Barrie has been named one of the best places in Canada in which to start a business (GD Sourcing) and I believe that!

Why? Because there are so many people and organizations here with a helping attitude for the new entrepreneur. One of our true business nuggets in this community is Anne Dorsey, business librarian at Barrie Public Library. This wee dynamo is so business-centred that she has a following of fans--business owners--who rely on her incredible knowledge about identifying markets and finding customers.

As well as the business services at our library, we've got organizations like Business Network International (BNI) whose members form networking groups and meet weekly to build each other's businesses.

The Barrie Young Professionals organization is an open door for the younger entrepreneur building an accounting practice, a health facility, a counselling service. And Barrie's Chamber of Commerce is one of the most vibrant in the province... with excellent monthly programs that enhance business activities across the region.

My own program, Grow Vantage, is designed to give the entrepreneur all the skills to run their business so they grows quickly to profitability. Well over 1000 business owners have proven its worth.

And then we have government sponsored groups like the Business Enterprise Resource Network, the Greater Barrie Business Enterprise Centre, Employment Resource Centre, Career Centres, and Georgian College's Entrepreneurship programs... see what I mean? There is a lot here for the entrepreneur.

When I say 'entrepreneur' I'm talking not only about people like Steve Blanchet who operate manufacturing facilities like CSR.  Steve is definitely an entrepreneur's entrepreneur and there are many heads of companies in Barrie with Steve's foresight and leadership.

I'm also talking about the 50 year old former-commuter who decides to hang out his or her own shingle and start an accounting or bookkeeping business; an office manager who decides to become a lease finance broker offering virtual admin support; a teacher who decides to open her own Montessori School. There are literally hundreds of these folks, sole proprietors at first, who start and grow their businesses, put new mortgages on houses, or free up cash by radically downsizing so they can take the reins of their own lives.

All of these people are fuelling our economy. I guess that's why I'm such a huge proponent of doing business with our neighbours, buying from the people who live in our community.

When a person becomes self employed, one of the hardest things to do is 'sell.' Learning how to network, how to share information, how to give before you get, how to trust someone else with your idea... these are big fears for newly self-employed people.

So, it's fitting that this country has marked the first week of February as International Networking Week. And what better way to celebrate that then hold a Networking Event.

Here's what's so 'Barrie' about this. Instead of hoarding the idea and going it alone, four Barrie organizations have come together to make this happen. They've booked Tangle Creek Golf Club; they've developed a website (www.networkingbarrie.com), they've priced the afternoon ($47), arranged for guest speakers, developed round table topics, and extended their energies to the business community to come along and connect!

Monday, February 6. All afternoon. Scores of established businesses, linking connections with new businesses so everybody benefits. Why? Because you don't know who you don't know! And how they can help! From my point of view, it's a must-do for every business owner...

Thanks, Barrie Chamber. Thanks, BNI. Thanks, Young Professionals. Thanks, members of Grow Vantage.

And that's why Barrie's such a great place to start a business!

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