For many small business owners, the concept of a ‘networking event’ would no doubt conjure up images of cheap wine, name tags and a collection of business cards. Or perhaps, the scenario they picture is one of fumbling through a ‘speed dating’ round, trying desperately to make a connection.
But one Brisbane business owner is taking a different approach, channelling the powers of a good ol’ dinner party to bring together a community of up and coming small business owners in a relaxed setting.
Nathan Watt is a partner at Brisbane SME financial consulting firm Watson & Watt. Since the launch of his firm in July 2017, Watt’s business has focused on guiding SMEs through multiple aspects of financial planning and setting goals.
“I’ve been an accountant for eleven to twelve years. I see the industry as not changing the ways it deals with clients,” Watt tells SmartCompany.
“Most owners go into business with an idea in mind, but when they get into business, things change.”
One of the issues Watt repeatedly noticed was how small businesses would fail to plan for what happens after they achieve their goals.
“If we go and increase your sales two hundred percent, that’s great. But how many staff will you need? How will it impact your overheads?”
Watt saw a need to network with other business owners who were sharing similar experiences or facing problems as a small business. So in an attempt to build this community, he sought out his connections on LinkedIn, invited them to a dinner party and asked them to bring along others.
In February, the inaugural Founder’s Feast was held in a private room at the Deer Duck Bistro and funded by Watson & Watt.
Watt’s first dinner party hosted nine business people from a range of industries including marketing, law and accounting. The dinner was designed to stir discussion amongst the guests and provide solutions to problems others might have.
The guests of the first Founder’s Feast included Joe Fox, business and development director of marketing agency Studio Culture; Nick Eckers, principal at Bluewater Lawyers; Jason Andrew, co-founder of financial firm Smartbooksonline; Nathan Schokker, facilities manager of commercial service firm Talio; Kaitlyn Sapier co-founder of proptech firm Orbmaps; and Tara-Jay Rimmer, chief executive of The Van That Can.
“Its really about getting like-minded business people in a room to bounce off each other and have good time,” Watt says.
“There’s no sales pitches, it’s more about people who are also sharing the same experiences.”
Watt says the first dinner ran for four-and-a-half hours and by all accounts, was a success.
“The feedback I’ve had is its quite unique and one of the best events they’ve been to in terms of quality,” Watt says.
Joe Fox from Studio Culture tells SmartCompany the dinner party idea was a “fantastic” way of bringing a community together.
“It was a good idea to bring similar people into a room and hear everyone’s journey to date,” Fox says.
“In terms of networking, I already knew a few of the people so it was good to refresh those connections.”
Fox also says he would attend another Founder’s Feast in the future if it is offered.
“I think I’d certainly go again it was the same calibre of business people.”
The Founder’s Feast will not be a standalone event, Watt hopes, with plans to hold dinners twice a year alongside smaller events like lunches. He also hopes to extend the invitation to SME owners from other industries.
“I’d like to get someone in from retail, someone who has got a product to sell, most of them [at the dinner] were services,” Watt says.
“The best outcome I could get is this being the nexus for a good idea or a new product or connection you’ve made.”