Thursdays with the SBNA in Barrie are the best kept secret in town, according to Donna Douglas

There are miracles all over the place and Barrie is full of them. One of these miracles happens every Thursday morning.


Every Thursday morning, at precisely 9:15 a.m., the doors to Barrie Public Library open and a group of business owners file into a meeting room. They introduce themselves and their businesses. They sometimes hear a guest speaker on a businessworthy subject. They get to make presentations on their own businesses. They hand out cards. They test a new name or an idea.


In short, they walk into a group of like-minded entrepreneurs who are ready to stretch out a willing hand, lend a smile, and offer advice and encouragement.


When you're starting a business or have been in business a while, having a supportive environment of business 'friends' can make a world of difference.


This group will have a round of goal setting. It'll hear tips on websites and get solid advice on
'how to ...' Business owners announce upcoming events or put out a plea for help with product or services.


It's called Small Business Network Association (SBNA). Thanks to the devotion of its two guiding lights, SBNA is probably one of Barrie's greatest little miracles. Every Thursday morning, Lorraine Rice of BOSS Technologies and/or Katie Whissel of Accord Media provide those who attend SBNA a stimulating buffet of business possibilities.


Marketing tips, financing ideas, connections for this or that, the opportunity to put out an idea and get reaction to it ... SBNA is a grassroots, supportive environment that gives business owners their first real push into the community.


While Lorraine Rice stimulates people with ideas and information, Katie Whissel uses her web savvy to keep people in the know. She also devotes hours to the www.sbna.ca website, a database of small business products and services in Barrie. People can search by category, by name, by phone number to find a detailed description of a specific service.

With the theme of "Buy Locally, Do Business With Your Neighbours" the SBNA website is one of Barrie's most comprehensive listings of area small businesses. The site attracts 45,000 to 50,000 hits every month.


One hour. A dozen business owners. An open door. Friendly faces. Encouragement. Suggestions. Enhancement. Connection. Ideas. Research. Information. Stimulation. Challenge. It's all there. No fee, No registration. No attendance. No rules (except Be On Time: 9:15 a.m. the doors close).


It's an unlikely organization in many ways; yet, these two women have nurtured their idea and in the process given help and hope to many, many people. For seven years SBNA has been a quiet, sturdy, reliable force in the community.


The faces in attendance change a bit each week. Sometimes there are 12 people there. Sometimes there are 50, as in the showing of The Secret last month. Inspiration abounds.


This is goodness at its best. Kudos Lorraine, and Katie.


And to both of you from those with courage enough to start out on their own ... thanks!

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