When I first started my agency in 2003, I knew my craft well but didn’t have much of a clue about business. What I did know was that I needed clients – and my clients are businesses – so one of the first things I did was join the local Chamber of Commerce.
This was definitely a case of “accidental smarts”, where I took the rights steps quite by accident.
Yes, I gained a few clients – but more importantly I found this was the beginning of my journey into “business” as a skill that is additional to my craft. And over time I’ve discovered the power of human connection that can only be found through networking.
Today, business networking in Geelong is much more diverse and vibrant, with lots to offer new businesses, startups and people moving to the area.
Business Networking Groups in Geelong
Geelong Chamber of Commerce
The Chamber is one of the most active and prolific in the country (and is also in fact the oldest). The monthly “After 5” events regularly attract 100+ attendees, and offer a showcase of an individual host business and plenty of networking time. There’s a good spread of businesses that come to these events, some large and many small.
The Chamber also offers business support, advocacy and advice, and runs several programs including mentoring and group workshops.
BNI (Business Networking International)
If you’ve never been to a BNI event before, I suggest you get yourself invited simply for the experience. It is a referral group rather than simple networking – each group is run using a model that encourages referrals to other members as everyone learns what each other does. Uniquely, each group only allows a single business from each category.
Meetings are very structured, with every member giving a 90-second presentation before handing the mic to the next person, followed by time for one or two select longer presentations.
BNI can be great to improve your networking and public speaking skills if you’re just starting out, and the referrals can be very beneficial to some types of businesses (not so much others).
The Geelong region has at least six BNI groups: four close to the City, one in Torquay and one in Ocean Grove.
BPW Geelong (Business and Professional Women Geelong)
BPW is fairly active in Geelong and has the goal of empowering business women and female professionals through support and professional development.
Not being a woman myself, I haven’t been able to attend any meetings – but I have seen some of the open events they’ve held with visiting speakers and they are inspiring and well organised.
[Edit – I’ve just been told that men are welcome to all events, they simply can’t become official members of the organisation.]
Business in Heels
Another one for the ladies, this is an active group holding monthly events with a guest speaker, networking and generous amounts of champagne. They also have a “chocolate shoe” door prize. Why haven’t I seen this at mixed-gender networking events?
This is a relatively new group that’s growing fast under the direction of new President, Matthew Fletcher. With a goal to improve and inspire the business community in Geelong they hold regular networking breakfasts with guest speakers sharing inspirational, entrepreneurial stories.
Personally, I love the energy and momentum of this group and I can recommend you get along to one of their events to check it out.
Geelong Young Professionals
A group specifically for young professionals, this is auspiced by the Chamber of Commerce but is organised independently. They run monthly events with great guest speakers.
Because many of the attendees here are employed professionals, rather than business owners, there is less pressure to “press flesh” which can be a welcome alternative to some of the other groups.
Geelong Business Club
The Geelong Business Club – in contrast to the GYP group above – is aimed at senior business executives. Regular meetings with guest speakers, if you’re lucky enough to get along to one of these meetings you’ll find yourself rubbing shoulders with some highly experienced business owners and managers.
GSBN (Geelong Small Business Network)
A very active Facebook group with over 3000 members, with dedicated administration that keeps out spammers. This is one of the most connected and active business groups online in Geelong, so if you’re running a small business and you’re not a part of it yet then get on board. It’s a great place to ask questions or get referrals, and the group also holds regular, casual get-togethers over coffee or meals.
Industry specific groups
Some groups exist in specific industries to support the development of that industry, and these can be very beneficial for members.
While these are not necessarily focussed only on networking, they exist to serve their members and can give you connections with relevant and helpful people.
- ICT Geelong
- Geelong Manufacturing Council
- Central Geelong
- Tourism Geelong and Bellarine
- Torquay Commerce & Tourism
- Lara Chamber of Commerce
- Bellarine Business
- Businessmums Club Geelong
- “Meetup” Groups
There are also plenty of local trade associations around Geelong that develop the retail opportunities within their area.
- Eastern Geelong Business Network
- Belmont Business Association
- Barwon Heads Traders & Tourism Association
- Ocean Grove Business Association
- Portarlington Business Development Association
- Springdale Business Network (Drysdale)
- … and probably more that I don’t know about (let me know below in the comments)
Geelong Business Events
Some of the keystone events on the Geelong Business Calendar are powerful networking opportunities as well being educational and fun.
- Geelong Small Business Festival – A month of small business events in August each year
- Geelong Business Excellence Awards – Night of nights for Geelong business
- Pivot Summit – Tech conference
- Small Business Smart Business – Training events and mentoring
You can keep up with these events and more through the Enterprise Geelong Business Calendar, so check that out as well.
The Geelong Advertiser also publishes some great content about the Geelong small business community. So make sure to checkout their column for any upcoming news or events that might be on. We were luckily enough to be mentioned in this article.
Get out there, Geelong
Networking is a great way to meet people, learn, and encourage each other in business. For some, it is also a powerful way to attract new clients.
So get out there – I look forward to seeing you at one of these events soon.