April 25, 2012 - One of the best things we have done was to start hosting weekly "networking" meetings a little over two years ago. I put quotation marks around "networking" because our Coffee Clubs are not typical networking-type meetings.
I say it was one of the best things we've done for a number of reasons. Maybe not the most important, but still of relevance, is the fact our Coffee Club was not in our wheelhouse. In other words, it was out of our comfort zone. As a newspaper we go out and gather and disseminate stuff. We find news, we procure advertising and then deliver all that information to nearly every address in our circulation area. We don't host meetings. Well we didn't, now we host three.
Our Coffee Clubs have forced our staff to get out of bed early, hone our knowledge of our businesses and community; it has introduced us to many folks we may not have otherwise met.
The Coffee Club was an idea borne out of the recession and the popularity of the business networking movement that has swept the nation. It was a way to give back to our business partners, to get business people together and to grow business in a light and casual way.
When I open up meetings, I often do it this way, "Good morning! Welcome to the Coffee Club, the finest hippie networking experience you're bound to have in the next 90 minutes."
I call it hippie networking because their are no dues, mandatory attendance or referral requirements. You can come late and or leave early. And, as I say at the meetings, "You can decided never-ever to come back. It's no skin off my nose, but I'd like you to come back."
The only rule we have is to be nice to each other and that you donate a dollar. The dollar is then donated to whereever we are having the meeting. Our newspaper does not keep any of them bucks.
Oh, and one more hippie rule: We are trying to save the Styrofoam Forrests, please bring your own, reusable coffee cup.
And, holy fillthepews, Batman folks are coming to the meetings and doing business and making money!
It has been rewarding to see relationships formed. It's been cool to watch local business-folk get out of their comfort zones, to talk about themselves (everybody gets a minute to give their elevator speech). I enjoy meeting new people and learning about them and their businesses. For example, I learned April is Child Abuse Awareness Month and for the rest of the month, Jenna Pearson of Village Hair and Nail Salon is donating money to the Justice for Lily campaign. (Little Lily died as a result of child abuse in 2010). For every woman's haircut and style, she will donate $10, and for every man's cut $5. Call 248-627-5797. I wouldn't have known that were it not for the Coffee Club.
Nor would I have met healing touch practitioner Janet Tait (her biz, Wellness Enhancement is in Clarkston). And if I didn't meet Janet, I wouldn't have had my shakra's opened geo (or is it electro?) magnetically.
I love seeing all the smiles and people laughing. It's been a great way to start the day (the Coffee Club starts at 7:30 in the morning and ends at 9). I usually get there about 7 to start coffee brewing.
We have set up a Facebook page, too. If anybody wants to check that out, go to www.CoffeeClubbers.com and you will be directed there.
We have hippie networking Wednesday through Friday. Wednesdays at the Brandon Township Library; Thursday at the Clarkston United Methodist Church; and Fridays at the Lake Orion Culvers restaurant.
It's such a great group and a wonderful experience.
Come May 31, we are having our 2nd Annual Coffee Club Expo. It's free and open to the public from 4 to 8 p.m. and I encourage folks to check it out. This year we are having it at the Clarkston United Methodist Church.
Watch this newspaper for more information.
Don is Assistant Publisher for Sherman Publications, Inc. He has worked for the company since 1985. He has won numerous awards for column, editorial and feature writing as well as for photography. He has two, sons Shamus and Sean and resides in the area. To read archived copies of his columns, click on his name, just under his picture up top . . . He can be e-mailed at: firstname.lastname@example.org