Debbie Fisher, Assistant Director of The Richmond MBA program, spends a significant amount of time participating in networking and professional development groups in the Richmond area.  She always invites MBA students to join her for networking luncheons and meetings that are a fit for their particular interests and professional goals.

Fisher has laid out a guide of top networking groups locally. She recently provided insights on the vibe of each organization as well as how to best get involved.  Consider this her roadmap to navigating networking groups in Richmond for MBA students and alumni. 

Along with the groups she mentions below, Fisher says, “Remember that along with being involved with networking organizations, volunteering for non-profit organizations like Junior Achievement, serving on boards, and participating with groups like the Rotary Club of Richmond are extremely valuable in building networks and in helping our community.” 

The following networking organizations were top of her list:

#1 The Greater Richmond Chamber of Commerce (“The Chamber”)
The vibe:  Friendly and diverse

Fisher’s take:  “If you had to pick only one networking group to get involved with, The Chamber is it given their reputation and the fact that they’re focused generally on business in Richmond and not niche industries. The Chamber’s HYPE – Helping Young Professionals Engage organization is very active and a great place for younger business professionals to connect and learn.  I know many of our students are involved with that group.”

Bonus/Caveat: Name recognition, broadest scope

#2 Association for Corporate Growth (ACG)
The vibe: Formal and welcoming

Fisher’s Take: “ACG members and their guests meet once a month for breakfast in The Commonwealth Club.  Even though the gathering seems more formal than other groups, when you walk in you feel welcomed.  They’re a friendly crowd.  The speakers are high-level professionals from area companies that come in and speak about their organization – its history, mission, accomplishments, and current challenges.  Think CEO-types.  ACG attracts members that are interested in mergers and acquisitions, business strategy and deal making.  The group is also very education-friendly and does a lot of work with Richmond colleges and universities.”

Bonus/Caveat:  ACG is a global organization; the local chapter consists of a balanced group of corporate professionals and service providers.

#3 Richmond Venture Forum (“Venture Forum”)
The vibe: Entrepreneurial, fun and diverse crowd

Fisher’s take:  “The Richmond Venture Forum has lunches about once a month focused on speakers discussing entrepreneurial topics.  Depending on who the speaker or panelist is, I invite a student that I know has a particular interest in the topic or the organization(s) being featured. Any student that has an entrepreneurial spirit would benefit from attending Venture Forum meetings. The group also has a neat casual social event called Venture Out that meets periodically at different fun places around Richmond.

Bonus/Caveat: Strong promotion of entrepreneurship and the funding of entrepreneurial ventures.  Great source for Capstones projects! 

#4 American Marketing Association- The Richmond Chapter (AMA)
The vibe: Approachable and friendly, always recruiting new members

Fisher’s Take: Like the Chamber, the AMA events attract a diverse group of people.  It is an industry specific organization, and their gatherings are always focused on an aspect of marketing or branding strategies and trends. All businesses need marketing and branding, so students are exposed to many different companies at the AMA meetings.  They are an easy organization for MBA students and alumni to join as the Richmond Chapter meets on campus in the Jepson Alumni Center.  They come together once a month for a luncheon showcasing an industry expert presenter. The next meeting will feature a representative from YouTube.”

Bonus/Caveat: The Robins School is very engaged with the AMA.  Great student rate and really good food!

Fisher’s Honorable Mentions:  Every industry is going to have some sort of association that students can connect with.  If technology is your forte, try Rich Tech.   Aspiring entrepreneurs, especially women, might explore The National Association of Women Business Owners (NAWBO), which is very active in Richmond.  The National Association of Women MBAs (NAWMBA) is also a great group. For those involved in retail, check out the Retail Merchants Association.  There are literally hundreds of networking groups in Richmond.  Look for groups that match your career and/or social interests.” 

Students and alumni are encouraged to reach out to Debbie Fisher for support or recommendations on how to get involved in networking groups in Richmond.  She says, “Most all of these organizations value student involvement.” 

“Students are told when they first come into the program that if there are any networking groups or associations whose events they may want to attend, they should let us know.  We see networking and external professional development as extremely important and as a supplement to their classroom and work experiences.  The MBA Office will do what they can to support students wanting to network with these organizations.  I can’t think of a time when we’ve said ‘no’ to a student request to attend a meeting. Just ask, and we will try to make it happen,” Fisher said.

Contact Debbie Fisher or The Richmond MBA department.