Being an entrepreneur is at times a very lonely journey. Now, adding being brand new in a country has the potential of isolating even the most outgoing person. I’ve written about the possibility of co-working spaces to help with this, however what if that isn’t possible for you? What do you do then? Here are some other business networking options in Canada to get you out talking to other passionate people.
One important thing to note: you don’t have to have a business in order to network! With the exception of membership based groups (such as Chambers of Commerce – more on them below), most groups are open to anyone interested in meeting other people and striking conversation and expanding your circle. I remember being so amazed at how welcoming people are at business networking events in Canada and how excited everyone is when you simply say: “I don’t have a business yet, but I’m planning to open X, Y, Z soon.” Even though business in general can be super competitive, I’m always amazed at how collaborative and generous with time and introductions entrepreneurs here are.
Networking is intimidating. However, it is like a muscle – you need to flex it constantly to get bigger and stronger. In order to feel confident at events, you need to go to them and practice getting out of your comfort zone. I have been networking for a long time, and I STILL get nervous every single time. It’s normal, the important thing is to keep doing it.
Below are a few ideas for you to explore:
Small Business Enterprise Centres (SBECs)
These are usually non-for-profit centres that offer aspiring and current entrepreneurs the tools and resources to start and scale a business. They provide free services such as business advisory, legal/accounting clinics, workshops and networking opportunities. In Canada, there is a limitless number of these agencies. Only a few examples are:
Whether you are looking for networking opportunities in order to meet new clients or make new friends, these locations will definitely deliver. It also needs to be mentioned that these organizations offer guidance in many business-related topics, such as referrals, real estate, and marketing demographics.
For a detailed list of these organizations across Ontario click here. You can also Google “Small Business Enterprise Centre [your area]” and you will know which one is the closest to you.
Local Chamber of Commerce / Board of Trade
A local chamber of commerce or board of trade are a group of local businesses, working together for the good of the business community. These groups deal with topics such as policy management, advocacy, etc. However, they also offer guidance, resources and fantastic networking events. There is guaranteed to be a local chamber of commerce or board of trade in your area, and you can become a member. To find out more, you can go to Google and search for “local chamber of commerce in [your area]”.
MeetUp seriously has a group for anything you can imagine! With this site, you can browse groups based on interests, area, etc. There are also a tons of groups geared towards business owners in general. On top of all these possibilities, you can even create your own groups. It is a fun way to network with like-minded people.
Industry-specific Business Networking Groups
Similar to the MeetUp site, Google can also be very helpful in finding business networking opportunities. No matter what your business deals with, there is guaranteed to be a few groups that are in the same industry / niche. If you go onto the Google search engine, and type in “[your industry] groups in [your area]”, you will find a few options.
Just like with MeetUp, Facebook also has a countless amount of business networking groups available. The main difference between the two is that Facebook is all about online communities. If you do a search for “business networking groups in [your area]”, you will have multiple options to choose from. You can always join my Immigrant Entrepreneur Canada Facebook group!
Think of LinkedIn as a professional version of Facebook; you have access to all the same social perks, only it is work-related. Even better, with this site, you can connect with potential clients and other career professionals. Using this site can seem tricky at first, so if you ever find yourself needing any extra help, there are many free workshops available on the topic.
Very similar to MeetUp, you can use eventbrite to check what workshops, events or networking opportunities are happening in your area. You can search geographically and by topic. Unlike MeetUp, though, the majority of the events at eventbrite will not be free, but you are guaranteed to find something interesting.
As I discussed in another post, Canada has a ton of co-working spaces available to us. While you are being productive, you also have the opportunity to network. Oftentimes, these places organize networking events, workshops and other opportunities for people to connect.
I hope you found this post helpful! Being an immpreneur can be made so much easier by simply having people around us. Have you found success with a particular strategy? Are there other business networking opportunities in Canada that I didn’t mention? Feel free to share your experiences in the comments!