An online business club – hatched from an idea dreamed up in lockdown by two Wiltshire businessmen – has now expanded into a network of groups ‘virtually’ covering the UK.
Andrew Hatcher, business adviser and founder of Swindon Consultants, and Ed Williamson, from the Federation of Small Businesses, together devised a plan to help people carry on networking, collaborating and passing referrals, while the country was in lockdown.
They launched The Cobra Club, which stands for The Confederation of Business Referral Associates and acts as a digital business hub, operating online via Zoom. It quickly attracted dozens of business owners and managers, keen to continue to grow their networks and find new opportunities while deprived of the usual face-to-face meetings
Andrew and Ed have now franchised the model, with ten Cobra Club chapters which are loosely (and virtually) tied to geographic locations, plus several morein the pipeline.
The original Cobra Club chapter is aligned with Swindon and Royal Wootton Bassett. There are also chapters in Bristol, Birmingham, the Cotswolds, Somerset, Hertfordshire, East Anglia, Scotland and two in Wales.
“What started as an idea in lockdown to give people a way to combat isolation and carry on networking and making new connections, has really snowballed,” said Andrew.
“People refer people they know, like and trust, but in the face-to-face world are often geographically limited to a small area. The Cobra Club community enables our members to speed up that process because, although they are a member of a local chapter, they still have access to nationwide networking events and to the membership of The Cobra Club as a whole.”
Operating on a subscription basis, and open weekdays from 10am to 5pm, The Cobra Club offers a range of events (including several weekly networking get-togethers), workshops and expert slots, and access to support and business expertise in areas as diverse as sales, IT, HR and social media. Members can meet for one-to-ones, host their own digital events and refer business opportunities to each other.
Already, thousands of pounds worth of business has been done by members referring work and contacts to each other.
Ed added: “Having such a wide scope and access to such a large business community is the reason why we believe ours is the fastest growing national networking organisation in the country. We have a diverse, innovative, exciting selection of networking events, giving our members access to local contacts with national exposure, building trusted relationships and helping each other to grow our business opportunities.”
Plans are underway for further franchises and, longer term, launching the club overseas and creating affiliations with professional bodies.