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Hobnobbing with other business owners over cocktails and hors d’ouerves might not be on your long list of things to do, but networking can be a major asset for a startup company. Networking is more than just socializing. It’s a great way to pick up business tips, gain leads on potential customers and suppliers and stay up-to-date on local, state and national changes that might affect business conditions.

Virginia offers a variety of networking opportunities. Local chambers of commerce are a great place to start. These groups offer a variety of events, including some primarily social activities, as well as seminars to improve your business. They often act as the voice for the local business community before local and state governments. The Virginia Chamber of Commerce appeals to business owners across the entire state.

Also, consider attending trade shows in your industry or even exhibiting your product or service at one. Most of these set aside time specifically for networking.

The Procurement Team of the Virginia Department of Business Assitance offers training seminars on “Selling to the Commonwealth” that include state buyers who are available for talking with potential new suppliers about their products and services. You can find networking opportunities across the state on the Virginia Department of Business Assistance’s Web site at http://www.vdba.virignia.gov The S.mall Business Development Centers Web sites also include local business events. http://www.sbdcvirginia.org

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Public libraries host events and flyers for other events can be found in their community rooms. The business section of most Virginia newspapers will publish listings of upcoming local meetings, seminars and other networking sites.

The Virginia Business Pipeline (http://www.virginiabusiness.org) offers businesses the opportunity to connect with other businesses online. About 15,000 businesses are registered at the site, which also serves as a procurement tool. Between 60 to 80 requests for proposals are added to the site each month. Companies can create a profile to promote their product or service.

While self-study and disciplined, solitary work are important to the success of a business, networking can help a businessperson avoid mistakes, develop helpful relationships and find new opportunities for business development.


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