Small businesses are privately owned companies. They have formed when a single entrepreneur (sole proprietor) or a group of entrepreneurs (partnership/PVT LTD) organize to achieve mutual goals.
Small businesses have fewer employees, lesser investment, lesser revenue, and much stronger control than any regular-sized company.
As per regulations in the US, to qualify for the small business administration program, a company should have less than 500 employees. But there are other ways to classify companies as small organizations based upon their capital, revenue, business industry.
Business networking is a socio-economic exercise. Businesspeople and new entrepreneurs gather to recognize business opportunities. Today we the term social capital and networking help in developing goodwill and solid marketing grounds.
Business networking is a part of any business marketing plan and helps develop substantial positive feelings and trust. A well-organized and connected business network may serve as a competitive advantage.
The thought behind Business networking events is to introduce businesses to each other. For example, you are looking for a supplier of food coloring and flavor; Your local chamber of commerce organizes exhibitions for food vendors where you can come across your future supplier for the required chemicals.
The above example is just one of the scenarios. With the advent of social media, major online networking groups are working to provide both business and technical support for your small businesses.
You can find loads of networking opportunities if you observe vigilantly.
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Best Small Business Networking Groups:
Here are 9 of the top small business networking groups for finding networking opportunities.
The first on the list of the best small business networking groups is the local chamber of commerce.
As defined by Investopedia: A chamber of commerce is an association or network of businesspeople. It has the purpose of promoting and protecting the interests of its members that are small and medium-sized companies.
A chamber of commerce, also called the board of trade, is usually composed of business owners with mutual interests. They will choose leadership, name representatives, and debate which policies to espouse and promote.
The chamber of commerce of your locality is the best place to start your small business networking program. It actively promotes networking by publishing member directories, holding regular meetings, and sponsoring mentoring programs, organizing exhibitions and other professional development opportunities.
2. Small Business Administration Community Groups
The second community on the list of the best small business networking groups is the community groups of SBA (Small Business Administration)
The U.S. Small Business Administration (SBA) is a United States government agency supporting entrepreneurs and small businesses.
The mission of the SBA is to:
“Maintain and strengthen the national economy by enabling the establishment and viability of small businesses” mentioned in the SBA preamble.
SBA does not only provide financial assistance but helps in marketing and networking. SBA also organizes community groups for small business owners of a locality. It holds seminars, discussions, and professional luncheons for business networking and development opportunities.
As per the SCORE web page:
SCORE is the largest network of volunteer, expert business mentors dedicated to helping small businesses get off the ground, grow and achieve their goals.
SCORE provides training, mentoring, networking services for small businesses and companies.
It arranges for both mentoring and “meetup” sessions. It helps smaller entrepreneurs to market their products and services.
Speaking of meetups, the next on the list of best small business networking groups is meetup.com.
Referring to the website itself;
Meetup is a platform for finding and building local communities. People use “Meetup” to meet new people, learn new things, find support, get out of their comfort zones, and pursue their passions, together.
Meetup is not a typical association. It is an online service that helps you connect with small businesses in your area and concerning your industry.
The web forum helps you connect with businesses and services that are: in a similar industry as you or can be your suppliers, distributors, or consultants, etc.
Business Network International, or BNI, is one of the best small business networking groups for entrepreneurs who are serious about networking.
BNI is a franchised networking community and has approximately 7,500 divisions for networking events for small business owners.
BNI has a membership program that is different than other small business groups. The companies apply and wait to be approved to join BNI, and only one member per industry is allowed in each group and session.
So if BNI has approved you, the results can be outstanding for your small business. Your company will represent the industry, and your small business will seem more authoritative for it.
6. Entrepreneurs Organization (EO)
Referencing EO’s webpage:
Organized in 1987, members of EO are building a global network. The network is purposed to serve the unique needs of the entrepreneur. This innovative process has sustained a growing organization that has withstood even flourished during times of economic uncertainty and now with a global footprint in more than 61 countries.
EO provides training, learning, and mentorship programs and has over 12000 members from different industries. The members volunteer to develop and market small businesses.
7. Rotary International:
Rotary International is a service organization with the sole purpose of bringing businesses and organizations together on one platform. With more than 1.2 million members and 35000 rotary club venues worldwide, the Rotary club plays a significant role in small business networking.
Rotary clubs brings professionals and organizations together and helps in developing and marketing business and their products. The members of RI also work on humanitarian causes.
Some Honorable Mentions
The following groups or communities are quite significant, But cannot take the top 7 spots in the best small business networking groups in the USA.
8. Young Entrepreneurs Council:
If you are under 45 and planning to network your business, YEC may be the solution you need.
The council organizes gatherings, events, seminars, and luncheons with the specific aim to connect young businesspersons. Membership by invitation only and YEC can serve as a concierge for your organization.
9. Social Media Platforms:
Professional social media platforms such as LinkedIn are to connect businesses and professionals.
Many other active small business networking groups are; Startup Nation, e-Women Network, National Federation of Independent Businesses. It includes all other trade and feasible industry associations and groups helping your small business networking plan.
The Final Word:
There is no disadvantage of joining a networking group or association. You will be able to gain knowledge from the experiences of the group members.
The wise thing to do is; set and outline your goals for joining the groups and think carefully before joining any group. Think about how the group can connect you to your future stakeholders.