When you think networking event, fun might not be the first word that comes to mind.
“We started this because we hate networking events,” Jeanne Ballew confesses. “We found as we were talking to people, they hate them too! The formal thing where you’re all trying to push business cards on each other, and everyone’s all stiff… It’s exhausting!”
So Ballew and her partner Christa Chambers-Price came up with a new idea. Instead of the business card shuffle, why not have something akin to the MOTH story hour? Few people like listening to a sales pitch, but everyone likes a good story.
“The biggest rule we have in addition to having fun and bringing friends is that you can’t pitch your business,” Chambers-Price reiterates. “We don’t want to know about the widget. We want to know why the widget was built in the first place.”
So with these rules in place, conversations become more authentic. It becomes easier to connect. “We know that people know how to connect authentically and organically,” Chambers-Price says. “The connection to the entrepreneur through their story is much deeper than at an event where people feel like they have to be “on” and put up with front first before they truly get down to the heart of what they’re doing.”
EntreSLAM events happen every month and entrepreneurs sign up to tell their stories. There’s a bit of a competition between the participants, too. “It’s not anything scary of vicious,” Chambers-Price promises. “It’s just competitive in how the entrepreneur talks about themselves.”
To keep things fresh EntreSLAM rotates themes every month.. This month’s theme is the unexpected. “We’ve been very thoughtful and careful about choosing our themes,” Ballew explains. “It’s a little tricky because we want something with drama, but it could go either way and become positive or negative.”
Ballew and Chambers-Price will donate a percentage from every EntreSLAM event to a local nonprofit. “There are so many nonprofits that are a part of this community and across the state and other cities that people might never know about unless they were exposed,” Chambers-Price explains. This month, their donation will stay close to home with Tillian Farms Development Center via Selma Café. Their work is growing a sustainable, local food economy and their goal is for Washtenaw County to grow 10% of the food it consumes.
So far Ann Arbor has been home base for the duo, but they’re planning on expanding out into other communities and hope to spread nationally.
There’s a website. At that point they can decide if they want to sit and take it all in or if they want to be a storyteller.