Free networking group to make businesses stronger

Wednesday, February 8, 2012

A new free networking group for small business owners is being developed in Barry County. The group will hold its first meeting at Nickle's Flooring in Cassville at 7:30 a.m. on Friday, Feb. 24.

"I've been thinking about this for several years," said Debra Nickle, who is organizing the Barry County Small Business Owners Network meeting. "Local businesses need a support network to exchange ideas and if nothing else offer referrals. We need to be able to refer and feel good about the individual or business we are referring."

Barry County Small Business Owners Network will be open to small business owners across the county at no cost to participants. The group will also be open to managers and other business professionals, but presentations will be designed to help small business owners.

"Everyone is welcome, and it is free," said Nickle. "Business owners don't need something more to pay for right now, so all of the presentations and meetings will be offered at no charge."

Each Barry County Small Business Owners Network meeting will offer a presentation and time to network. Many of the presentations will focus on financial topics, such as licensing advice, insurance options and start-up tips.

"A resource meeting might offer information on how to exit a business or pass it along to your kids," said Nickle. "Any business involved in the group will have the opportunity to share information or offer a program."

Owners will also have the opportunity to talk about different aspects of their business.

The group meetings will be designed to pool information and expertise about products and services available in the local community. A referral system will be built using business cards from each owner or professional that attends a Barry County Small Business Owners Network meeting.

"We will also act as a sounding board for new business ideas," said Nickle. "Good business people learn from good business people."

Business owners will have the opportunity to share new business ideas and receive constructive feedback. Members will also be invited to offer business ideas that could enhance a fellow owner's operations.

Those planning to attend the first Barry County Small Business Owners Network meeting are asked to bring at least two dozen business cards. A master referral file will be created using 10 to 20 cards from each business owner who attends. The file will be available at all meetings.

Business owners will also be encouraged to exchange cards with all attendees at the meeting.

"The first meeting will be an opportunity for everybody to meet and start relationships that can be built upon," said Nickle. "We will have a presentation, and we will discuss what the biggest needs are for business owners in our area."

Nickle's son, Jared Ellis, will be the guest speaker for the first meeting. Ellis founded a similar networking group in the St. Louis area. That group has around 300 members, which include beauty product sales people, home decorators, plumbers and construction companies.

During the first meeting, attendees will also discuss a convenient time for future meetings. The group will meet every four to six weeks. Meetings will last around one hour.

Another topic of discussion will be a possible business fair, which could be held at the American Legion grounds or Memorial Park this spring. The free fair, which will likely be held on a Saturday, will give any small business an opportunity to showcase their products and services, said Nickle.

"I want to know that when I refer another business they are going to offer an honest job," said Nickle. "I also want to be able to answer questions when a customer comes in and asks me where to go for a product or service.

"I know that other business owners have good ideas," said Nickle. "Hopefully, if we work together, we can increase each others business."

Small business owners interested in learning more about the group are encouraged to visit Barry County Small Business Owners Network on Facebook or call Nickle Flooring at 847-2484.

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