Maryland companies like Michele’s Granola, B’More Organic, Wild Kombucha, Gundalow Juice, Mouth Party Caramel and Hungry Harvest meet monthly to help one another overcome challenges and reach goals.
By Laura Toraldo
(May 23, 2017—BALTIMORE, Md.) On the first Tuesday morning of every month, like-minded Maryland entrepreneurs gather in Baltimore in the spirit of community over competition.
Started in 2015, the Offit Kurman Entrepreneurial Roundtables give budding entrepreneurs a peer advisory network. Think Vistage or Inner Circle—without the membership dues.
“Emerging companies are underserved for not only legal services, but for a lot of professional consulting services in general,” said Jonathan Wachs, principal at Offit Kurman. “They need and can benefit from that guidance, but they are not in a position to pay for it.”
Wachs, who leads the Food and Beverage Roundtable, explained that around the two-year stage, entrepreneurs have established their business and know their direction, but still need help getting there.
“The best opportunity for us to help companies is after they’re past the proof-of-concept stage, while they are still founder-owned and are trying to establish forms, procedures, teams, [and] business partners, and they haven’t institutionalized their second layer of management,” Wachs said. “Those are the times when people are really able to rely on peer networks.”
Along with the Food and Beverage Roundtable, Offit Kurman hosts a Family Business Roundtable for multi-generational family-owned businesses, as well as a Medical Cannabis Affinity Group. Each roundtable consists of 10-14 non-competing business owners who understand the industry and marketplace—business peers who will “answer your questions and question your answers.”
“They’re all going through similar challenges in terms of cash management, perishability, vendor to client relationships, and hiring and obtaining the best people,” Wachs said.
He said having a room full of professional peers also provides a sounding board for new initiatives.
“If they are thinking about launching a new division, or they have a personal issue, or career pivot, it’s a good way to get businesspeople to give real-time feedback.”
But it’s more than just meeting with business peers. Offit Kurman facilitates a three-part speaker series and helps entrepreneurs put together year-long action plans, establishing what they hope to accomplish and how they can help one another achieve their goals.
“We have goal-setting expectations: it has to be specific, it has to be achievable, it has to be ambitious, it has to be measurable,” Wachs said. “We don’t want to say ‘increase sales,’ because everyone always wants to increase sales every month. We want to say, ‘Which accounts are you going to go after and how are you going to go about it?’”
If goals are not accomplished within three months, members need to move on to a new goal.
“We don’t let people fixate,” Wachs explained.
The roundtables have not only helped entrepreneurs flourish, but have also created unique partnerships among members including co-locating, packaging agreements, joint marketing ventures, and even shared-employee arrangements.
“A lot of connective tissue is created between different individuals,” Wachs said. “If you can find the right people, good things will happen.”
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