Starting a small business can be an exciting adventure. When you have a vision and you bring it to life, you get the personal rewards that come with following your passion, not to mention the perks of working for yourself.
However, launching a new business isn’t easy. It takes determination and hard work. In addition, you need to make the right contacts. You may not consider this initially when you start pursuing your dream. Yet, if you’re working to get your company off the ground, you will probably need help from others.
Networking can help you build a list of contacts who can offer you the sound advice you need when starting your business. As your company grows, they can also send new clients your way and help you meet people in the community who can get you the exposure every new business needs.
How do you find the right people with whom to network? There are many networking groups across Pennsylvania, especially throughout Harrisburg and Philadelphia. Some may require a fee to join, so be sure to do your research and verify that it’s a group that will benefit you and one whose benefits you’ll be able to maximize. Here are a few networking options you can consider when starting a business in PA.
Local Chambers of Commerce
Your first step in entrepreneurial networking should be to reach out to the local or regional chamber of commerce. These groups have many members who meet regularly for mixers, information sessions and other special events. You will meet potential collaborators as well as your competition, both of which could prove valuable as your company grows.
Business Networking Groups in Harrisburg
Several groups in Central PA offer opportunities to network, including one for women only:
- Women’s Capital Area Networking: The WeCan group, based in the Harrisburg area, aims to help women in business connect and learn each month. The group includes a “Rise ‘n Shine” period during each meet-up, a time when women can introduce themselves and their businesses.
- Young Professional Groups: Many cities have young professional groups. Carlisle Young Professionals offers regular mixers and opportunities to make influential contacts. West Shore Young Professionals offers monthly educational events, as well as community service opportunities. And the Harrisburg Young Professionals group works to support and encourage young professionals living in the Harrisburg area. In addition to formal networking opportunities, most groups also participate in fun and casual activities, such as a kickball league or coffee meet-ups.
- Central Pennsylvania Freelancers: If your startup includes freelance work, check out the Central Pennsylvania Freelancers group, which offers an easy way to learn and network with other local independent creative and technology professionals.
Business Networking Groups in Philadelphia
There are a number of specialized networking groups in Philly. If you’re seeking more generalized groups and events, you may want to try:
- Philadelphia Entrepreneur Expo: This annual event celebrating startups is held during Philly Tech Week in the spring. The Philly Startup Leaders sponsor the event, which has helped some startups find funding through investors in attendance.
- Entrepreneurs’ Forum of Greater Philadelphia: Imagine a group of people who understand exactly what challenges and difficulties you face with your growing business. You’ll find that at the Entrepreneurs’ Forum, which sponsors monthly meetings focused on business themes.
- The Entrepreneurs Network: Established in 2000, this group offers a place for potential investors to meet entrepreneurs with big ideas who need funding. The network holds five meetings each year, and participants now come from across the country to mingle at these events.
Business Networking Groups Elsewhere in PA
While Philadelphia and Harrisburg represent large metro regions in Pennsylvania, you can also find local groups in many different areas.
The Centre Region Entrepreneur Network unites entrepreneurs and startup owners in State College and the surrounding areas of Centre County. It encourages investing in new businesses and technologies in the area and offers frequent meetups for those going into business for themselves.
The Berks County Networking Association specializes in helping businesspeople, including entrepreneurs, build alliances and develop leads. It emphasizes matching professionals from non-competing fields with each other to help learn from their past experiences.
Grow Your Business Through Networking
Whether you are starting a new business or your startup has moved past the early stages to an established business, you can benefit from networking with others to find more opportunities. And remember, if you need help funding your business, you can reach out to PSECU to discuss business credit or Small Business Administration loans.
Find more money management tips and resources on our WalletWorks page.