One thing that can be a challenge, among the many challenges, as a small business is finding customers. Online sites like Etsy helps average everyday folks like me sell to people across the country, but sometimes that stops me from seeing the opportunities in my own back yard.
Recently I was invited to a visitor's day to BNI, a networking group that has charters all around the world. A local group was just chartered last week and I had such a great time that I applied to be part of it - and was accepted!
The great thing about groups like BNI, they only allow one of each profession as a representative in each group. So, in my new group, I am the only Aflac representative. There is only one auto mechanic, one roofer, one Mary Kay consultant, etc. Some networking groups end up being a bunch of Avon ladies, Pampered Chef sales people, or Partylite Consultants (not that there's ANYTHING wrong with these, but when that's all there is it's a little harder to have a functional group) but BNI is much more oriented toward brick and mortar businesses.
Something there aren't a lot of, at least in this local group, is independent artisans. But it seems to me that it would be a fabulous opportunity for people who design and create for a living. The whole purpose of BNI groups is to help one another grow business through referrals.
And it's not some loose group of people getting together every week - it's quite structured and there are certain rules, as well as an annual membership fee, that are required. I love this!
The energy in my new group is contagious! I hope that it will be a huge boon to my new business and I am excited to provide referrals to the other members' businesses as well. If you're looking for a BNI group in your area head over to their website - they are all over the world. Remember, if you join as a jeweler - you will be the only jewelery allowed in the group!