Popular ‘speed networking’ event returns to E-Lounge

March 23 event allows entrepreneurs to make beneficial connections

By: Andy Kozlowski | Madison - Park News | Published March 14, 2017


MADISON HEIGHTS — Small business owners — and entrepreneurs looking to get started — are invited to the E-Lounge’s speed networking session. Back by popular demand, the March 23 event could lead to lucrative partnerships, resources and connections, or even just good ideas. 

For example, a home-based business owner could go there seeking recommendations on lawyers and accountants, or graphic designers for their website or logo, or even contractors to build their storefront, if they’re at that point in their business. The event will feature specialists, in addition to other business owners who can make their own recommendations.

“This will be our second time doing speed networking,” said Linda Williams, the economic and community engagement supervisor for the city of Madison Heights. “The first time, back in our first or second year, was very popular, with about 20 guests attending. It was brought up again at our December brainstorming session; folks chimed in and said we need to bring it back since it was a lot of fun and they got a lot out of it.” 

The E-Lounge, short for Entrepreneur Lounge, is an ongoing collaboration between the city of Madison Heights and Biggby Coffee. Started five years ago, the E-Lounge meets monthly. The March 23 event will be held from 8 to 9 a.m., this time at the Biggby Coffee at 222 W. 11 Mile Road, since it has more room than the one at John R and 13 Mile. The get-togethers are casual and relaxed, and coffee is on the house.

Speed networking is similar to speed dating, where you rotate between different individuals and have a set number of minutes to introduce yourself and, in this case, your company or concept. It’s meant to be fun and low pressure, although for best results it’s recommended that you try to make your “elevator pitch” clear and concise, so the other person can quickly understand your concept and business needs.

“Folks will be paired up and will have so many minutes to exchange business cards and talk about their business or concept and see if there’s any potential dealmaking,” Williams explained. “This is networking done in a fun way.” 

For those still in the concept stage of their business, the event can provide helpful feedback on their ideas. And more established business owners, especially home-based ones, can branch out beyond their usual circle of associates and find new opportunities with new people.

“You only have so many minutes in a very short period of time to sell yourself, your business or whatever you’re seeking, so you want to be precise, make it memorable, but in a casual and fun way,” Williams said. “No one should be sweating thinking they have to explain everything. It’s just a different way of networking. Lots of laughter, and that’s the fun aspect of it.”  

Keri Valmassei, executive director of the Madison Heights/Hazel Park Chamber of Commerce, said in an email that the format works because everyone cycles through everyone else.

“We feel the need for speed,” Valmassei said. “At least, speedily connecting members of our business community. It’s a casual introduction in a fun setting, and you’re literally forced to meet everyone there.”

Williams said they’re focused on featuring a wide variety of professionals at the event.

“Keri and I will be working hard to make sure there’s a good mix of folks coming to this,” Williams said. “And we’re not saying you have to go with these people. But in general, if nothing else, you can probably get free advice.”