Small Business Resources for Entrepreneurs in the Kitchener-Waterloo Region
If you caught our last blog post, you know it talked about the importance of networking for business professionals. You’ll also recall the concept of active networking. If you haven’t checked out that post yet, we highly recommend giving it a read!
Getting out of your comfort zone and meeting new people can be scary and time-consuming. That’s why we’ve compiled a list of organizations in Kitchener and Waterloo that offer great opportunities for networking. Keep in mind that this list is just a starting point, and if you don’t see an organization that jumps out at you, there’s plenty more to explore!
First up: the Waterloo Region Small Business Centre. Created specifically for the purpose of helping small business owners, the WRSBC offers services to new and established businesses. Their goal? “Helping entrepreneurs to learn, start, and grow companies.”
This organization is funded by the Provincial Government, the Region of Waterloo, and the municipalities of Kitchener, Cambridge, and Waterloo, which allows it to offer services to entrepreneurs free of cost. On top of their business advisory service, the WRSBC offers online tutorials, in-person and online workshops, and other online resources for business owners.
Here are some of the other pros to the WRSBC:
It’s not membership-based, so there are no membership fees
There are many free events that offer crash courses on different aspects of running a business
They’ve got variety, offering workshops, one-on-one consultations, networking opportunities, and more
On the flip side, there are a couple things to keep in mind about the WRSBC:
Most workshops are online, so you won’t connect in-person often
Because there are no memberships, it might be more challenging to create sustainable connections, as you might not encounter the same people each time
They don’t allow walk-ins, so you have to make sure to plan ahead of time and book an appointment
Next up: the Kitchener-Waterloo Business Women’s Association
Focused on fostering a spirit of community, support, and ambition, the Kitchener-Waterloo Business Women’s Association is a membership-based group that meets twice monthly to talk about developments in the business community, share information, and network with each other. They want to “learn, grow, and connect.”
With 31 members, the KWBWA contains members from a wide variety of industries. According to their website, the members gather at bi-monthly luncheons and other events to talk shop, with at least one speaker at each event. Memberships are paid, and you can obtain either a corporate or private membership.
Here are a few of the benefits of being a member of KWBWA:
Tight knit business community with a focus on the unique experience of being a woman entrepreneur
Lots of opportunities for networking, such as lunches, guest and member talks, and special events
Members have access to collective knowledge and a variety of perspectives
Some potential downsides to the organization are:
Memberships do carry associated fees, which may be difficult for some entrepreneurs to cover
The organization only allows one member per industry, so it may be difficult to join
Obtaining a membership requires sponsorship from an existing member, and it’s not clear how you get this sponsorship
Of special importance: the organization’s website doesn’t contain an inclusivity policy,
which may deter some women people from applying
Finally, the networking Goliath amongst the crowd: the Greater Kitchener Waterloo Chamber of Commerce
Presenting a polished and professional website, the Greater Kitchener Waterloo Chamber of Commerce’s mission is to be “The voice of business to champion opportunities that drive regional and enable community prosperity.” With over 1,700+ members, this is a huge group, offering opportunities to connect with a variety of professionals.
The GKWCC’s website states that they focus on four core pillars: networking, education,
member rewards, and advocacy. They run a free blog with plenty of helpful information about
running a business in the 21st century as well as an updated calendar of upcoming local events.
Membership with the GKWCC comes with these perks:
Preferential deals/rewards with third parties, like UPS and Grand and Toy
A massive community with plenty of opportunities to network and attend educational events
Referrals through the organization, because they refer to members-only businesses
But, every rose has its thorn, right? Some downsides we spotted:
Memberships carry associated fees which weren’t detailed online
You have to apply for a membership (although I doubt the approval process is very stringent)
Such a large network means that you really have to work to put yourself out there and meet people, which can be challenging
These are three great examples of opportunities to network that offer plenty of benefits, and they’re just the tip of the iceberg. It’s important to remember that networking isn’t a one-size- fits-all activity. Give different things a try, and see what works best for you. And don’t forget, these aren’t the only organizations in your area! Keep your eyes and ears peeled, and I guarantee you’ll discover others.
If you know of a networking organization in the Kitchener or Waterloo area that deserves a shout out, send us a message to get the word out there!