Networking is key to success as an entrepreneur and so is coffee….am I right?

These two things go hand in hand in so many industries, across not only the marketing world I live in, but CPAs, writers, Executive Directors, sales folks – the list goes on and on.

I first heard about the 50 Cups of Coffee Project from a fellow solopreneur whom I chat with about business ideas, challenges and opportunities from time to time. I think his exact words were “this sounds like you.”

From the first time I viewed this video (and yes, I have watched it several times over the last couple months), I knew this was something that I wanted to take on and make my own.

What attracted me most to this project was the personal aspect. I love online networking, chatting with people during Business After Hours and a good lunch meeting – yet, that first step to get there isn’t always easy for everyone. Thus, bring in the coffee.

The key to the Cup of Coffee Project is that everyone has time for a cup of coffee. It’s not a large commitment like asking for a meeting, or as scary as anticipating a stuffy lunch with someone you don’t really know. Coffee is informal. It’s fun. It’s like social media before the invention of the Internet.

Once I committed to this challenge I had to make it mine. The original challenge says 50 cups of coffee in 50 days with 50 different people. Not exactly my style or something that would fit into my business/life balance.

As with everything I’ve tried to do in my business, I thought I would start small. Not try for a certain number of people, but when I came across someone that I wanted to chat with more I would just ask to meet for a cup of coffee. Looking back over the past three months that has averaged to one cup of coffee per week (which did include a week of four coffee meetings where I am sure I did not sleep for another week).

Some of these meeting were the result of others saying to me we should meet and I suggested coffee which I felt set the mood of the meeting to light, no agenda and made for better conversation. That is how my first Coffee Cup Project meetup formed. A retired executive director of a current client wanted to meet me to give me insights to the history of an organization. What I remember fondly is the stories he told. Good marketing is all about the stories. He gave me so many great pieces to put together to take the organization into the future. I feel that meeting for coffee helped the ease of the conversation making it mutually beneficial.

My business started with two clients, one being a non-profit. I was lucky enough to continue working with many non-profits over the last five years. Anytime I have an opportunity to bring an affordable training to them, or help in any way by speaking at conferences, luncheons, etc. – I always try to make it a top priority. My second Coffee Cup Project meetup was with someone that I declared is on the front lines of helping non-profits. This is an important person to the non-profit world and an important organization. Our meeting revolved around what their future looked like, some talk about personal lives and ended with me agreeing to a host a training on their campus for their non-profits. This meeting was something that needed to happen but with two busy people, coffee was the only sure fire way it was going to happen in 2015.

My third-ish meeting(s) involved a group of people that may not work alongside each other but all work with the same cause in mind…helping economic growth in the MOV. This three-ish meetings involved local chambers and local downtown initiatives all one-on-one but working toward the same goal. I love these folks. They are the ones that work hard for our small businesses, our large corporations and even a non-profit or two. They bring in tourists, new business, move the solopreneur into a storefront, help with expansions, offer marketing skills, and the best thing of all – word of mouth advertising. They are our local cheerleaders. We have been lucky in this area to have many of these folks around. Some have been in the position several years and some are brand new, all working towards the same goal and thinking outside the box to get there. In three short months we’ve planned trainings, events, future workshops and lots of ideas for the future of our relationships – all over coffee.

So what has lead to this challenge of drinking a cup of coffee with someone that I want to get to know better?

  • Learning more. Learning more about my clients, my community and the people I work with every day.
  • New Opportunities. I am more involved than ever before in my community. I am getting to know people on a different level than just saying hello at a networking event.
  • New clients. Absolutely. Directly and indirectly these “coffee chats” as I fondly refer to them as have opened many doors for me this year – and its only March.

I am excited to see where this challenge takes me. As I log my coffee chats into my smartphone for the rest of 2015, I know that even if I don’t hit 50 Cups of Coffee, I have still have succeeded in this project.

Want to start your own 50 Cups of Coffee Project? Here is some helpful advice.

First encounter:

  • Email/message the new person: Your/Your organization sounds interesting and I would like to learn more about it.
  • Set the date/place/time: Would you be available to meet for coffee on Tuesday the 22 at 9 a.m. at The Coffee Bar on Market St?

When you meet:

  • Keep it casual.
  • Make it about them.
  • Do not be sales pitchy.

Follow up:

  • Thank them for meeting.
  • Connect with them on social media (if you’re not already connected)