The Milspo Business Network has been running Virtual Networking sessions since May 2019…I know, AGES! Even I had to double-check the dates.

If you aren’t aware, Milspo Virtual Networking connects military business owners, online, for free, in structured and focused networking events. You get to meet a load of people just like you, without leaving the house – which used to be a bonus, now it’s more of a necessity.

My lovely business bestie is continually telling me that her best ideas come to her when she’s away from her computer, and she’s not wrong. Mine came to me in two parts, the first when changing lanes on the M4. I have moved house five times in six years, and on this occasion, I started to drive on autopilot to the last place that I lived. It’s not the first time I have done this, and it won’t be the last, but this time it really upset me. I had a great networking group at that posting, but as I was only there for a year, I had to leave them when we moved. I missed them. The second ‘Eureka!’ moment came a few weeks later, while paying for The InDependent Spouse podcasting software.

I’d attended an online business party on Zoom where the host had used breakout rooms, and I was trying to work out if I could add break out rooms to my account and would be possible to use them for networking. Someone in the US was already doing this, and they called it ‘Virtual Networking’ – they were having so much success! It seemed to me as the perfect solution for the military spouse community.

I found nothing similar in the UK, which sort of makes sense when you think about it. If you want to do business networking, you would go to a ‘real-life’ group, because that’s just how it’s done (or at least it used to be).

I had found a perfect solution. Not only could we network, together, no matter where we were posted but we could also put to use all that expertise we have using online video calls when our partners are away – it was a win-win!

Now, I just get my head around the technology – Queue one very comedic night of me, my long suffering husband and my poor sister ‘Zooming’ each other via any mobile phones, laptops, iPads we could find in some multi-screen carnage just to see if it could actually work. I can still hear the feedback ringing in my ears, but you know what? It bloody worked.

So, in May 2019, surrounded by moving boxes, and with my poor husband on admin support, we tested the concept with 12 business owners all over the UK (and one in Germany.) It was a massive success! Connections were made, online business ideas were brought to life, and most importantly, business owners were no longer limited to networking by location. These members were inspired, happy, and building connections, even mentioning how it was the first adult conversation they’d had all day. One attendee’s husband had recently received an admin order for Germany, and not knowing anyone there now had a new friend who already lived there just by turning up to that first meeting. It worked!

And now, with this new normal you cannot move without a Virtual Networking session popping up in your inbox. It seems that in one massive move everything is going online (just no more quizzes, PLEASE!!!) – which is just AMAZING! I love this new online world that now gives us in the community access to so many more networks than we were ever able to access. What a fantastic positive to come out of this bizarre time.

This idea dreamt up because I didn’t focus properly on the M4, is now helping military spouse business owners, all over the UK (and the world) connect and talk about business properly. I love these events. They are safe, encouraging meeting spaces, where connections are built, and friends are made.

I am so proud of those early, rickety days of Virtual Networking, and I am super proud that they have been tried, tested and evolved into what they are today. The last year and a half have given me access to a wide range of business owners that I wouldn’t usually have ‘met’, and it will be something that remains well after COVID leaves. Because actually, Milspo Virtual Networking isn’t anything to do with this global pandemic. It’s actually born from this communities’ ability to embrace technology, not only so we can talk to our partners, but as an innovative way to build our businesses. To allow us to build a business network (and a friendship base) that goes with us, wherever we are posted. One that won’t forget us just because we have to leave.

The next few Virtual Networking events for UK military spouses, partners and other-halves are now ready for you to register. Just follow the links to save your seat.

NEXT VIRTUAL NETWORKING

The Milspo Business Network and the Milspo Virtual Networking events are funded by The InDependent Spouse CIC, a registered social enterprise founded specifically to support the Armed Forces Partner Community.