Networking is an important skill for entrepreneurs to develop. It helps you to expand and deepen your list of contacts, who can help you get things done and build your business’s client base. The best networking opportunities for small businesses and entrepreneurs are often events where other people are there for the same purpose. Various local organizations and chambers of commerce regularly have such events.

An upcoming networking event in Cayuga County is being organized by the Cayuga Economic Development Agency and Auburn SCORE. This free event, called Startup Connect, includes refreshments and a cash bar, and will be held at Treleaven Wines (658 Lake Road, King Ferry) from 5:30 to 7:30 p.m. Tuesday, Sept. 10. The event will be hosted by Treleaven and Simply Cookie, the catering company providing the refreshments. This is the second entrepreneur networking event we’ve held this year, and we hope to have several more Startup Connect events in locations in Auburn and around Cayuga County in 2020.

Susanne "Cookie" Wheeler, owner of Simply Cookie and a recent client of Auburn SCORE and CEDA, opened her food service company this spring. In addition to catering weddings and other events, Simply Cookie provides a daily lunch menu and runs the concession stand for events at Treleaven. "Cookie" has worked in a number of area restaurants, including the Sherwood Inn and the Bluewater Grill, but is perhaps best known as the former general manager and executive chef at Pumpkin Hill Bistro in Aurora. "Cookie" came to SCORE and CEDA for help in opening her new food service venture. She had a location and the financing that she needed, so the assistance provided by SCORE and CEDA wasn’t loans or grants, but business mentoring.

Wheeler described how our assistance has impacted her business: “Although I have been in the restaurant business for over 40 years (as a chef and manager), starting one is a different story. I enjoyed having someone to throw ideas to, and the feedback that they provided. I was able to start my business quickly and was well-prepared to open my doors.”

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Since Wheeler had most of the resources she needed to get started, we served as a sounding board she could bounce ideas off and helped her organize those ideas into a detailed business plan. Studies conducted by the U.S. Small Business Administration show that businesses that start with a business plan have a higher success rate than those that don’t.

Auburn SCORE’s and CEDA’s missions align as they relate to small businesses, so we often work together to assist small businesses and entrepreneurs to get started and grow. Another event we’re partnering on this fall is Simple Steps to Starting Your Business, a multi-session course designed to help startup businesses to write a business plan. The course will start Nov. 16. There are a few ways to stay posted on events happening with both organizations. Subscribe to CEDA’s listserv via our website, cayugaeda.org, or follow us on social media.

If you have a business idea or are in the process of starting a business, attend the upcoming Startup Connect and/or contact me at (315) 252-3500 or dsimmonds@cayugaeda.org for a free and confidential meeting.

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Derek Simmonds is a business development specialist for the Cayuga Economic Development Agency. He can be reached at (315) 252-3500 or dsimmonds@cayugaeda.org.