Networking leads to growth opportunities for local businesses 


June 14, 2017

Attendees listen to one of their fellow business leaders owners describe her business during the Washington County Interactive Networking at the Flower Source in Germantown in this undated photo. The events are a resource for entrepreneurs to receive assistance regarding problems they encounter when operating their businesses.
Submitted photo

Businesses that belong to the area’s chambers of commerce not only have access to the organization’s resources, they can also leverage connections among entrepreneurs throughout Washington County.

The Germantown, Hartford and West Bend Area Chambers of Commerce host quarterly WIN (Washington County Interactive Networking) events that allow their members to market their business and collaborate on projects, from activating an electronic sign to exchanging equipment.

“We try to showcase some of our businesses or areas that we would like to see the county be able to recognize and try to get as many of our members to each one of them,” said Scott Henke, executive director of the Hartford Area Chamber of Commerce. “At the Dublin’s one, we will have 15 individuals that are coming for breakfast and presenting their 30-second commercial.”

The morning events were organized about 14 years ago. Each begins with a general networking opportunity for the attendees.

Henke was not the executive director at the time, but he believes the collaborations began when leaders from the organizations gathered to discuss potential initiatives for enhancing the amenities for their members. They believed meeting retailers from different locations could provide advantages.

Once everyone has settled in, the business owners who attended the event are invited to present information regarding their businesses, either previous success stories, a brief description of their product or service, or a new initiative they are working on.

“I think that by attending WIN, what happens is that you may not know in your community who is doing a certain service, but perhaps somebody at WIN stands up and now you have a face to go with a service should somebody ask, ‘Who does this type of a printing,’” said Heidi Schaefer, owner of SIGNworks of Wisconsin, who regularly attends the event.

Craig Farrell, executive director of the West Bend Area Chamber of Commerce, said presenters use the time to describe issues they encounter as part of their business and someone from the audience who is an expert in that area can volunteer to assist.

Schaefer said the events have augmented her business. She received contracts from those who attended the networking occasions and benefited by meeting someone who could complete an electronic sign project for her.

The affairs end with requests from business owners for assistance for a variety of projects they are working on — including manual labor.

“At the last few minutes, we have some outrageous requests like, ‘I need 15 people to vacuum at the U.S. Open in three hours,’ stuff like that,” Henke said. “They are different things like that.”

Schaefer added WIN is helpful even though an entrepreneur may not receive a direct benefit immediately.

“It is about camaraderie because often as a business owner I can tell you that I don’t socialize out of work,” Schaefer said. “This is my social time because when I get done I tune out everybody and everything.”