Over the last four weeks, the Barry County Small Business Owners Network has hosted two successful group meetings. Members are currently planning a business expo that will be held on June 2.
"At our first meeting, we had 11 attendees," said Debra Nickle, who is organizing the Barry County Small Business Network meetings. "Now we are up to around 27 businesses that want to be involved, and more are coming on board every day.
"Most of these businesses have committed to offering a booth at the business expo," added Nickle.
The group meetings have given local business owners an opportunity to pool information and expertise about products and services available in the local community. The group is also building a referral system using business cards from each participant.
"The referrals are really beginning to work," said Nickle. "I have given out five or 10 cards already, and we have been given referrals that have resulted in good sales.
"That's what this is based off of, and the success of the group is based on how well that system works," added Nickle.
The Barry County Small Business Owners Network's next meeting will offer information on health insurance. The event is scheduled to be held at Nickle's Flooring on Highway 112 in Cassville at 7:30 a.m. on Friday, March 30.
"We have learned that we can't do a group health insurance policy because we would need to share the same employees," said Nickle, "but we can do an association, which would save us a significant amount on short-term disability insurance and accident policies. This could cut the price of our insurance in half because we will be able to get a bundle of services at a lower cost."
Nickle said the topic of health insurance was introduced at the group's very first meeting. Several of the attendees said one of the major costs they are currently facing is insurance.
"The ideas coming out of this group are fantastic," said Nickle. "It is so amazing how creative and excited these people are. It has turned into a lot of fun."
Future meetings will offer information on women in business and veterans' benefits. Meetings held in April and May will likely be centered around plans for the upcoming business expo though.
"The business expo will offer live demonstrations throughout the day," said Nickle. "All the businesses have committed to cooking hot dogs and serving other food.
"We have two charities that are already on board to sell water and soda to raise money," said Nickle. "We would love to have other charities participate in the event. We want it to be a very family-friendly, fun time."
The Barry County Small Business Expo will be held at the Barry County Museum on Highway 112 south of Cassville from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. on Saturday, June 2. J. Rock and the Third Street band will perform after the expo ends at 3 p.m.
"We want businesses to come out and demonstrate their services and have products on sale," said Nickle. "This event is designed to showcase goods and services."
Businesses participating in the expo will also have cards and other materials available for community members to take home for future reference.
"Businesses that want to display at the expo need to get in touch with me as soon as possible because we will be assigning spots in the next few weeks, and space will become limited," said Nickle. "Any business owner interested in joining the group is also encouraged to come by Nickle's Flooring to pick up information or like us on Facebook.
"We will be limiting duplicate businesses so people with special businesses need to get on board right away before their spots are taken," said Nickle. "We have to limit duplicates for our referral system to work."
In addition to retail businesses, the Barry County Small Business Owners Network has attracted several resorts, a financial institute, charities and churches.
"We would love to have organizations like the fire department join," said Nickle. "This would give them an opportunity to tell what they do for our community. This is also a way for churches to get involved with local people."
The Barry County Small Business Owners Network is a free networking group for small business owners, managers and other business professionals. Presentations offered at meetings are designed to help small business owners.
In addition to a resource presentation, each meeting offers time for participants to network. Participants have the opportunity to share ideas and receive constructive feedback.
Business owners and professionals who attend a Barry County Small Business Owners Network meeting are asked to bring two dozen business cards. A master referral file is maintained for the group, and attendees are encouraged to exchange cards with other participants.
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.