Breakfast for entrepreneurs

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If I am honest, I never, EVER thought I would enjoy getting up at ‘stupid-o-clock’ to go to a business networking meeting. I find it hard enough to talk coherently at any time of the day, and the thought of mingling with strangers over breakfast and telling them about my business was not on my list of Favourite Things.

But back last summer, out of the blue, I was sent an invitation to a business breakfast by the stained glass artist, Alan Wright. Alan is a wonderful craftsman, and a very gentle man – How could I say ‘No’ to him? Forgive me for saying this, Alan, but I was also curious to visit a business group that included someone that I would never have described as a ‘businessman’.

For the first time in many years I got myself up before 7am and drove through the lovely Sussex countryside to have breakfast in a pub with a bunch of strangers. The ‘Entrepreneurs’ branch of BNI (Business Network International) is relatively new, and the only BNI group in the Rye area. It seemed very strange to go to the pub at 6:45am, but the group of people who were gathered around the coffee machine were friendly and put me at my ease. All sorts of trades and professions are represented – but only one of each kind is allowed to join. We don’t have a butcher, a baker or a candlestick maker (yet), but we do have a solicitor, an accountant, a web developer, a kinesiologist and, of course, a stained glass maker amongst our members.

If you are a sole trader, running your business can be socially isolating, and it can be easy to avoid doing the things that are important to keep your business vibrant and find new clients. Personally, I felt I was becoming a little bit ‘stuck’ as a graphic designer, and stepping outside my comfort zone to join the Entrepreneurs group has been a very positive step. It has made me look at my business with fresh eyes and learn how to expand my customer base.

The BNI network is based on referrals – you all work as a sales and marketing team for each other. Personally, I find this very valuable. I know and love Alan Wright’s stained glass work, and I can genuinely sing his praises and recommend that ANYONE who would like a special glass panel made, or an old panel restored, should contact him. However, like many sole-traders, I don’t find it so easy to sing my own praises!

Each week over breakfast, the BNI members give a one-minute presentation about their business, and one member gives a ten-minute presentation, we get to know each other’s businesses, and find out what kinds of work and what kind of customers that we are all looking for. For two hours, once a week, I am part of a bigger organisation. During the rest of the week, when I’m doing the business and leisure activities in the rest of my life, if someone mentions to me that they ‘really should write a will’, or they are ‘fed up of having a permanent cold’, I can confidently suggest someone that they would benefit from talking to.

As I said, the Entrepreneurs is a relatively new group, and we do have spaces for lots more Rye-area businesses to join. So, if this article has hit a note for you, please get in touch and come along to our Visitors’ Day on Friday March 4. The only cost is £9 for a delicious breakfast.

If you would like to find out more, feel free to contact our Chapter Director, Adam Maynard. He’d be very happy to talk to you and tell you more about the group.

Tel: 07841 919254
email: am@spencermaynardwm.co.uk

Photo courtesy of BNI

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