Published: August 13, 2020 | Updated: August 13, 2020

This is the ONLE way: Overhaul as networking group accept ‘normal’ business is not returning

Kelly and James West, Co-founders of ONLE Networking.
By Andrew Diprose, editor

A networking business which has seen dramatic growth since its launch two years ago is to undergo a radical overhaul.

ONLE Networking says the changes will make it the first future-proof business network and are an acknowledgement that ‘normal’ business is not returning.

In future:

  • All ONLE meetings, which had temporarily moved online when lockdown rules were imposed, will continue online permanently.
  • Live in-person events – called ONLE Experiences – will become optional activities.
  • Members will now pay a monthly combined meeting and membership fee, without a minimum contract.

Kelly West, who co-founded ONLE Networking with husband James, said: “We’re the network for people who like people.

“The ONLE culture is about welcoming people like us, who think that relationships and running a business are far more important than networking rules and regulations.

“Lockdown and an uncertain future for face-to-face events creates a dilemma: how can we continue to guarantee this inclusive networking experience?

“We found the solution in our name: Online Networking Live Experiences.

“By moving the core networking online permanently, but running optional live events, we believe we get the best of both worlds without excluding anyone.”

Kelly said that having spent 18 months running online networking events before lockdown, she was confident that online networking was more than a networking stopgap.

She said: “Online networking is efficient, convenient and inclusive.

“And as long as you develop relationships outside of the meetings, it’s just as effective as face-to-face networking.

“By moving our monthly meetings online, we are able to guarantee our members valuable and inclusive networking.

“With the addition of ONLE Experiences, we get to enjoy the fantastic food, venues and atmosphere which ONLE is famed for.”

James said the decision to scrap annual membership was as important as introducing a blended approach to networking.

He added: “Yes, you must give networking time.

“You need to build relationships and awareness before you start doing business.

“But while we encourage that our members show patience, we also recognise that annual payments and minimum contracts can be a problem for many businesses.

“A monthly recurring payment that delivers membership benefits as well as the meeting fee, matches our ethos of creating a welcoming and inclusive network.

“We want people to network with us because they want to network with us.”

ONLE Networking operates across the South, from Poole to Basingstoke, and has grown to more than 200 members.

Earlier this year it acquired Dorset’s peer-to-peer business owner community, The Boardroom.

Online replacement meetings in Dorset include Neo Restaurant, Bournemouth, and Hotel du Vin, Poole.

As reported on Dorset Biz News, Kelly and James are finalists in the Entrepreneurial Spirit category of this year’s Great British Entrepreneur Awards (South West).