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Tuesday, June 6, 2023
NOTL Chamber wants business people to connect again post-COVID
NOTL Chamber of Commerce members chat at Ironwood Cider House on Thursday night during a Business After 5 function for all businesses in the community. (Somer Slobodian)

Networking nights, like ‘Business After 5,’ aim to help build relationships


It’s been more than a year since Niagara’s brick-and-mortar shops started welcoming people back in after the last COVID-19 restrictions were lifted — such as mask mandates and vaccine passports requirements.

Still, some people who run or help out businesses in the region say effort is needed to get business owners to connect face-to-face again with others.

Savanna Stirrett is the membership engagement manager at the Greater Niagara Chamber of Commerce and was at Ironwood Cider House Thursday for a new networking night called “Business After 5.”

“I think it’s important to build relationships. Sometimes, we get lost behind the keyboard or screen,” she said.

This is especially true in a post-COVID world, said Andrew Niven, chair of NOTL Chamber of Commerce, which hosted the function on May 11.

Businesses, he said, are just getting back into the swing of things after the pandemic’s peak.

“I think it is more important than ever now to do it,” he said.

The evening was full of cider, food and networking between different businesses in the community like Sotheby’s International Realty and Van Noort Flower Studio. 

“It’s important for our members to get out and not only realize what the Chamber is doing but also what others in our community are doing,” Niven said.

It’s a way for people to experience a new business such as Ironwood and meet like-minded business owners, he said.

Niven said it’s nice to see people out and mingling again when a year ago many were still hesitant to gather in large crowds. 

Since the pandemic, it’s good for businesses to see what others are doing and how things have changed, said Bri VanSickle, the NOTL chamber’s marketing and membership officer.

“It’s like that community aspect, right? You want to be a part of the community with everyone,” she said. 

Functions like these, she said, are also a good way to get new businesses to join the chamber. 

Right now, the chamber is focusing on Niagara-on-the-Lake’s agricultural businesses, VanSickle said.

Wineries are currently our focus because we firmly believe we can be one of the best and most well-known wine regions in the world one day,” she later said in an email. 

She and Niven said the chamber is hoping to host Business After 5 a few times a year.

“I think we’re at that point where it makes sense to become more of a regular event,” said Niven.

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