A business networking group set up with the help of Blackpool Council’s Get Started scheme has celebrated its first birthday.
And the organisers of Ronja Networking are now planning ahead to open networking groups in St Annes and Preston next.
Around 50 business people were present at its first anniversary meeting at the De Vere hotel, where speakers included Andrew Wareing of Blackpool-based Voucher Packs, Coun Eddie Collett and Alan Hughes from the Federation of Small Businesses (FSB).
The group was founded by Arron Darwen and John Leatherbarrow after they felt that the groups they had been with were too restrictive and inflexible. They got support from the council to set up their own group, which meets at the De Vere every week.
But it also offers members the chance to network and find work 24 hours a day and nationally with a bespoke website.
John said: “Things have been going really well. We have picked up lots of members and leads for people to grow their business.
“We have had people who were struggling join us and, through networking, have found business and work to keep them going. To see that success means a lot to me.”
Arron said that, although he and John both have their own businesses apart from Ronja (Arron runs Arron Darwen Joinery and Business Services, while John runs Blackpool Signs and Graphics), they enjoyed putting in the hours for the networking group.
He said: “The first year could not have gone better, really.
“The group has generated something like £180,000 of business between the members. I have had £30,000 worth alone.
“It is so enjoyable. If you have been having a bad week that Wednesday morning business breakfast meeting is a bit of a treat and you can come away feeling uplifted.
“All the members have a passion for their business and that rubs off.”
Coun Eddie Collett, who officially launched Ronja last year as the Mayor, said he was delighted to be present at its first anniversary.
He said “I was here a year ago and am delighted to be back now to see it going from strength to strength. Businesses linking up and growing can only be for the benefit of Blackpool as a whole.”
Andrew Wareing said: “Ronja is all about building relationships and creating business and the people here have done just that. People have helped each other grow their business.”