1-aDid you know the Norwich Business Council (NBC) was  started over a decade ago? Sally Wilson and other local business leaders felt there was a need for the business community to come together, providing an avenue of community outreach, business networking, and supporting each other as good neighbors. During the early years, these leaders began the tradition of making holiday decorations for the downtown light posts.

The NBC has come a long way since its early days. It is a vibrant and relevant piece of the Norwich business community. Although it no longer makes holiday decorations, the Norwich Business Council’s support of local endeavors is far reaching. This is clearly shown with the recent success of the “19 Days of Norwich.” NBC member Dan Fraser spearheaded this endeavor which has raised over a quarter million dollars for the Upper Valley Haven. Dan’s inspiration motivated members of NBC to do their part by organizing, volunteering, and contributing. Thanks to this effort, enough food and money has been donated to provide the Haven with what they need for over a year!

The NBC meets at 8:15 a.m. on the second Friday of each month at the Norwich Inn. It is there that a committed group of leaders brainstorm, plan, and create dynamic events and programs that benefit the Norwich community.

One of the community outreach projects is the “Norwich Welcome Bags.” These are very attractive canvas bags filled with goodies donated by Norwich businesses. They are hand-delivered to new residents of Norwich to welcome them to the community so they feel welcome, and know what businesses are nearby to serve them.

Cheryl Herrmann with the Norwich Welcome bag

Cheryl Herrmann with the Norwich Welcome bag

One of NBC’s most memorable events is the Spring Business Blitz, which this year will be held on April 1st at the Montshire Museum. This event has had a fun history over the past five years and generates great enthusiasm and interest. The NBC collaborates with the Hartford Chamber of Commerce in this event. The style is that of “speed dating.” It begins with about a half-hour of casual networking and socializing with other business leaders while enjoying delicious appetizers and drinks – and then the serious networking begins! Everyone is divided into two groups, and then seated in pairs. Each person has 60 seconds to share their elevator speech – introducing themselves, describing their business, exchanging business cards, and seeing if there are ways they can work with each other. After the two minutes, a bell is rung and people move to the next chair to meet someone else. It’s a lot of fun, and a boundless opportunity to meet new people and learn about the products or services they provide. Frankly, it is amazing how many unique and creative businesses are located in the Upper Valley!

This year the NBC is pleased to offer its members several great opportunities to showcase their business. At monthly meetings, everyone is given a chance to speak with other community leaders. Members often share their ideas, insights, new undertakings and promotions they are offering, or they can ask for advice from other experienced business owners.

Additionally, individuals can sign up to make a 10-15 minute educational presentation at the monthly meetings to share their expertise with the group. Recent presentations have taught how to use Facebook and LinkedIn as business networking tools, and how a coach can help guide business growth and other issues. These presentations are an instructive and inspiring time, and give attendees great ideas that they can implement in their own endeavors.

Norwich Welcome bag goodies

Norwich Welcome bag goodies

This year will see the reintroduction of “NBC’s ABCs” which is shorthand for the After Business Connections. An NBC ABC is an opportunity for a business to host a social event for local business networking. These events can take place either before or after business hours at the convenience of the business host. Small, home-office businesses that cannot readily handle a large gathering can team up with another business that has more space and co-host an NBC ABC. The NBC strongly believes that this is a great avenue to bring local business leaders together with the opportunity to build relationships, get fresh ideas, and learn from each other.

One way the NBC promotes all Norwich businesses state-wide is by providing each of the Vermont Welcome Centers with “Discover Norwich” rack cards. The goal is to attract tourists to Norwich who were previously unaware of what is offered. “Come visit, come eat, come play and stay!” is a promoted theme. All Norwich businesses that are members of the Hanover Area Chamber of Commerce (HACC) are individually listed on the card. A QRcode on the back of the card is linked to the Norwich page of the HACC website, so visitors can get a business’ contact information, directions and hours of operation in order to plan their visit.

Finally, and what makes the Norwich Business Council a truly community-building entity is that it is free and open to any local business. It readily welcomes large businesses such as Dan & Whit’s and the local banks, to smaller operations and home-based offices such as Body Kneads Massage and Lufkin Graphic Designs, respectively. The NBC invites any small business owner to attend the meetings and get a feel for what it’s all about. New ideas and a passion for the Norwich community are welcomed and encouraged. After all, local business is critical to Norwich’s economic success and to the strengthening of the community fabric of Norwich!

by Doug Lufkin

The NBC meets at 8:15 a.m. on the 2nd Friday of each month at the Norwich Inn. Contact NBC Co-Chairs Cheryl Herrmann or Kevin De Rosa for more information. Cheryl: 802.649.1333 cheryl.l.herrmann@gmail.com; Kevin: 802.649.2050 kevin.derosa@ledyardbank.com