ALPHARETTA, Ga. – Networking in person can be hard for many people. The reasons can vary; either meetings are too early in the morning, or trying to get to an afterhours networking event across town can be a challenge.
Launched three months ago by Alpharetta longtime friends Michael Schulte and Joe Ragone, LocalsNetworking.com helps Main Street businesses lower the barriers to meet like-minded businesses owners online on their own time.
“I was a chiropractor for many years – done all the networking events and it’s tough,” Ragone said.
The free website service is just getting started, Ragone said.
“We have no paid model as of yet,” he said. “At this point, we want to see if this is going to gain traction. Our hope is that this will always be free.”
As users build groups to connect online, Ragone describes the service as similar to online dating, but for businesses.
“We are trying to get you to meet as many other businesses that you might be able to do business with,” Ragone said. “No one gets married after the first date, so don’t expect to get a ton of business after the first time you meet them, but you’re starting a relationship – not a romantic relationship, but a business relationship.”
People do business with people they know and like, and this is just another way to open that door, Ragone said.
As to sites like LinkedIn, Ragone said they are not networking-friendly and are geared to larger corporations.
For small businesses on a tight budget, Ragone said LocalsNetworking.com offers a solution.
“We recognized that going for referral meetings is costly and time consuming and you can’t always make everything,” Ragone said. “Some people have social anxiety, and it’s intimidating to walk into a room of 100 people where everybody knows each other.
“This gives you another opportunity where this is not an issue,” Ragone said.
So far, the site has about 80 members in six states, mostly friends testing out the site.
The flow of the site, after a business person signs up with a valid email address and chooses their profession, is about getting to meet other professionals offering diverse services.
Afterward, users pick five businesses with whom they want to network.
Because the site is new, users may have to create a group and even suggest professions.
“When someone is looking for your services, you are automatically given a green color to spark up a conversation,” Ragone said. “We just want to keep it simple and see where people gravitate.”
In the group homepage, it also tells users what everyone else in that group is looking for; so if someone is looking for a chiropractor and you want to recommend one, you can.
“The biggest challenge will be to get people to adopt an online platform for something that has been face-to-face for so long,” Ragone said. “But if people can do this with online dating, that seems like a bigger leap than this does.”
Visit www.LocalsNetworking.com for more information.