What’s up with Business Networking? Did you know most cottage food operators don’t do enough networking? In fact, building a business network is often not done until there’s a grave need. You know, sales fall off and you think to yourself, “I gotta get some more business, talk to s? me folks!”
So, what do you do? Have you started your cottage food operation? If the answer is no, start now attending small business workshops and conferences. You don’t have to invest in a lot of money, remember, you’re on a budget, right?
NC Food Biz is hosting a Food Business Conference, Wednesday, February 14, 2018. The conference is at the NC Biotechnology Center, 15 TW Alexander Drive, RTP, NC 27709; from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. Cost: $55 – Agenda
Do you know what’s going on in your community? Your state? Now’s the time to do a bit of research.
Business networking is building and cultivating relationships with people of similar interests. (We talking micro foods, cottage food operations.) These relationships benefit all parties. When you swap information and ideas beneficial information that is, you’re networking.
Before you leap, remember, networking is a full-time job no matter your business. Establish these relationships long before you need them.
If you’re a seasoned CFO, you’ll be building relationships while in mid-flight. This will involve more time and effort, but it’s not impossible and worth it.
Here are a few suggestions:
Locate organizations or groups in your industry. If you decorate cakes join a local The International Cake Exploration Societé (ICES). If you make hot sauce, consider joining The Association for Dressings and Sauces (ADS). (Note: ADS meets twice a year and will run you over $1000.00/year, OUCH!)
If you’re a newbie, take it slow and find those networking groups that best support what you need.
Consider Alumni Organizations, your local Chamber of Commerce, LinkedIn, and Meetup.com groups. You may also consider Executive Networking Groups and BNI International. (BNI is another pricey group.)
How do you build networking relationships?
Find a LinkedIn group and start a conversation. The individuals don’t have to live in your local area, but they do need to be in the industry. (You know other micro-food/CFOs) Start talking about your objectives and goals. Look for best practices and a bit of information that cultivate your success.
Join the local Chamber of Commerce (The monetary investment is worth it, yes, I know it’s expensive.) Locate organizations and associations that you can support and who will support your small business. Are there opportunities for collaborations, partnerships? Is there a way you can work together?
What does business networking look like?
Build visibility within your industry by raising your profile. Go to as many social and business gatherings as possible. Make sure you’re decked out in attire with your logo. (Only if appropriate)
Contribute to charitable and community causes. Many business networking events involve fundraising or volunteering. I once participated in a Sweets Tasting and landed two weddings.
For people who are shy when meeting new people, get over it and do it afraid. You are in business to make money. You need exposure and you are not going to get it staying in the kitchen. It’s time to make a name for yourself, help your community, be a mentor to your children, employees (if you have them) and other business owners. You’re in the micro-business big league. (Yes, that’s an oxymoron.) You have no time for fear or shyness. It’s time to be a social butterfly. Now, go out and build that network.