Open Coffee Ballyclare open coffee ballyclare

So, you want to start a business network? Or, you’re on the management team for one that’s already up and running?

My forthright thoughts on my experiences of establishing a local business network, Open Coffee Ballyclare are spewed out in The Apathyville Horror. It cuts through the rose-tinted spectacles. The post below will help you avoid the pitfalls and make the right decisions.

Do I need help?

Yes, you do. But, avoid an official committee at all costs. Pick your partners or helpers well. Choose (and be) someone who is enthusiastic, active, entrepreneurial, engaged and already busy. You will need people to:

  • Send email updates and reminders
  • Post updates to websites or online profiles
  • Promote offline
  • Chair/lead a meeting if you suddenly can’t attend, need a break, or are feeling under the weather

For Open Coffee Ballyclare, see Help Wanted if you’d like to get involved.

Where should we meet?

Town folk may want to walk. Is it central? Country folk may have to get into a car. Is it easy to find? Is there adequate parking locally?

  • Choose somewhere that is easily recognisable, at least for your first few meetings. People are easily put off even by a few miles, especially those based in the town centre, and those who expect it to be convenient for them alone. Country folk are usually more willing to drive further. (Well, we have to for everything else, so it’s no bother.)
  • After that, my advice is to choose random and unusual locations if your geographical remit allows it. It has the crucial advantage of expanding everyone’s horizons and facilitates the shift from work mode to creative mode.
    • The more informal meet-ups often involve meeting at someone’s workshop or office.
    • I’ve found cafes and B&Bs work very well for an informal vibe.
    • The place we’ve met most often for Open Coffee Ballyclare is a (converted) barn – Breckenhill!

How do I promote it?

There is little I can add here, since I’ve already mentioned a huge list in The Apathyville Horror. But, be prepared. It’s an intensely realistic post!

Do not underestimate how much time this will take.

How do I measure success?

  • A regular, dependable group (size is up to you), with a few new faces on a regular basis
  • Recognition of the network name and activities in the local area
  • Business gained from access to attendees’ personal networks
  • Activity among attendees, between meetings
  • Establishment of new connections and friendships across industries and trades
  • People attending based on the word on the street
  • People ditching other networks to join yours *cough, cough*

I’d love to hear your thoughts, either of running or attending a well run network, and what you think contributes to its success.

UPDATE 15/09/13: Open Coffee Ballyclare