The ongoing explosion in social media and internet-based marketing certainly can be a blessing for a new business, but sometimes an old-fashioned face-to-face event can be just as important in building connections and finding new customers.
And that’s all the more important in a small community such as Greeley. The Greeley Chamber of Commerce can play an important role in helping set up a wide range of local networking events, allowing new or even well-established businesses to get the word out about their services, their staff and their aspirations.
Sarah MacQuiddy, president of the Greeley Chamber of Commerce, says chamber-sponsored events such as Business After Hours or a Greeley Young Professionals mixer can provide a vital source of referrals and marketing opportunities in an informal and relatively inexpensive format.
“It’s an ideal chance to showcase your business,” she said. “The exposure that they get by inviting people into their business, especially if people have never been there before, is very important.”
With some 700 local members — or “investors,” as the chamber now calls its membership — MacQuiddy said there are lots of chances for businesses to participate in the more than 50 local and regional networking events hosted each year.
Breakfast meetings, lunchtime gatherings, informal after-hours mixers or even the chamber’s own intimate 12 at 12 meetings all allow chamber membership to connect with the community, as well as having a soapbox to provide a brief pitch for their own business.
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The chamber’s Greeley Young Professionals group provides monthly networking events for investors aged 21 to 39, with receptions, social activities and even an upcoming brewery tour.
Networking events even can provide nonprofit organizations with an ideal venue to build community support or simply familiarize local businesses with their many benefits.
Bob O’Connor, executive director of the Weld Food Bank — a local support agency serving thousands of the working poor in northern Colorado — has hosted a variety of before- and after-work chamber gatherings.
He said they’ve opened up avenues for some unexpected partnerships, as well as providing an opportunity to explain the food bank’s mission.
“We like to try to get people into our building and let them know what we really do,” O’Connor said. “That can be a totally eye-opening experience for many businesses and can really help put the issue of hunger in perspective, especially locally.”
And with resources stretched to their limit at a small, high-volume organization, O’Connor said a visitor at a recent Business Before Hours event provided the food bank with a very welcome gift.
“People always ask how they can help, and then someone asked, ‘who actually does your office cleaning?’ We explained that we had to do that ourselves. So a cleaning company offered to donate its time for the job,” O’Connor said. “We appreciated that, but we’ve also found other ways that we can partner with local businesses.”
And for more traditional businesses, the chamber events provide an important ongoing source of connections and a chance to learn about changes, new staff and new projects among their business neighbors.
Chalice Springfield, CEO and managing broker at Sears Real Estate, said her firm has been a strong supporter of Chamber networking events, hosting and sending staff to participate when other businesses open their doors.
“We’ve had some very well-attended events, which are important as a service-oriented business,” she said. “I have about 50 real estate agents on staff, so these events can be great not only for meeting businesses and getting referrals but also for learning more about the community.”
Sears Real Estate sponsors a yearly Greeley Young Professionals gathering, as well as regular Business After or Before Hours events, with the company’s marketing director spending a significant amount of time setting things up when Sears is the host.
“Our location on the golf course provides a nice setting, and we always provide a tent, catered food and drinks,” Springfield said.
MacQuiddy said there are just a few basic rules about hosting a networking party, the biggest being that the host business does need to provide the food and drink — and businesses are encouraged to partner with Chamber-affiliated restaurants or caterers. If alcohol is served, she also suggests hosts partner with a local liquor retailer and provide alcohol awareness training for any staff handling the beer and wine.
“Hosts also need to have a space that can accommodate up to 150 people, and often more, though we do allow our investors to utilize the chamber offices if they need to do so — and we don’t charge for that,” she said.
And with the rise in home-based or online-only businesses, MacQuiddy also has encouraged those chamber members to team up and host networking parties with folks operating out of brick-and-mortar settings.
Greeley Chamber of Commerce networking opportunities
To explore options about hosting a Chamber event – Business Before Hours, Business After Hours, lunchtime gatherings or a Greeley Young Professionals event, contact the Greeley Chamber at (970) 352-3566 or visit http://www.greeleychamber.com. Hosts are asked to provide space and light refreshments for up to 150, per event.