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Networking or Jelly

Is there an alternative to formal networking? Perhaps you need a Jelly

As it turns out, I’m not so comfortable with structured networking but as a small business, it’s one of those things you feel you have to do. Or do you?

As a virtual assistant, I spend much of the day working alone. Although quite happy with my own company, there are times when I could do with some team chatter and office banter. Then I found Jelly.

What’s Jelly?

It is a place where freelancers and home workers meet, work, chat and drink coffee.

Why did I choose Jelly?

Last year, I was a member of a national networking group.  I joined because I wanted some time out from my office now and again, with a chance to meet other people running a small business, like me. But, as the year went on and my work load increased, I was stretched for time but felt compelled to attend meetings and get my subscription money’s worth.

And networking worked.  Ultimately, it gave me some time out of the office, a very nice breakfast, I met a nice bunch of business owners and made good friends.  However, most people I meet say networking is a bit like marmite, you either love it or loathe it.

As it turns out, and for reasons I don’t quite understand, structured networking just turns me into a rabbit in the headlights.  Even though I’m an outgoing, sociable being, there’s a side of me that prefers a conversation to an unspoken agenda (we all know why we’re really here).  So I understand why some people would rather poke glass in their eye than network.  But as a small business, it’s one of those things you have to do. Or do you?

Because I enjoy getting out and about, so I looked to see what other things I could do instead and came across Knutsford Jelly. It’s local, free of charge and I can work whilst I’m there.

“Knutsford Jelly is an informal co-working event where freelancers, home workers, and small/micro business owners bring their laptop and work, chat and collaborate with other small business owners.”

If this sounds like your cup of tea, there are loads of Jelly meetings across the UK.

Is Jelly just another networking thing?

No, but it can be. You bring yourself and your work. That’s all. If you happen to chat and make a new contact then yes, I suppose that’s networking. The great thing is Knutsford Jelly is open all day, 10am until 4pm and you’re free to turn up any time. The Jelly happens on the last Wednesday of every month.

On the day I went to Jelly, it was pouring with rain and having got soaked on the way, I started to appreciate home working and count my blessings to be in a job where I no longer had to commute.

There were two people there when I arrived; Colin and Steve, who’d set up their laptops at the large table in the centre of the room. The room was basic but well-organised with a multi-socket extension lead in the middle of the table, the Wi-Fi password was clearly displayed and there was plenty of desk space to work on.

Did I get any work done?

Well, err, no.  I purposely saved a piece of non-urgent work which I knew I could do, even with possible interruptions. As it was, we all ended up chatting for two hours and I didn’t do any work at all.  Had I stayed all day I may have got quite a lot done but since the car park only let me have 2 hours parking, I left at 12:30 and headed back to my home office. At least I’d got a coffee round in.  I found out afterwards there is free parking.

More Jelly?

Definitely. Knutsford Jelly has a pleasant, relaxed atmosphere where everyone seems genuinely interested in and curious about what you do. I cannot guarantee my work will get done there, and I think it’s the approach you need to have.

It’s a great way to meet other businesses and next time; I’ll bring Hobnobs. That’s the only thing I would say; I do like a biscuit with my coffee.
I’m happy I found Jelly. It means this year I’ll be able to put the money saved on networking membership towards my CIPR CPD training budget.

Who called it Jelly?

In 2006, two New York freelancers were discussing the downside of working alone. They decided to invite a bunch of freelancers to their apartment to work together for the day. Because they ate Jelly Beans throughout the day, they decided to call it ….. Jelly. Simple as that.