A Year of Networking

Social Enterprise Mentor, Birmingham’s only monthly networking event dedicated to supporting Social Enterprise, is one year old this month. For those that do not know about Social Enterprise Mentor the premise is simple – you turn up, grab a coffee and chat! There’s no one giving pushy sales speeches or individuals working the room with the aim of selling you something!

I am not a great networker – put me in a room of people and my first thoughts are “who do I know” and “will anyone talk to me?” Most networking events I had been to in the past felt very false and were designed to fit the needs to a macho-sales environment. Surely not all networking events are like this? In 2009, I was working on some ideas around Social Media and I noticed there was a local networking event dedicated to this called Birmingham Social Media Cafe. I decided to pop along. The event centered around people chatting over a coffee…more reminiscent of the coffee break at a conference than a networking event! I liked it as it didn’t feel overly sales orientated.

When I set up Social Enterprise Mentor I wanted it to be a relaxed atmosphere where people could just meet up and connect. For me allowing people to connect in a ‘non sell’ environment meant that even those who are, by their own admission, not great networkers can relax in the welcoming environment. I also wanted to add something else to the mix – a host. Two reasons: 1) I thought it would be good for people to have a ‘meet and greet service’ when they arrived as to help with introducing people new to the group and 2) it provided a role for me as host, a role I felt very comfortable in from my time spent in the hospitality industry.

In February 2010, I ran the first Social Enterprise Mentor networking event and today it continues to run on the same premise it did right from the start. People tell me they have enjoyed the events, they have made some great new connections and they have got business from them. Oddly, they have also given me a bit of a reputation as a “networker” which to people who know me well wouldn’t necessarily be the first words they would use to describe me! I know I wouldn’t!

Will attending a Social Enterprise Mentor event change your life or find a magical new market for you? No! What it will do is help you connect with people and build business relationships that lead to great ideas, new business opportunities or just getting a mentor or two to help you in your personal and social enterprise development. After all isn’t that what’s at the heart of social enterprise, being driven by something that isn’t purely for profit!

The next Social Enterprise Mentor networking event is:

  • Thursday 17th February 2011
  • 10.00am to 11.30am
  • Yumm at The Custard Factory

Details and to register visit the Social Enterprise Mentor website

  1. Martin Hogg Reply

    Great Social Enterprise events see you there to celebrate one year. I have made some great new contacts over the last year at the events and like the way they are friendly and welcoming and not full of endless ‘elevator pitches’. Also not far to walk as our Anger Management Centre is in the Custard Factory.

  2. Ruth Reply

    I think its been a really useful venture. It has been useful to make my own connections there but more importantly I have been able to connect other people in very very useful ways – in particular connecting some of our students with people and services that can really help or inspire them (or both)
    I shall be at the one year celebration with the student who set up the Enterprise Society in the Student Union so thanks very much Mark and best wishes for the future:-)

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