Setting up a networking group

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Setting up a networking group

Part of my job as a network marketer is, unsurprisingly, to network! I am writing this on the first anniversary of Lancaster and Morecambe Ladies Mean Business, LMLMB  a group I set up online in January 2014.

Amazingly, the group has grown to over 380 women with more being added every day. Our first physical meeting was a group of just 5 of us sitting down for a coffee, whereas now we have 2 monthly meetings in two venues, morning and evening to fit in with people’s other responsibilities. It is pretty amazing how things have evolved from one small, tentative idea.
My first experience of networking was at a very welcoming local breakfast group, but still, the structure left me leaving feeling like maybe networking groups were not the place for me. I was completely unprepared for my 60 second pitch, so at least I learned the hard way early on that there’s nothing worse than looking like you don’t know what you’re talking about when it comes to selling yourself or your business!
We were then asked to speak to 3 people for 10 minutes each, spending 5 minutes each on our own business. I found myself sitting in front of 3 people I hadn’t chosen and I felt that they talked at me. My lack of experience back then meant that I didn’t have the confidence to shout “it’s my turn goddamnit!”
I then got invited to BNI (Business Network Institute) and I fell in love with this model and joined straightaway. The group were well established and with 30 members that were helping each other to increase business I couldn’t help but be wowed. However, I understood that the outlay was expensive and whilst I have definitely made my money back, I knew there was a market for some low cost networking in the area. I felt that having a women only network that we could fit around busy lifestyles would feel even more liberating.
Initially I contacted ladies I had met at some of the network events I had already attended, and we got to work thinking of a name. The local graphic designer Dee Hinksman from Utter Creatives created us a free logo and we were set.
The pinned post reads:

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Lancaster and Morecambe Ladies Mean Business is a place where female entrepreneurs, women business owners and mumpreneurs from around the local area can connect, share, inspire, be inspired and learn how to build a business that works around their lifestyle.
When added to the group please introduce yourself and your business and if you would like any advice on any particular expertise.
It’s a place to share marketing advice, business-building tips and ideas on how to juggle raising a family with running a business.
The Ladies Business meetings held monthly are a great place for building up confidence and supporting each other.
As there are other very successful groups running in other areas this group is limited to Lancaster, Morecambe and surrounding areas within a 20 mile radius.
Please add any local business woman that you know and this is a place where you can advertise your business on Fruitful Fridays, posting offers, products or anything you like business related!!
When added for the first time please feel free to send us to your business page so we can like and share and see what you are up to.
We politely request that you don’t spam the page with adverts every day, but think about how you can contribute to making this a great networking page.
Fruitful Fridays – Time to advertise special offers and your page!
Skill swap Saturday – swap a product or a skill!
Shoutout Sundays – Shout out about any ladies in the group, you could have used their services or perhaps they have just been really helpful to you this week.
Motivational Mondays – Time to offer some motivation or advice out
“Whats going on Wednesdays” Use Wednesdays to share any local one off events or fairs!! Charity events etc, Or if you are launching something new, this is not for regular classes.

The beauty of the specific, set days for posting is that the site doesn’t get continually spammed by people advertising. Instead, members are encouraged to actually network and build relationships and alliances which has absolutely happened. We meet twice a month with an average of 30 women attending each meeting, and whilst we don’t actively encourage child attendance, obviously we don’t bat an eyelid if someone does have to bring their little one. At the end of the day, this is an informal group with mums who understand that it can be difficult to juggle a business and give your attention to your kids at the same time.
There has never been any intention of going up against paid networking groups, in fact I encourage people to start with us and then build up to accessing the others as their business grows and they can afford it. Pink Link Ladies in Lancaster are big supporters. They regularly post useful tips for our users and work alongside us, rather than in competition with us.

As Derric Nuh Ydim said, “Always take massive imperfect action towards your goals because the time might never be ‘just right’.” I didn’t think I was ready when I started what was then a tiny meeting within a few weeks of giving birth to my daughter, but the truth is if you take action anyway and put the time and commitment into creating a networking group your way, you will be truly amazed at what could come out of it. In our case, we have an amazingly supportive, huge network of varied and interesting businesswomen from all over the area. If anyone ever has a question online, the engagement rate of the many group members who join in and offer their support and expertise is amazing. The best part of it is that many of us have formed deep and lasting friendships through the group, and by keeping to the rules and making it a genuinely supportive atmosphere, only the right people have stayed around to help develop the group. Why not consider starting your own networking revolution? You have nothing to lose!
Please get in touch in the comments box if you have any questions or you want to let me know how you get on. I would love to hear how you make networking work for you!

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