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Starting a Business Networking Group

Expert: Julie King

Saeed asked:

I need list of business networking groups operating in Toronto. Secondly how I can start my own networking group?

Julie King answered:

There are many networking groups in Toronto; there are groups for young entrepreneurs, for women, for members of a specific industry, and many more.

While I cannot provide you with a comprehensive list, here are some of the more active groups that I'm aware of:

Young Entrepreneurs Association (YEA)

The Board of Trade Young Professionals

ConnectUs Canada (run by Donna Messer)

The Toronto Board of Trade

Chamber of Commerce (there are many local branches)

Canadian Association of Women Executives & Entrepreneurs (CAWEE)


Digital Eve (formerly Toronto Webgrrls)

There are also informal networking groups in every area; your local business paper and community paper will probably advertise upcoming events. For example, in the northern part of York Region there are two groups that meet for breakfast once or more a month. There are also barter groups and lead exchange groups that facilitate networking/sales between customers.

To form your own networking group, it will help if you do a needs analysis. Talk to potential members of your group to find out what they are looking for, and what other groups have not been able to do for them. As you talk to people you will learn about groups that are active in your area. You will also begin to understand how you can make your group different from those currently in operation.

In terms of the actual process of incorporating/registering your networking group, the best approach will depend on the specifics of the organization you intend to form. For example, will you operate as a non-profit? Or will you be a for-profit group generating revenues from the sale of memberships/sponsorships/products & services? A lawyer can help you with the business incorporation in either case. If you decide to operate as a sole proprietorship or partnership, you'll want to make sure that you aren't exposing yourself to unreasonable risks.

I hope that helps; good luck with your venture!

About the author

Julie King is the co-founder and managing editor of CanadaOne, Canada's first small business portal.

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