Casually sitting one Sunday morning scrolling through the Facebook group Randpark Ridge Community, because this is where one picks up business and appointments for the following week, I see a post by a man asking if he had a get together of business owners in the area, would people be interested. Over 400 comments of interest later, I inbox the gentleman and ask if he would like assistance organising this as it is clearly popular, and it will take some organisation. First appointment made for the week.
I meet with Peter and we arrange how it will go. I prepare my 60 second intro to my business and myself without overdoing it. Virtual Assistants were unheard of 5 years ago.
Come the evening of the network meeting, I arrive half an hour early to assist with the set up and preparation of chairs etc. SO many people arrived, we had on 30 in attendance.
It was an absolutely fabulous way of meeting fellow business owners in the area. I handed out and received so many business cards that night and was called away to work at 9pm, on a FRIDAY.
Peter calls me 2 weeks later and says a local Estate Agency would like to offer their premises with an outdoor thatch boma for the next meeting. Great, we will need the space.
After a few months, our meetings are a talked about event from the Community on Facebook. Our numbers are growing fast. I am putting the event up on Facebook in the group page and people are responding from there. Peter is keeping up with the numbers and arranging seating etc.
I receive a message on Facebook from a local business owner asking if he can attend as well. Of course he can. I get chatting with him at the next event and he hires me to run his Facebook page, well, firstly to clean it up professionally. One cannot sell gas through men’s jokes.
A year into the networking, Peter pulls me aside and tells me this is not what he had mind. He had a picture of a few guys sitting in his workshop having a beer and discussing business. “Who are all these hairdressers and beauticians Nat?” he asks. The humour was amazing.
So, he announces at the meeting that he is pulling out and I will be running the meetings from now on. My first official public speaking event where I am running the show. I did amazingly well and was complimented all round with the usual lot of “Can I bring a friend next time?” questions. Of course they can.
Well, I arrange a meeting on a Saturday morning, whereby people can bring their products to show and sell. I did not expect a number of 60+ people to arrive. I had to split them up and get them chatting to each other as it was just too big a number. By this time, I was charging R100-00 a person as well as after discussion with Peter, (yes, he did not quite get away), we decided that people respond better when they have given something / paid for a service. In exchange we provided snacks and finger foods. At this particular event, I hauled the gas guy in and got him to make boerewors rolls to hand out. At all the event’s, all people had to bring was drinks.
I kept the meetings informal and casual as this is how people interacted more, at a relaxed event.
Two years later, a whatsapp group up and running, and doing referrals like crazy, I am well known, and everyone is referring me to their business associates for their admin work. I get requests to split the meetings into a morning and evening session. I agree to this as the numbers are large and would continue to grow in the two time slots.
I approach a local pizza restaurant, of whom the owner attended our meetings and ask if she would be interested to host the morning one with a breakfast being served. Not only was she very keen, but we moved the evening one across to her as well with buffet pizza’s being served.
Eventually after 3 fabulously successful years, I decide I am done with hosting a network, it does take dedication, time, and effort to continuously arrange, facilitate payments, change the introduction speech, welcome new people, chat to everyone and stay in touch with everything.
I approach a regular lady and ask her if she would like to take over the evening meetings. She readily agrees and does so with flair and dedication.
The following January, another new regular lady took over the hosting of the morning meeting and invited me as a thank you and farewell gesture. It was superb. I was a given a book as a thank you and farewell by my fellow networkers – Becoming – Michelle Obama.
I now look forward to the day when I can attend other network meetings and meet new people and watch the leads to business.