- Kelly and James West, founders of ONLE networking, are finalists in the Entrepreneurial Spirit category at the prestigious Great British Entrepreneur Awards (South West) thanks to the meteoric growth of their networking community after just two years.
ONLE Networking operates across the South of England, from Poole to Basingstoke, and has accumulated more than 200 members since launching in January 2018. ONLE holds regular events at luxurious locations but has been required to take its offering online because of the Coronavirus pandemic.
It is their fast response to building a popular and effective online networking group, and their rapid growth to be one of the most recognisable networking groups in the South, which has led to Kelly and James’ award nomination for Entrepreneurial Spirit in the Great British Entrepreneur Awards. The awards are nationally recognised and celebrate, champion, and support enterprising business minds in Great Britain.
Speaking about how COVID-19 affected networking and how ONLE was able to overcome the challenge, Kelly said:
“When COVID-19 hit, we knew immediately it would have a huge impact on our face-to-face networking. We were forced to act quickly. Having already launched ONLE ONLinE, we were already equipped for online networking. We moved our whole operation, lock stock and barrel, to our online platform. We thrive on challenge, so when this issue arose – we were prepared.”
ONLE now use Zoom conference calls as a replacement for face-to-face meetings, keeping the standard format of networking that members expect from the meetings.
Pam Bates, a member of ONLE who attends ONLE ONLinE, said:
“Kelly and James have created something special with ONLE Networking and ONLinE. They are innovators who were prepared for anything and were already set up for virtual meetings when the virus arrived.”
Kelly and James first met whilst networking in 2017 and had an immediate connection, which highlighted to them the true power of networking to build relationships. As keen networkers, they felt there was a ‘gap in the market’ for an innovative and unique networking group with a culture and community of collaboration and support. They cited a lack of choice around meeting times, sector category restriction, and uninspiring venues, as the parts of networking which needed to change.
After marrying and creating a web design business, Clean Slate Websites, the couple set up their networking group. ONLE Networking has grown significantly since launching two years ago, with over 200 members now attending regular events across the south coast, and frequent visitors attending sessions, who often become members after the first visit.
James West, co-founder of ONLE Networking, said:
“We are driven by a real lust for life and seizing every opportunity – whether that’s in our personal life or business life. We’re always working – it’s not a job, it’s just what we do. Reliability is part of our work ethic and if we’re unhappy about something, we don’t complain – we fix it.
“The last few months have been challenging but by showing real leadership, we’ve turned a difficult situation into a positive experience for us and our members. By moving our core networking online and adding additional online events to connect people from further afield, we can welcome yet more people to the growing ONLE community.”
Simon Tucker, a member of ONLE Networking, said:
“My mission was to connect to businesses in Dorset, Hampshire and Wiltshire. Joining ONLE, after visiting twice was the best decision I have taken in many years. ONLE and ONLE ONLinE have connected me to a wonderful group of like-minded business owners in an atmosphere akin to family. A brilliant network created by two fabulous people.”
ONLE Networking is currently running all face-to-face meetings online. Online replacement meetings include: Village Hotel, Portsmouth; Neo Restaurant, Bournemouth; Hilton at the Ageas Bowl; The Ivy Brasserie, Winchester; Hotel Du Vin, Winchester; Carey’s Manor, Brockenhurst; Best Western Chilworth Manor, Southampton; Chewton Glen, New Milton; Four Seasons Hotel, Hampshire; Hiltonbury Farmhouse, Chandlers Ford; Hotel du Vin, Poole.