You’ve gotten your LLC certificate from the Ohio Secretary of State in your hands! You’re now on the road toward freedom, happiness and self-made glory!
Instead of sitting around waiting for the phone to ring, jump start your new business through taking advantage of Top Resources for Northeast Ohio Entrepreneurs.
Even in the age of social media and Internet marketing, there is no substitute for face-to-face interaction with peers and mentors. Meeting someone in person is memorable — and at this early stage you are only partly selling your product – you are mostly selling you.
If you want to be seen as interesting, be interested!
Here’s Ohio’s list of Chambers of Commerce, too – the perfect way to connect with NEO business leaders personally. You can even buy a list of decision makers you want to reach for cheap at Crain’s Cleveland Business!
Cleveland Plus has this awesome list of young professional groups in Northeast Ohio.
I know, it can be intimidating to walk into a room while a new idea and nobody you know.
At my first time at a networking event of the International Special Events Society (CLE chapter), I was still uncomfortable introducing myself “cold” and had no elevator pitch (e.g. “Hi! I’m Chris Hatala, and I use the videogames people love to entertain at special events”).
I was afraid professionals would laugh at why I was there. I was very proud of the work we’d done on our annual event, but I feared it would sound bush-league to anyone who did this for a career. I felt like I was a poser, to be outed immediately.
But everyone was so cool! They were interested in my unique story. One business owner related to my passion for gaming through her expressing how much her son loved World of Warcraft!
Most successful people understand the value of networking, and that if you help others, you help yourself when you create a relationship.
If you’re shy, email the group ahead of time. Request a “buddy” who’d be willing to introduce you to group members. The Beachwood Chamber of Commerce did this for me, and even offered me to attend a first event at no charge!
If you give in to your fears, and if you want to keep your life safe and comfortable, you’ll never make it in your business. Focus on your story, and be excited to learn everyone else’s, too.
Once you at least have a vague idea of who your customers are (Schools? Venues? Local specialty stores?), you need to reach them.
Whatever your field, find an event where you can show off what you to do the public and meet people face to face. It’ll get you exposure and also help you hone your sales pitch and way you present your product or service.
In Cleveland’s events community, there are many “tastings” and vendor showcases venues put on themselves. Event Expo and Party Palooza are two established, huge expos we’ve been apart of, where an events company can show off what they do to their target market.
A business that exhibits at shows like these gets an Excel sheet of all attendees and what they were interested in, enabling you to follow up about meeting potential clients’ needs.
IngenuityFest is a huge event attracting thousands of Clevelanders each year that features groups and businesses as diverse as the Cleveland Game Developers to local bands to people with just plain wacky ideas.
Likewise, Engage Cleveland’s Young Professionals Week in June is another annual event that could provide you with opportunity and networking.
Beachwood High School’s enterprising students helped put together EntrovationCLE this year. It’s an expo comprised of 50 businesses or organizations showing off interesting entreprenurial ideas from around the area. Check with local colleges and high schools for these kind of events!
Start Up Scale Up is a really cool event put on by JumpStart for local entrepreneurs in the Gordon Square Arts District in the summer.
My company’s first trade show was rough. The event showcases bar-mitzvah entertainment, and I had toys out and videogames playing that were really uncool to a 13-year-old. I didn’t know my audience.
When you exhibit your business, come up with a hook, contest or giveaway to peak attendees’ curiosity and an eye-catching display. People love having a chance to win something, and it shows how fun your ideas are.
At expos, we set up a large HDTV and Pac-Man or Donkey Kong to attract attention and run a simple Hi-Score challenge.
While people play, it gives us a chance to have a short but meaningful conversation, and we collect emails to notify a winner and follow up with event ideas they liked. No one likes the hard sell, so if you can center your business around meeting others’ needs, people will appreciate your approach!
Making the leap from just another nine-to-fiver to budding entrepreneur can feel like driving through Shaker Heights for the first time (with no GPS or cell phone). You know your destination, but standing between you and the freeway (success!) are one-way streets, forks, roundabouts, and restaurants you can’t afford to eat at yet.
But as long as you don’t run out of gas, keep driving with purpose and the bumpy ride will be worth it! (Just watch for the trip-ending potholes)
As Event Director and Final Boss of Games Done Legit entertainment, Chris Hatala is a true believer in cooperation, networking, and the social power of video games. He’s also an eternal Cleveland optimist! For ideas on how to translate what you’ve learned from playing video games to success in real-life business, check out his thoughts at GamesDoneLegit.com/blog.