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We’ve all been hearing about how Austin’s tech scene is on the rise, but did you know Phoenix isn’t too far behind? If you’re looking at cities that are exploding onto the start-up scene, don’t overlook The Copper State on your hunt for a goldmine.

With such rapid expansion comes great networking opportunities, and I spoke to Gelie Akhenblit, a female entrepreneur with a very successful networking company, about taking advantage of the Phoenix market and why focus is vital.

What is Networking Phoenix?

NetworkingPhoenix is a tech start-up and an online resource that has become Phoenix's leading resource for professionals, entrepreneurs and business owners looking to network and connect locally. The website has an online calendar that lists approximately 600 networking events, mixers and business seminars in the Phoenix metro area on a monthly basis.

Since its inception in October 2008, NetworkingPhoenix.com has skyrocketed in popularity becoming one of the most visited websites local to Arizona, and even making a global imprint as one of the top one percent most visited global websites. To date, over 25,000 members have joined and the website's growth still shows no signs of slowing.

NetworkingPhoenix's Signature Event occurs three to four times a year and is one of the best-attended networking events in Phoenix - with over 1,500 professionals in attendance.

 

 

What was the inspiration?

When I first started networking, I quickly realized that there was a big gap in the market. There is a big networking community in Phoenix, but it was extremely segregated and there wasn't a central place where networkers could come together to get information on events. I would try to plan out my networking strategy for the month and it was nearly impossible because I would find out about events the day before or after they had already happened.

As a hobby, I created a calendar to share with all my ‘networking friends' and before I knew it, we were showing up number one in search engines. Shortly after we launched the site, I decided to turn this hobby into a business and here we are 5 years later.

How has business been doing since you started?

It’s been great! We’re five years into it and are currently working with a Venture Management company to optimize the model locally and expand nationally.

What has your biggest failure been with Networking Phoenix?

I’m not sure that this is a failure…but when we initially launched, the growth of the company was extremely fast and organic. We didn’t have a growth or expansion strategy in place.

The organic growth is still there, but it’s not as massive as it was initially. Since we didn’t have a plan in place, we were a bit slow to react to the shift. If we were more prepared, we could have already potentially been in other cities.

 

 

What has your biggest success been?

Our biggest success has been coming up with the unique optional paid membership [Networking Passport], implementing it, building the technology around it and watching it reach the growth that it has. The Networking Passport is our main revenue stream.

What about your service is unique that your competitors can't offer?

No one has the Networking Passport, which is a program that allows our paying members to attend other organizations’ premium paid events for free. Our members can attend training seminars, Chamber events and other business events without paying anything at the door. We also have the ability to provide our members daily leads. Once they fill out their profile and tell us who they are looking for, we notify them when someone of that criterion joins the network.

What advice would you give entrepreneurs just starting out?

Focus, focus, focus, focus! Did I mention focus? Many entrepreneurs have great ideas but they have difficulty prioritizing their time, especially when they are just starting out. They want to do everything at once and when your attention is that spread, it becomes difficult to be efficient.

 

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