Boston-area businesses forced to change networking strategy amid coronavirus concerns

Small businesses that rely on networking are turning to digital alternatives to keep going during the coronavirus pandemic

BOSTON — Businesses that are based on networking and bringing people together are struggling right now. But some have managed to reinvent themselves overnight.

Two local entrepreneurs are making new connections like never before, as the format for networking social events is changing for entrepreneurs like Sheena Collier of The Collier Connection.

Collier’s Black in Boston events and her business have been steadily growing in popularity and profitability.

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But state and federal mandates banning gatherings of any kind have closed restaurants and meeting places in even the busiest areas and forced businesses like hers to change strategy.

“The whole idea behind building this business for me is around in-person experiences and bringing people together in unique locations, bring people together to build community, so I panicked initially,” Collier said.

Her latest event is an online party, Virtual Vibes.

“It’s giving people a reason to get dressed, put on makeup they haven’t used in a week or two, figuring out where the dance floor is in their house, and creating their own signature drinks,” Collier said.

According to a recent report, the number of women-owned businesses has increased by 58 percent from 2007 TO 2018. Businesses owned by women of color increased by three times that number, but that growth is in jeopardy.

Jessicah Pierre is founder of Queens Co. They host networking and social events centered around wellness, professional development and financial empowerment.

Pierre said companies big and small have no choice but to pivot, and in the end, your business could be better for it.

“This is a direction that a lot of us should have been heading anyways, so it’s a matter of adding an additional source of revenue to your event, because this is something for your long-term strategy, can make sense,” said Pierre.

“I think it’s exciting that we’re accessing this online and digital space, because at the end of the day, it does increase our reach,” she said. “Because when we do host events, we have a capacity of people in the room, where online we have access to millions if not billions of people.”