Social networking event attracts entrepreneurs

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What started out as an informal, after work gathering for drinks at the South Loop Hotel on the near downtown has evolved two years later into a weekly social networking event often attended by entrepreneurs, business professionals and the Black middle cl

What started out as an informal, after work gathering for drinks at the South Loop Hotel on the near downtown has evolved two years later into a weekly social networking event often attended by entrepreneurs, business professionals and the Black middle class.

In November, Business Spotlight Networking outgrew the hotel and was moved to the Red Kiva lounge in the West Loop at 1108 W. Randolph St. BSN is held every Tuesday from 6 p.m. to 9 p.m.

“This event is designed and structured in a way to meet people of interest,” said host and co-founder Dwayne Hirsch. “This is not a party spot but a gathering of interesting and everyday people who want to listen and offer good dialogue.”

The age range of attendees at the BSN is between 25 and 45, according to Hirsch, who added that he is also considering an online show for the event.

Each week a guest is invited to join Hirsch onstage to be interviewed. Recently actor Brian Hooks, from such films as 3 Strikes and Soul Plane, was the featured guest.

As BSN continues to grow – largely from word of mouth and a Facebook page – this spring it will expand to the south suburbs.

“I have gotten a lot of requests from south suburban residents about holding a similar function out that way,” Hirsch told the Defender. “I see this event expanding even further to the West Side and other parts of the Chicago area.”

South suburban areas being considered for the expansion include Olympia Fields, University Park and Tinley Park. The weekly gathering is said by some to be a big boost for home-based businesses.

Technology entrepreneur Sophia Jennings, 26, credits the BSN with helping her increase her clientele for her website company Wisegal Graphics Business Solutions.

“I have gotten quite a few clients from attending. Now I make sure I am here every Tuesday. It is really beneficial,” said Jennings, an independent graphic designer and marketing consultant. “I would recommend that everyone comes here whether you are an entrepreneur or not. The environment is right for anyone.”

Attorney Shara Harris co-hosted BSN with Hirsch for the first time on March 8 and loved it.

“This was my first time co-hosting the event and I really enjoyed it. The atmosphere is a family one and that’s why I agreed to be a co-host,” Harris explained. “I enjoy meeting new people, especially Black professionals.”

Harris was filling in for regular co-host and co-founder Andrea Lynn Dickson, who Hirsch said was in New Orleans for Mardi Gras.

Author Lotario Jointer was featured at the BSN. The Chicago Public Schools employee self-published his first book this year entitled “L’Tario Love Notes.”

“My book is far from what Steve Harvey put out. This book gives short love quotes you can share with your partner,” recalls Jointer. “My purpose of coming here is not so much to sell my book but to share my wisdom with others and to learn from others about being self-employed.”

The divorced father said it does not hurt that many attendees at the BSN are also attractive single women.

“It’s hard not to be relaxed with company like this,” he said.

Hirsch is quick to dispel any notion that the BSN is a Black event.

“This event is open to all races and is not targeted to Blacks,” he said. “Yeah the crowds are usually Black but it is open to everyone and we are beginning to see a more diverse crowd each week.”

Hirsch, who has a sales background, works full-time as the BSN promoter, organizer and coordinator. And thanks to sponsorship the event has and will remain free, he said.

That’s good to hear, said Donald Boone, founder and president of Boone Realty in Chicago.

“I come here for business and pleasure and both are sweeter when there’s no cover charge to socialize. I have been coming here a few months and have always found it refreshing to meet so many young, college-educated people,” Boone said.

Styling and profiling is what entrepreneur Tony Deveaux said was his purpose for attending a recent BSN event.

“Yes, I am here to do business but I am also here to enjoy myself after a long day working,” Deveaux admitted. “I have a mobile app business and I noticed that many Black-owned businesses do not have an app so people can download to their smart phones and that is a big mistake.”

Admission and WiFi access is free and complimentary pizza is served until 7 p.m. And at 8 p.m. the meet and greet atmosphere changes to a talk show format.

Copyright 2011 Chicago Defender

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