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Networking leads to growth opportunities for local businesses – Greater Milwaukee Today








Attendees listen to one
of their fellow business leaders owners describe her
business during the Washington County Interactive
Networking at the Flower Source in Germantown in this
undated photo. The events are a resource for
entrepreneurs to receive assistance regarding problems
they encounter when operating their businesses.

Submitted photo


Businesses that belong to the
area’s chambers of commerce not only have
access to the organization’s resources, they
can also leverage connections among
entrepreneurs throughout Washington County.


The Germantown, Hartford and
West Bend Area Chambers of Commerce host
quarterly WIN (Washington County Interactive
Networking) events that allow their members
to market their business and collaborate on
projects, from activating an electronic sign
to exchanging equipment.


“We try to showcase some of
our businesses or areas that we would like
to see the county be able to recognize and
try to get as many of our members to each
one of them,” said Scott Henke, executive
director of the Hartford Area Chamber of
Commerce. “At the Dublin’s one, we will have
15 individuals that are coming for breakfast
and presenting their 30-second commercial.”


The morning events were
organized about 14 years ago. Each begins
with a general networking opportunity for
the attendees.


Henke was not the executive
director at the time, but he believes the
collaborations began when leaders from the
organizations gathered to discuss potential
initiatives for enhancing the amenities for
their members. They believed meeting
retailers from different locations could
provide advantages.


Once everyone has settled in,
the business owners who attended the event
are invited to present information regarding
their businesses, either previous success
stories, a brief description of their
product or service, or a new initiative they
are working on.


“I think that by attending
WIN, what happens is that you may not know
in your community who is doing a certain
service, but perhaps somebody at WIN stands
up and now you have a face to go with a
service should somebody ask, ‘Who does this
type of a printing,’” said Heidi Schaefer,
owner of SIGNworks of Wisconsin, who
regularly attends the event.


Craig Farrell, executive
director of the West Bend Area Chamber of
Commerce, said presenters use the time to
describe issues they encounter as part of
their business and someone from the audience
who is an expert in that area can volunteer
to assist.


Schaefer said the events have
augmented her business. She received
contracts from those who attended the
networking occasions and benefited by
meeting someone who could complete an
electronic sign project for her.


The affairs end with requests
from business owners for assistance for a
variety of projects they are working on —
including manual labor.


“At the last few minutes, we
have some outrageous requests like, ‘I need
15 people to vacuum at the U.S. Open in
three hours,’ stuff like that,” Henke said.
“They are different things like that.”


Schaefer added WIN is helpful
even though an entrepreneur may not receive
a direct benefit immediately.


“It is about camaraderie
because often as a business owner I can tell
you that I don’t socialize out of work,”
Schaefer said. “This is my social time
because when I get done I tune out everybody
and everything.”


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