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Blue Orb Events

Contact: BlueOrb
Address: 42 , Shippam Street, Chichester, West Sussex, PO19 1AG
T: 07809641531 | M: 07809641531
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Bespoke Event Management and Consultancy - Corporate Launches, Parties, Conferences; Seminars. Charity Fundraising and Sponsored Celebrity Events. 30 years…

Listed in: Event Management

When local designer Steve Wilson moved his business from London to Sussex ten years ago, he decided to get to know his local business community by launching a brand new networking group called The First Friday Network. “Getting out and about to meet new business people each and every week just isn’t possible when you’re busy running your own business, so I decided to get local businesses to come and meet me!” In 2003 the very first group opened in Chichester and today, a decade later, the First Friday Network has spread nationwide, operating in over 20 locations and communicating with more than 1500 members online.

The way First Friday differs from other networking groups is that it is free and the atmosphere is relaxed and informal. “My vision is to give small businesses like mine something for nothing – there is no membership fee and no meeting fee; the only ‘cost’ is your time and effort,” says Steve. “It is this kind of informal, fun atmosphere that naturally leads to business being done,” he says. “ I think it’s the key to our success and makes us different from other networks – there is no forced referral generation, no forced ‘60 seconds’ and no lock-outs. I believe if you want to do business you will anyway, without the hard-sell factor! Anyone is welcome to attend; all you have to do is to bring your business cards and any marketing material you want to share.”

Because the First Friday atmosphere is fun and informal, members are encouraged to make their contacts at their own pace and on their own terms. It’s a regular opportunity for them to exchange ideas, share solutions to mutual business problems, promote their businesses and help promote others. New alliances are formed, personal recommendations are made and newcomers can meet regulars and vice versa. Steve believes: “Networking is about making new bonds and nurturing existing relationships, and this has never applied more than now in the current challenging economic climate.”

Since the early days of the network in Chichester, First Friday has spread across the country with meetings held every month in East Sussex, West Sussex, Surrey, Kent, Hampshire and South Wales. All the groups are aligned to one another, but are run by local business people with local business knowledge. The website is very active with a members blog and business directory.

Recently Steve has applied this winning format to breakfast meetings where the same relaxed approach is attracting more and more members. Currently the breakfast groups operate in Chichester, Bognor Regis (West Sussex) and Neath Port Talbot (South Wales) with plans to open a meeting in Lambeth (South London) shortly. The long term goal is to grow the First Friday network further into a national organisation.

“At the heart of every good business, large or small, are people, which is why, especially in this age of online engagement and social media, meeting face-to-face and personal contact is vital,” says Steve.

See you at a meeting near you soon... or if there isn't one get in touch and we'll help you set one up!

Photographs © Graham Sapsford

Ten years graphic

Steve Wilson and Kenrick Garaway

the network outside the Nags Head pub