A NETWORKING group inviting York businesses to catch up over a cuppa has gone from strength to strength since its launch during the pandemic.

Connect over Coffee has held 36 get-togethers since it was set up in May 2020, involving 130 different businesses with many returning regularly.

Created by Louise Saw, City of York Council’s business growth manager, the informal business support forum was a response to the challenges facing businesses during the Covid-19 crisis. 

The last 19 months have changed the way businesses operate, interact and network, with the shift to remote working having restricted networking opportunities as well as creating untold challenges for York's business community.

Connect over Coffee aims to help people with any obstacles, pressures and questions they have about running a business.

The forum continues to meet generally every second and fourth Wednesday of the month via a mixture of Zoom and in-person events. Tickets are free and can be booked online.

Chaired by Louise, each session has a guest speaker talking about a chosen topic, followed by an open discussion where people can share their views and experiences, helping to build a peer-to-peer support system.

The sessions conclude with a Zoom breakout room.

Previous themes have included sales, marketing and social media, SEO, skills, start-up support, R&D tax credits, investment, HR, furlough, legal, data protection, and working remotely.

Future session speakers include Katrina Hukin, area manager for small business banking, at HSBC UK, talking online on February 2 about their services to business such as the Kinetic Current Account.

Then, on March 16, also online, Lucy Pembayun, founder and head of translations at York-based LEaF Translations, will be sharing tips for making your small business greener.

Adam Gill, of York-based video production specialists Vidaveo, said: “Connect over Coffee is the most genuine and worthwhile example of business networking that I have had the privilege of being part of.

"Particularly since the first Covid lockdown, I have relied on Connect over Coffee and Louise’s advice and guidance to help me navigate my business, not only towards discovering what support is out there, but also following her indications of how I might best ‘pivot’ my business as the new landscape emerged.

"It’s an open and friendly platform where you can talk frankly with other business owners and ask questions about the latest updates regarding support, business strategies and new opportunities."

Councillor Andrew Waller, executive member for economy and strategic planning, said: “The council recognises the unforeseen hardships that York’s local businesses have had to face since the pandemic.

"We understand that networking plays a vital role in the growth of any business.

"Connect over Coffee intends to help local businesses connect with their peers and receive all types of support that is available for them from the council and our partners."

The council is working to help businesses access support to survive and thrive, from grants, legal advice, training and HR, through initiatives like Connect Over Coffee.

For details about Connect over Coffee, contact louise.saw@york.gov.uk.

For further support contact economicgrowth@york.gov.uk