By Nicole Barrios
A local business networking organization is building connections and working relationships in the Buda/Kyle area.
The Business Innovators Networking Group (BING) caters to businesses in the Kyle and Buda area and aims to network with locals, said Shirley Malone, member of BING and Edward Jones financial advisor. Through this group, members make connections and put their clients in contact with other members of the group who can provide services they’re looking for, Malone said.
For example, Malone said if a member, such as an accountant, has a client looking for a financial advisor, then they would refer that person to Malone.
This past December, Genelle Zuniga, president and founder of BING, said she wanted to start an affiliate of Business Networking International, a global networking company, but could not get 25 people to pay the fee to start that kind of group.
“We decided at that point, OK well let’s do our own group and call it BING and go from there,” Zuniga said.
There are currently 15 members of the BING networking group, Zuniga said. She works with Nationwide Insurance. According to its meetup.com website, other area companies with members or potential members of BING include Servpro of San Marcos/ New Braunfels, Buildasign in Austin, ATX Air Conditioning in Buda, MRD Insurance Services in Austin, Gillman Honda in San Antonio and Browning Family Chiropractic & Wellness in Kyle.
“So we’re getting there, and we’re giving a lot of referrals back and forth,” Malone said.
Members in the group also take part in “one-on-ones” to get to know other members and how they do business, Malone said.
“And I might not refer them, you know, depending upon their process,” Malone said. “It’s just getting to know each other so that if we do make a referral we feel comfortable about that.”
BING is an exclusive group only allowing one type of business or industry, and person representing that business, into the organization.
Zuniga said businesses benefit from the group being “exclusive.”
“Because if we only have one insurance agent, all the leads will go to that one insurance agent,” Zuniga said. “We’ll be helping each other, it’s like we have our own marketing group going out there, you know, into the public.”
BING members have a business card holder with business cards of every member of the group and can easily refer people to fellow members this way, Zuniga said.
Zuniga said she can feel comfortable referring people to members in her group because she has gotten to know them and their business practices.
“We try to stick to our group,” Malone said. “Makes it kind of hard sometimes, but as our group is growing, you know, you can certainly see how it could benefit each member because we have such a wide variety.”
The group meets every Monday at 11:30 a.m. at the Plum Creek Golf Club.
Zuniga said the lunch fee is $10 per week and the annual fee for group membership is $200.
The annual fee goes to fund BING functions as well as office supplies and anything the group may need, Zuniga said.
Potential members are allowed to come to the meetings two times and the third time they can either join or choose to not come back, Zuniga said.
“I think it’s great that our businesses are actually going out there and looking for multiple avenues of networking,” said J.R. Gonzales, Buda Area Chamber of Commerce managing director.
The chamber has networking opportunities available for its members, and many people involved in networking groups are members of the Chamber as well, Gonzales said.
Gonzales said he recently attended a BING meeting and thought it was a group with much potential.
Zuniga said she wanted to create a group like this because she needed a networking group with a structured style in her area.
“Well, I was already in a networking group that was very organized and very structured, and I really liked it and I thought it was a really good idea and it worked really well for a lot of the members,” Zuniga said. “But there was nothing like that here in Buda/Kyle area.”
Zuniga said her ultimate goal for BING is to reach 40-45 members and to have community functions that foster relationships with people in the local neighborhoods.
The group has recently grown to include businesses outside the Buda/Kyle area with some members now from Austin, Malone said. This growth sparked the change in the group’s name, previously known as the Kyle Buda Innovators Networking Group, to the Business Innovators Networking Group, she said.
“A lot of different industries can fit into our group,” Zuniga said. “Since we’re only 15, there’s only 15 industries taken up, so we need all the people – all different industries.”
BING is also currently working to become a non-profit organization, Zuniga said. They hope to soon combine with an organization such as Hope & Love 4 Kids, a children’s nonprofit organization serving Hays County.