Last week Colchester Life's Liz attended an event run by ‘I Roll Up My Sleeves’, who have taken an entirely different approach to networking - one which not only helps local businesses, but the community too!
Most small business owners have been to networking events at some stage or other. Sometimes these can be a great experience, where you meet some good people and learn something. Other times they can be a bit deflating. One thing that all these groups have in common is that initial awkwardness of walking into a room full of strangers and talking about yourself – proactively telling others about your business and how great it is.
Glenn Hoddy set up ‘I Roll Up My Sleeves’ almost a year ago. He noticed that a number of businesses wanted to have links to the community or set up a corporate social responsibility scheme, but didn’t really know where to start. By linking to local projects that need volunteers and a few hours of man-power, and getting the networking members to work as they network, everyone wins. The Suffolk group has done everything from volunteering at care farms to projects helping the homeless. And for those networking, working together on a physical project with other business owners certainly gets rid of that awkwardness!
Whilst the scheme has been running for some time in Suffolk, it has only recently set up in Essex. Essex Co-ordinator Darren Bradwell explains: ‘Glenn advertised for an event coordinator that had experience in small business and as I had started my own business and got it to a standard where it virtually runs itself. I decided that this would be a good venture for me to run alongside what I do now. It also allows me to network and be socially responsible as a company’.
Darren’s focus as the local co-ordinator is “helping local CIC and charity - with the emphasis on local to the area that the businesses operate in. This will enhance the businesses kudos and tick the social responsibilities box”.
Serious networkers will be asking whether they are likely to get any business out of attending. Darren explains “I feel that this appeals to people because it is an event that is more relaxed and as far away from normal networking as you can get. You are in a more sociable environment talking to other like-minded business people. At the same time, you do not actually feel that you are networking and you are doing good for the local projects. The feedback I have received says that they did not realise that they are networking until they leave and realise that they have become a member of an elite team and that they have made some good contacts”.
So, if you are tempted to go along, what can you expect? “Something very different. [New members] should expect to feel that they have provided something to a local charity or CIC. And that have fulfilled their social responsibility. They will have made some good contacts for their own business at the same time. They should feel that this is a win-win situation - the local charity gains the man power, the business gains good contacts and kudos by full filling their social responsibility.The business can even sponsor an event and will receive a lot of advertising".
The next Essex event will be held at Wellies On Care Farm (which is the subject of our next blog!), on 28th of