drinking isn’t quite as professional as some other activities on this list, the best of friends can be made over beers. You never know who you might meet at happy hour. Check local event calendars to find one that may be a good fit for you.