Roanoke Revealed

Small business networking in Roanoke, Virginia

Small business networking in Roanoke, Virginia

While I sputtered at first, I’m now finding Roanoke to be an easy small business networking town. Most cities are. Unless you’re moving to a metropolis like New York City, Los Angeles or Chicago, you’ll discover those active in the community show up repeatedly. This presents great opportunities for an owner willing to participate and deliver.

My first stop after landing in Roanoke was the Small Business Development Center (SBDC). I met with Director, Bart Smith. He helped me get a lay of the local land shape my branding strategy. If you’re a business owner looking for objective perspectives or an individual considering entrepreneurship, this is a good place to find free (technically you’re paying for this with your tax dollars) counsel.

I looked into chambers in Roanoke. There are two: one headquartered in Salem serving the County; and the larger, City-headquartered regional option. I’ll be joining one soon.

Chambers are a good resource if you’re willing to contribute on a committee or the board. It’s a good idea to find one you’re excited to support. Don’t join with a get mindset – figure out how you can most happily give and the returns will come. Merely showing up at networking meetings may leave you disappointed.

I visited a number of Toastmaster clubs, ultimately settling on Talk of the Town due mostly to the makeup of the group, the meeting time & location. This is a relatively small club, but the members are serious business people focused on helping members improve their skills.

Find what works best for you (I was looking for more constructive criticism and less cheerleading). This is a great low-cost way ($56 to join – including materials) to not only get comfortable speaking, but also build a great close-knit networking base.

A big surprise on join decisions was the Brambleton Area Business Association. Members are mostly retail (not generally my standard client, hence the choice curiosity). It’s an interesting start-up with some bold ideas. Meetings already draw notable community leaders and government employees. Plus, I was impressed with Mike Shelton, the founder and president of the Association. This is a good group for anyone working or living in the Brambleton area (southwest of Roanoke City boundaries in Roanoke County) seeking to understand community issues with opportunities and affect the outcomes.

There are a number of groups I took a pass on, for my own reasons. I’ll be looking into PRSA in the future after hearing great things about the local chapter, plus keeping my eye out for smaller, niche-focused organizations that may be a good fit.

If you’re just starting out or seeking specific resources, the Co-Lab (see link at the bottom of this site’s homepage) is worth a look. There are also free weekly evening networking and informational meetings there.

If you’re uncomfortable networking, I published a post on the NanetteLevin.com site about easy small business networking tips for introverts or newbies to help you embrace a task that may have spurred shudders in the past.

Do you have a favorite group for finding referral agents or clients? Please share in the comments below.

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