How small business owners came together, grow together, and created Networking Group USA.
When I began growing my small business in one of the cities near Boston, where the population sits around 655,000 people, it seemed daunting at first. When I moved my residency to a small rural town in the south coast where the population sits around 11,000, I learned the true meaning of daunting, and quickly began to understand the phrase, “The struggles of a small business owner.”
There were no cabs, no tall skyscrapers, and certainly no rush hour traffic. All of the restaurants and local bars were like scenes out of, “Cheers” where everyone knows your name. My morning routine of waiting in line for an hour at Starbucks as my coffee was being made incorrectly, (for the fourth time this week) had now become walking into the town’s only coffee shop and having my coffee already made to perfection, by the owner herself.
As a business owner, everywhere I go, I am constantly on the move. Constantly marketing, branding, and establishing my identity as a business. After six months of living in the small town of Lakeville, MA I was running out of places to go, I was running out of places to grow. I felt like I had met and knew every single person in town on a personal level.
THE BIRTH OF NETWORKING GROUP USA
From that one meeting over coffee, we made plans to grab a couple of our local friends that were in business for themselves and organized our very first networking meeting. The meeting was held in October of 2014 in the side room of the local frozen yogurt shop. Three of us had to move the foosball table so the six of us could all fit in the room. Our original members were a Life Insurance Agent, a Real Estate Agent, a Glass Company, the local restaurant, a Mortgage Broker, and the owner of a boutique.
After being part of many other “official” networking groups in the past I knew the ins and outs of what works and what doesn’t. I saw first- and how strict, rigid, corporate, and EXPENSIVE being a part of these other groups can be. After that first meeting, I went home and drafted our first template for how we wanted to run our group. Much of the decisions moving forward were collective and democratic. The only requirement I was adamant on was that OUR group we be fun, relaxed, efficient, and FREE!
Over the following two weeks, before our second meeting, word spread fast. The original members quickly realized that the side room at the frozen yogurt shop was no longer going to work. Thankfully, Michael Warren, the Functions and Catering manager at The Fireside Grille was one of our original members and saw the potential in our group and offered a larger space for us to meet. At the second meeting, we had over fifteen (15) business professionals in attendance. Everyone realized we had created something truly special, truly unique, and something that in this economy, the small businesses in our community were truly ready for.
Networking Group USA Chapters are opening up in surrounding towns. Oh, and we are still GROWING! We are referring an average of $30,000 in gross revenue to each other every month. We are incorporated, have a heavy presence on Facebook and other social media outlets, and have our own interactive website that connects local business owners through our center “hub”. If you visit (and you are now officially invited) one of our chapters, specifically the original chapter now named, “The South Coast Chapter” you will hear me start every meeting the same way:
“Thank you for joining us this morning and welcome to the Networking Group. For those of you who don’t know me, my name is Brendon Elliot and I am the original founder and one of the Board Members of Networking Group USA. In order to know where you are going, you have to know where you come from. We have certainly come a long way from the first meeting in the back of the frozen yogurt shop. Our foundation here at Networking Group USA is that we will always be FREE. We will never charge a fee to be a part of our amazing group. When people told me we would fail because the only reason people commit to these types of groups is that they feel financially obligated, I had no choice but to disagree. I countered with the belief that if you are still in business for yourself after 2008, you believe in entrepreneurship, you believe in accountability, and you believe that it is the small business owner that built this country. You are the proof that the American Dream is still alive. I thank you for that and thank you again and I invite you to come, “GROW WITH US!” Now let’s get started…”
– Brendon W. Elliot