How To Network Millions.
At a speed-dating event last summer, Melissa English walked away with more business contacts for her sister Sonia's web design company than she did phone numbers for herself. At the same time, Sonia attended a business-networking event hosted by the local chamber of commerce and walked away with nothing. Sensing a perfect match between speed dating and networking mixers, the two sisters launched 5 Minute Networking. Their events give individuals from all industries the chance to meet 20 different professionals, one-on-one, in five-minute increments.
Their idea was an immediate hit-- the first 50-person event, held in Newport Beach in September 2004, filled to capacity within eight days of being announced. The company went national four months later, holding 25 events in 13 cities across the U.S. Melissa and Sonia only host local events; outside event directors are hired for events in other cities. "The response we get from events is absolutely phenomenal," says Melissa, 27, adding that they expect sales to jump from $300,000 in 2005 to $2 million in 2006.
"One of the reasons I think people like 5 Minute Networking is that it works for every personality type," says Sonia, 30, pointing out that many people don't like to initiate introductions or waste time on small talk. "You have your outgoing personality type, like me, who wouldn't mind walking up to a group of four people already talking at a networking mixer. And then you have your other personality type who goes to networking events all gung-ho, but ends up staring at their glass the whole night, not interacting with anyone."
Now in the process of patenting the software they designed to optimize their events, the sisters are also exploring franchising the concept and plan to publish a book with networking tips and stories about high-level professionals.
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