Tom D’Abruzzo, owner of BrandStorm Promotions, LLC, has sponsored Networking for Leads at the Columbia County Chamber of Commerce for the past four years. (Photo by Josh Heath)
In today’s competitive business environment, it’s more important than ever for business leaders to be effective networkers. It’s not always about what you know; it’s about who you know that matters in business.
Fortunately, there are many networking opportunities right here in the CSRA. Yesterday, I had the opportunity to meet about 10 local business leaders, including a few I already knew, at an event called Networking for Leads at the Columbia County Chamber of Commerce. Before COVID, the meeting was set up like speed dating with participants rotating seats and sharing information about their businesses to about 30 people in an hour – no doubt an overwhelming experience for some. This time, there were no more rotations. Instead, participants had two minutes to stand and explain to the group what their businesses do and the types of clients they serve, which to me, was much less nerve-racking.
Anyone who knows me knows I’m an introvert, so part of me was relieved that the event wasn’t held in the traditional format. In school, there were many days I didn’t speak to anyone all day. I’m much more comfortable speaking to others now, but in my profession, I have no choice. I still get nervous before some interviews. For another publication, I had to interview Augusta Mayor Hardie Davis Jr. and Dr. Brooks Keel, president of Augusta University, for the same article.
The Chamber holds the Networking for Leads event every other month, and the next one is scheduled for July, according to Tom D’Abruzzo, owner of BrandStorm Promotions, LLC and sponsor of the event. “For me, it’s just a way to get my name out there,” says D’Abruzzo. He hopes the event will be back to normal next time. With the pandemic, “Obviously some people are comfortable, and some people aren’t.” BrandStorm supports local businesses with an array of promotional products, such as T-shirts, pens, and banners.
Representatives from several area businesses, including Blanchard and Calhoun Real Estate Company, Gateway Grant Services, and Thrive Senior Living, also attended yesterday’s event.
One of the participants, Maureen McManus, development specialist at Child Enrichment – a local nonprofit that helps victims of physical and sexual abuse, as well as human trafficking victims, came to share the services the organization offers children in its nine-county territory. McManus says these services include counseling, investigating abuse allegations, and providing medical treatment for victims. “We also have support groups we’re starting back,” she explains. “We’ve had 30 confirmed cases of child trafficking since Oct. 1.”
Many in-person events at the Chamber were either canceled or rescheduled last year. Olivia Reich, the Chamber’s communications manager, says they started hosting live events again in August 2020, but she’s not sure when the Networking for Leads event started back. “Programs like these are so important for local businesses because you get that one-on-one interaction,” Reich states. “We love our members meeting each other.”
There are many networking groups in the Augusta area. I’ve recently joined two on Facebook: Connect Augusta and the Augusta Entrepreneur Group, which both help to connect local residents to businesses in the CSRA. Another active group is the Augusta chapter of Business Network International, which helps to provide referrals to local businesses.
Josh Heath graduated from Augusta State University with a bachelor’s degree in communications and has over seven years of freelance writing experience.
Josh has written articles for many local publications, including Augusta Magazine, Augusta Family Magazine, and The Augusta Press. Josh also has over 10 years of experience in higher education and worked in admissions at Augusta University, Augusta Technical College, and Georgia Military College.