Thursday, June 7, 2012

Networking Opportunities Through BizLounge

If you are an aspiring or early-stage entrepreneur, or want to expand your network to include such people, consider attending a BizLounge networking event. BizLounge is an organization that is committed to supporting entrepreneurism by inspiring, educating, and connecting people in our start-up community. Gray Plant Mooty has been a proud sponsor of BizLounge for several years.
BizLounge hosts monthly networking get-togethers throughout the year. The events are usually held on the third Monday of each month, with the next such gathering taking place on June 18th. The events are usually held at a local restaurant or bar, although they have also hosted events at interesting office locations. Last month, the meeting was held at CoCo, which is a co-working and collaborative work space. 
From September through May, the events include both time for networking and a presentation from a speaker. The speakers are usually successful entrepreneurs who can share their experiences (both successes and failures) to inspire and educate the attendees about starting and growing a business. Past speakers have included Larry Abdo (current owner of Nicollet Island Inn and My Burger, among many other ventures), Phil Roberts (founder of Parasole Restaurant Holdings, which has owned and operated several successful restaurants in the Twin Cities, including Manny’s, Salute, Figlio, and Chino Latino), and Robert Stephens (founder of Geek Squad).
Just last month, Daryoush Allaei, founder and CEO of Sheer Wind, Inc., spoke about his new company and his many past ventures. While his presentation was scheduled to last about 30-45 minutes, it went well over an hour because of questions from the audience. In addition to events involving entrepreneur-speakers, there are usually a few events during the year where subject matter experts are brought in to educate attendees on their field of expertise. For example, this past year, Mike Cohen, an intellectual property lawyer at our firm, spoke about IP-related concerns for start-up businesses.
During the summer months, BizLounge takes a little more relaxed approach. Typically the events are held at a restaurant/bar with a good outdoor meeting space, usually near water. The next meeting on June 18th will be held at Tuggs, on the riverfront just across from downtown Minneapolis. The summer events do not include a presenter, and are intended to provide an informal opportunity for entrepreneurs to network.
The events are free to newcomers, but they do ask you to become a member if you plan to continue attending. Annual membership dues are $75, or $25 if you are a student. All membership dues are used to pay for the meeting spaces, food, and drinks. The organization has no other real expenses, and the board that operates BizLounge does so on a volunteer basis.
So, if you are looking to connect with some other aspiring and early-stage entrepreneurial types in a relaxed setting, consider attending a BizLounge networking event this summer. At worst, you’ll spend an hour or two meeting and talking with others interested in entrepreneurism, all while enjoying free food and drink. And, you might even meet someone who is able to create some real value for your business, or help you to start that business that you’ve been planning to launch.

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