Gelie Akhenblit is the founder and CEO of NetworkingPhoenix.com, one of Phoenix’s most widely used networking and social media sites. www.networkingphoenix.com is a one stop shop for professionals, entrepreneurs and business owners looking to find networking events, professional mixers, and useful business seminars.
The site is like no other offering a free consolidated calendar publicizing events hosted by various local groups and organizations as well as a wealth of training seminars, workshops, and other educational opportunities to help individuals develop their networking skills and expand their businesses.
What is the start-up story of Networking Phoenix ?
When I first started networking, about 3 years ago, I quickly realized that there was a big gap in the market. There is a big networking community in Phoenix , but it was extremely segregated and there wasn’t a central place where networkers could come together to get information on events. I would try to plan out my networking strategy for the month and it was nearly impossible because I would find out about events the day before or after they had already happened. As a hobby, I created a calendar to share with all my ‘networking friends’ and the rest is history. NetworkingPhoenix.com exploded onto the scene just over 2 years ago and as of today, the site lists approximately 600 events monthly on its interactive calendar. The website has been gaining tremendous popularity since its inception and now boasts nearly 13,000 members. NetworkingPhoenix.com has also become one of the most visited local non-publication or government website in Arizona and is in the top 1% of most visited global websites (source: alexa.com).
How has networking Phoenix transformed and matured since its founding ?
NetworkingPhoenix.com has evolved in a number of ways. For one…we are already on our third version of the site. I’m sure as the years go by, the look and feel will keep getting updated. We also offer many more tools to our members, such as the Networking Passport membership. Once our members sign up for this program, they can attend many of the other group’s events for free. This program is very popular and we are constantly evolving it to keep adding value for our members.
What are 3 top networking don’ts ?
Don’t push your product or service, push yourself. People want to do business with YOU.
- Don’t monopolize people’s time. Give others and yourself, a chance to work the room.
- Don’t hand out your business card to everybody in the room. Make a connection, THEN exchange cards.
What are 3 top networking dos ?
- Do be yourself. Genuine people are easy to work with and hard to forget.
- Do ask open ended questions. Engage people by listening more and talking less.
- Do follow-up. Show people that you follow through, reconnect within the first 3 days.
In July you wrote a post about the gift of fearlessness. Can you tell us a little bit about this post ?
I read a quote that inspired me to write an entire blog on this topic. The quote read ‘Fearlessness is a gift, because where it exists, all things are possible.’ This quote really spoke to me because my whole life people have been telling me that I’m fearless. I’m not sure I agree with that comment, because we all have fear, I’ve just learned to deal with it differently. Somewhere along the lines, I made the conscious choice to live everyday of my life to the fullest and that involves doing a lot of things that make me uncomfortable and push me to grow. I’d like to think that in my life anything will be possible J
How do you recommend aspiring entrepreneurs balance job security with taking the big leap to starting their own business ? Is there a balance or do entrepreneurs simply need to take calculated risks ?
In order to start your own business you need to be backed by capital. Period, end of story. Whether that means that you save up for over a year before you quit your job, you depend on your spouses’ income or you take out a loan…the money has to come from somewhere. For me personally, quitting my career at 26 was a tough choice (brutally scary) but also extremely exhilarating. My entire life I have strived to NEVER depend on anyone else financially, and for the first time in my life I found myself completely dependent on my husband. In fact, I was so scared of quitting my job that I actually built out as much of the business as I could before taking that leap. The first month out on my own, I had 4 paying clients because I built up my network before quitting my job. So there are definitely ways to take calculated risks, but at some point you just have to jump in and go for it.
What are the keys to connecting like minded people ?
This is a simple one – being authentic and genuine. When you are true to yourself, you attract like-minded people. In fact, this is a great filtering process. I have a whole bunch of layers…and the only way to get to me is to go through my layers. This is not very difficult for anyone that’s like-minded. The people that don’t get it just keep moving on because there is no connection between us.
Email has served as the biggest tool in promoting Networking Phoenix . How do you prevent emails promoting Networking Phoenix from coming off as spamish ? What role does word of mouth play here ?
The other day at the end of teaching a seminar, a gentlemen came up to me and said ‘I’ve been getting your emails for quite some time now, and I’m so pleased to learn (after meeting you) that you are just like in your emails.’ I thought this was one of the best compliments I’ve ever received because I try so hard to be genuine in my emails. There is nothing worse than spamming people with sales-like info that they don’t want. I basically figure that if I wouldn’t like something done or said a certain way…others won’t like it either. So everything I say in my emails has to be a reflection of me and how I would like things to be promoted.
Word of mouth is huge in this capacity because people forward my email to their friends/colleagues all the time and tell them to create a profile on our site.
Any expansion / development ideas for Networking Phoenix or more interestingly for your personal brand, Gelie Akhenblit ?
There are so many exciting things to come!! This is just the beginning. There needs to be one of these websites in every single major city of the U.S. and I plan on making that happen. We are still fleshing out the model here and working with the various revenue streams, and as soon as we feel we are ready to duplicate this in another market, we’ll take it national. My personal, Gelie, brand will grow along with the company and I do plan on writing multiple books and teaching others what I’ve learned along the way.
Last, but not least how do you stay motivated and enthusiastic about work and life in general ?
The work doesn’t really feel like work because it’s my life – if that makes sense? I feel motivated because this is a great resource to so many people that desperately need to connect with others, especially in this economic climate. When someone comes up to me and tells me they found their job because of attending one of our events or that they landed the biggest client of their career because of NetworkingPhoenix.com, I feel good. Sometimes I can’t even wrap my mind around all the connections I’ve helped facilitate, but I believe in Karma, so I know it’s all going to come back to me J
I’m also very blessed to have a wonderful team around me. It started with just an idea that I had, but now we have a big team of very talented individuals and working with them on a daily basis is fun and rewarding in itself.