I sometimes hear people comment on a perceived lack of networking events or ways to expand their business locally (in or near Willmar, Minnesota). While we aren’t quite a bustling metropolis like Minneapolis or St. Paul, there are plenty of networking opportunities within our community for businesses to take advantage of.
It can be somewhat difficult to find information on networking events, especially if you’re not very familiar with the community. In light of this, I thought I’d compile a list (which is by no means all-inclusive!) of regular events happening within Willmar and the surrounding areas:
The Willmar Lakes Area Chamber of Commerce coordinates Chamber Connections just about every Friday morning. Bring $1 and your business card and meet at a local business each Friday at 7:30am. You’ll learn about that business, drink some coffee and you’ll have a chance to network with upwards of 40 (we’ve maxed out so far at 153!) other business professionals. You’ll also have a chance to introduce yourself and your business each time.
Business Network International (BNI)
BNI is a referral group, filled with business people who intentionally help each other grow their businesses through referrals. They are always looking for visitors, and you’ll be able to check out each of the three Willmar chapters twice. Some visitors have been known to receive qualified referrals, but at the very least it’s a great way to introduce yourself and your business to others in the community.
Polka Dot Powerhouse (PDP)
Don’t let the name throw you on this one. This dynamic group for women is all about building relationships and empowering others to succeed. Building relationships is one of the best ways to create business and expand brand recognition, and while referrals are not the main goal of this group business most certainly happens. In fact, I don’t know that I would have been able to make the leap and take my business full time without many of the connections I made through PDP.
1 Million Cups
This networking event happens each and every Wednesday morning at 8:30 in downtown Willmar and focuses on the entrepreneurial spirit. Here you’ll meet business people, entrepreneurs, retired business people and even some of our local high school students. Entrepreneurs present their business and invite the audience to ask questions or offer advice. St. Paul is the only other chapter in the state of Minnesota, so Willmar is rather fortunate to have this.
As I said, this is only a partial list of the networking events offered here in Willmar. There are many, many more ways to meet business people and grow your business. These four earned an honorable mention since they offer up relatively easy–and highly effective–ways to get out and meet other business people and expand your business’ name recognition.